Design Highlights & Case Study

CareerVillage.org

The mission of CareerVillage is to democratize access to career information. CareerVillage connects students with established professionals providing guidance. There’s currently 2.5 million learners being served and 10,000+ professional volunteers providing guidance to students on the platform.

Design Highlights

Designing formatting tools to improve readership metrics

Designing formatting tools at its core was about solving the problem of low answer readership. A big reason students spent very little time in answers was because answers looked very uninteresting. There wasn’t any styling to them, it was impossible to add a heading title, a quote or even link to a source. Formatting tools allows professional users to adequately write a detailed answer that is segmented and cited.

Designing an interface that encourages the tagging of content

Adequately categorizing content is incredibly important because we want the best possible answer for our student users. Tagging content is incredibly tedious, time consuming and often causes users to leave the site. The solution that met our objectives was to design an interface that predicts possible tags based on previous information, such as titles and descriptions.

Developing a closer relationship between students and professionals

We wanted to help build relationships between students and the professional users. Questions and answers doesn’t really do that because it’s entirely a public medium. Career Goals are inherently different because they’re private. Having a private medium to share more detailed career goals allows students to foster a closer relationship with our professional users.

Designing systems to improve the quality of answers

The value of CareerVillage is the answers. Working on systems to improve answers not only gives CareerVillage a competitive advantage, it also serves our users and allows us to stay true to our mission of making career knowledge more accessible. Increasing the quality of the answers posted to the site required designing systems that not only encourage good answers but clearly defined what makes an answer a valuable one to students.

Design Case Study

My role at CareerVillage & Make&Model

During my contracted time at Make&Model, I designed various interfaces to advance the mission of CareerVillage. I designed Career Goals, a feature dedicated to students and professionals. This feature allows students to build their career goals and for professionals to give feedback and guidance on how to achieve those goals. I was also responsible for designing systems to ensure our professional users provide answers that are useful to our students. Formatting tools were an important step in making CareerVillage a more useful platform for students. I designed formatting tools, including ways of gracefully handling user errors. This specially applies to the way people format links. Designing interfaces that gracefully adapted to user error was critical because of the user base using this application.

Designing formatting tools to improve readership metrics

Answering questions is a big part of what makes CareerVillage the platform that it is today. The problem we wanted to solve was making content easier to read. A way to solve this problem is to provide formatting tools. Headings, links and quotes are a part of making a body of text easier to digest and much more useful. I want to briefly mention how we came to the solutions we eventually shipped. Constraints very much influenced the design process here. For one, our user-base is largely kids between the ages of 14-18. This meant that we had to design interfaces that are precise but also gracefully adapt to user error and suggest ways of fixing what is wrong. Our formatting tools are also very conventional because of our user base but also because of engineering and time constraints. It was important to get these features out and tested for effectiveness.

Designing systems to ensure the best advice is posted to CareerVillage.org

Something that is very important to CareerVillage and to an extent the team is the quality of answers that are posted to the platform. If the quality of answers that are posted are of low quality, the competitive advantage of CareerVillage is diminished and the mission is hindered.

It was important to design a system that ensures the best content is posted. We solved this problem by designing interfaces that encouraged good answers but also clearly defined what makes a great answer. It’s really difficult to know as a user if your answer is valuable if it’s your first time posting. We also built reward incentives for well written answers, this would promote the answer to the top and give credibility to professionals.

This solution is not for every problem but it is for ours. Posting an answer requires effort and time. It requires of our users to cite, link and write comprehensive answers. There’s a reminders mechanism that might seem intrusive but it is to ensure the best answers are posted. We tried to achieve the right balance and so far, its proven to solve the problem.

Improving student engagement with answers

The value of CareerVillage is the answers. However, there are a couple challenges in making this experience a valuable one for both our students and our professional users. For an answer to be valuable and to be executed, the interface needs to communicate authority to our student users. Listing where the professional works is critical to this goal. We achieve this by forcing our professional users to sign up using LinkedIn. This allows us to quickly build a profile that communicates legitimacy. The answers interface will highlight where the professional user works, where they went to school and where they’re located.

Creating questions & and collecting necessary tags to better categorize questions

Creating a question is a core part of the student experience on CareerVillage. Making this process an easy and straightforward experience was very important to the success of CareerVillage. One of the challenges in designing this interface involved gathering important data to adequately categorize questions. Tags were a big part of that challenge. We didn’t want to mandate users to write tags because that would be a barrier to posting a question. However, tags were something we needed. The tradeoff was to automate tags and ask users to confirm suggested tags. We would’ve liked for tags to be automatically added but doing so would require additional time and engineering resources that we simply didn’t have.

Creating additional avenues to increase engagement with pros

The goal of CareerVillage is for it to be the place for students to get the information they need to succeed in their field. Question and answers are a component of that mission but Career Goals are a more direct and private approach. Students can build a career plan with todos and our professional users can privately comment and provide insight into how to best achieve that goal.

Designing for error forgiveness

One of the biggest challenges in designing for CareerVillage was the user base. The user base is really young, mostly kids between the age of 14-18. Maintaining users engaged after problems arise is critical. Solving this problem requires an interface that adapts and provides clear instructions and even examples of how to solve their current problem. One scenario where examples are critical is during the process in which a user links to a source. A user might improperly format the protocol or the domain name. When a user commits this mistake, the interface will gracefully adapt to inform the user how to solve this problem.

Concluding thoughts

Working on CareerVillage was incredibly challenging in ways that I’ve never been challenged before. Designing for the web was challenging because it lacked any sort of design guidelines. iOS and Android have their respective design guidelines and they’re incredibly helpful as a designer. As new and challenging as designing web application was, I was lucky to work with another great designer with far more experience than me. I worked along side with Steven Travathan and his insight into patterns used on the web were incredibly helpful.

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