Switchboard — A UX Case Study

Design Interactive
9 min readJun 13, 2022

Welcome to Switchboard — revolutionizing student’s internship application organization and instilling a positive experience.

We worked on this project during Spring Quarter 2022 at UC Davis from April 13 to May 25. This project was inspired by the competitive, intimidating nature of internship hunting and aimed to respond to the following prompt:

Entering the workforce can be difficult but internships provide stepping stones that provide valuable experience and open doors to job opportunities. Yet, the process of applying to internships can be confusing and intimidating. Similarly, keeping track of each application status can be overwhelming, preventing some students from starting the search. They provide invaluable experience and knowledge but this barrier causes many issues. How might we design a platform to make the internship application process less intimidating and push students to pursue these opportunities?

A switchboard is a command center where different sources are connected to the same location, and our final design does exactly that; centralizing the hunt to one website where you can search for internships, organize everything from applications to materials, and motivate yourself.

Responsibilities and Timeline

Week 1: User Research — Sprint Lead: Nava

Week 2: Synthesis and Ideation — Sprint Lead: Nava

Week 3 & 4: Mid Fidelity Wireframing & Usability Testing — Vineela and Maya

Week 5: High Fidelity Wireframing and A/B Testing — Sally

Week 6: Prototyping — Sally

User Research

To begin our research, we conducted a survey of 71 college students across American universities. In this survey we got a grasp of most students’ experience in the internship application process and general feelings towards how they are performing. To go deeper into their responses and get more detailed insights, we followed up with 8 of the respondents for user interviews.

Going into our research, our goal was to identify what factors discourage or motivate students and get a grasp of what the process looks like for the average student. The results show just that.

On a series of Likert scale questions from 1 to 5, least to most respectively:

  • 59.2% of respondents indicated feeling 3 or below on familiarity with the process.
  • 81.7% indicated feeling 3 or below on satisfaction.

Asking whether or not students have any method of organizing or tracking their internship hunt, only about half do, 52.1% to be exact. Some of these methods include:

  • Notion
  • Google Sheets or Excel
  • Handshake
  • LinkedIn

Through these insights and our interviews, we were able to consolidate our findings to two reference points, our user personas. They each represent the different archetypes of internship applicants, the experienced and the inexperienced.

User personas: The experienced applicant and the new applicant

Synthesis and Ideation

Affinity mapping and brainstorming solutions
Low fidelity wireframe — status bar

After filtering through our research, we had an affinity mapping session based on our user interviews and survey responses. We grouped our insights based on common themes and found that undergraduate student looking for internships felt that they are lacking three main areas: organization, motivation, and confidence. In order to ensure that students have a more positive internship hunting experience, we decided to frame our How Might We question around these three words. How might we reimagine the internship hunt process through a digital app so that college students feel organized, motivated, and confident throughout the process. We used sketching as a tool to start brainstorming possible solutions to our HMW question. The idea that we all agreed our platform needed was the ability to track multiple internship application statuses in one place in order to centralize the application process as much as possible.

As we moved into low fidelity wire framing, we focused on developing the tracker idea further. The main feature on our first iteration of the tracker page was the status bar. We wanted users to easily visualize how far along they are with each of their internship applications and quickly see their overall job hunting progress. Along with this we conducted a competitive analysis to see where our competitors may be lacking. We found that the most popular career development platforms didn’t have the customizable aspects that our survey respondents were looking for. With that in mind, we designed a toggle option for list and calendar view so users can pick the one they prefer. We also designed a document library to centralize the application process by having all the documents needed in one place.

Mid Fidelity Wireframing

Job board, Tracker, Calendar, and Nudges
Documents library, Statistics, Goal Setting

From our sketching exercise, we all voted on which features we wanted to include in our first prototype. These features included:

  • Job Board for internship listings
  • A tracker to track current applications in progress
  • A documents library to house application materials
  • Application progress statistics and goal setting
  • nudges to encourage user to perform certain tasks

Each of these features touched on a certain aspect of our How Might We statement, solving or addressing a specific issue within the internship hunt experience. The tracker is a direct response to helping students be more organized during their application process and to serve as a guide for completing certain tasks throughout their process. In addition, the incorporation of the job board and the documents library was also to address organization by streamlining the different interfaces and tools that students would normally switch between into one platform. The nudging would encourage motivation for the user to complete small but feasible tasks while in the product. Adding the application progress statistics and goal setting was a feature we added in later in the iterative process to both help motivate and help organize the priorities of users during their internship application process.

Usability Testing

For usability testing, we wanted to analyze any pain points and the overall user experience of the following tasks:

  • Saving a job from the job board into your tracker
  • Editing your application progress bar
  • Switching to calendar view
  • Viewing monthly vs weekly statistics about their application progress
  • Editing or adding a quantitative or qualitative goal
  • Adding a new document

We conducted 7 usability tests, with all of the participants being students, ages 19–22. From these tests we learned:

  • It was confusing for the Backpack page (which contained the goal setting documents, tasks, and statistics) to be separate from the tracker itself
  • People had a difficult time both finding and editing their application progress bar, and felt that it would be more convenient for the progress bar to be customizable for each individual application
  • There was a lot of confusion over the goal setting feature and the differences between a quantitative or qualitative goal
  • People wanted to be more of an emotional element to encourage them to interact with the platform
  • Confusion over how to filter through applications on the tracker

These findings led to our team adapting the current design in the following ways: converting the “goals” into a simple task list, combining these tasks and the statistics with the tracker page, developing more of our filtering system that would filter out applications on the tracker, and making the application process for each application customizable. We also focused no developing our emotional component through the nudges.

Left: Combined tracker, stats, and task list Right: Customizable Progress Bar
Left: Filtering System for applications in progress — V1 Right: Nudges for completing tasks

A/B Testing

Sample of how participants voted on each feature and the different visual options for the features

After implementing changes in our prototype to reflect our findings from usability testing, we wanted to understand user preferences on the following features:

  • Filtering through applications currently in progress
  • Checking off a step in your application process
  • Editing your overall progress bar for an application

We conducted A/B Testing with 11 participants by having them vote between different visual representations for each of these tasks and implemented their feedback into our final design.

High Fidelity Wireframing and Prototyping

After finalizing the A/B testing, we took the insights gathered from our user research into developing the hi-fi and prototype it to create a fully functional final prototype. Before we started implementing any styles into the design, though, we discussed our findings from the A/B testing to implement them into the final design.

Our Findings from A/B Testing

  • Users leaned more toward the checkbox than the radio buttons to mark a step in the internship application process as complete in the “Update Progress Bar.”
  • Similarly, users preferred the checkbox buttons rather than pill designs for the search filter for the same reason. Furthermore, we found out that the pill design felt overwhelming and unnecessary for such a simple feature for the users.
  • Users preferred seeing the explicit text CTA rather than icons, as seen by their preference for the “edit” button rather than the pencil icon in the “Progress Bar Editing” section.

Through these findings, we made final changes to the design, then moved onto the styling.

Design System

Our Design System Guidelines — find all the type styles, grid information, and colors used in the final design here!

To ensure consistency across the screens in the hi-fidelity design, we agreed on some rules and guidelines, and gathered them into a design systems guideline. This way, we incorporated everyone’s design styles while still coming to agreements on the typography, colors, stylistic elements, and more.

Before & After Hi-Fi

The biggest difference we saw while moving from mid-fi to hi-fi was the professional look that came along with the consistency that we focused heavily on. Furthermore, seeing how much more effective the app became after inputting feedback and findings from the usability testing reminded us that we were designing not for ourselves, and for the users, and that collaboration sparks the best ideas!

It was easy to get carried away as everyone was excited and passionate about the project finally coming to life, but we ensured that we adhered to the agreements made in the design systems guidelines. Above is a picture of the tracker wireframe, before and after the styling was implemented!

Presentation day

Presentation day was a whirlwind of emotions: relief for being done but sadness for letting go of such a powerful quarter. Seeing not just our team but all of the cohorts dressed up and antsy in their seats was like a scene from a movie, this was a day we never really imagined reaching.

We were judged by Jean Wang, a Design Lead at NVDIA. Her feedback was incredibly valuable, emphasizing our research strengths and guiding us to watch out for cognitive overload in designs that may start to get too cluttered.

Challenges and Lessons

From increasing COVID rates to balancing 5 schedules, working on Switchboard was a challenging 6 weeks.

  • It is really easy to get carried away with ideas and expectations but it is important to let your design choices come from your research.
  • Focus on the purpose of your design rather than expanding into the multitude of directions you can take.

Next Steps

  1. Create an onboarding system
  2. Further integrate nudges to increase the motivational aspect of our design
  3. Expand on the Calendar and List view

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