University Portal (Matching)

Roles: UX Researcher, UX Designer

Skills: Research, Discussion Guide, Interviews, Personas, Analysis Report, Wireframes, Mockups

Software: Reframer, Voice Recorder, Word,, Sketch

Project Goals

Hobsons plans to build a new product platform that matches students and universities together. This would allow them to have self-service capabilities. Prior to the new platform, university clients had to communicate with the Hobsons support team to set up each filter.


We created a system that allows the client to self-help themselves to reduce Hobson’s support phone calls. I based this on a research plan, interviewing users, and creating personas.

Research Process

I interviewed people internally at Hobsons to determine what it has been like for them to set up this service. What their pain points are, workflows, what the clients communicate to them, etc. I wanted to get a good idea of what worked and what did not, so when we made the self-service platform, we could avoid some of these issues.

  • I read documents and watched videos about the current products to gain an understanding.
  • I created a discussion guide for both departments, Support & Sales. Includes: Background & Goals, Methodology, Categorized list of questions (draft), Contacts for department, & Participants’ schedule.
  • I co-facilitated the Stakeholders meeting.
  • I scheduled participants & sent out a reminder a day prior.
  • I took notes from this video to get best practices:
  • Updated questions based on the above video and made a printable question sheet with topic highlights so I could scan it quickly while interviewing. The following is a snippet of an interview question with highlights:
  • Ask a colleague from the UX team to look over the questions.
  • The first interview for both the support and sales teams were conducted with me as a facilitator and with the other UX employee taking notes. (It’s a good idea to have more than one person for the first interview to see if we should make any changes to the discussion guide.)
  • All the other interviews I facilitated independently. I made sure to have a backup recording and a way to record a screen if we needed to do so.
  • I then listened to the first interview and grouped what the participate said into categories. This gave me a better understanding of the context and any additional questions I may have wanted to know.
  • I took notes from the audio recordings and used a tool called Reframer to help me find themes. (Partial example in the picture below.)
  • The sales interviews had a lot more complexity when it came to data, so I created a separate data report. I added all this information to the discussion guide and also included a link to the notes and the data report.
  • I created the user profiles from this data: 1 to represent sales and 1 to represent support. (See profiles at the end.)
  • I sent the report to my manager to look over it. Then I sent it to the other managers and made myself available if they had any questions.
  • I received a compliment from the Creative Director. “Nicely done, Shannon. I just read through all of it. Really like the format, and the depth of information you captured — well done!” (I made the Analysis report in a way that satisfies two types of people: 1. Someone who wants a brief overview and the gold nuggets. 2. Someone who wants to know the details. I made the format effective for both. Unfortunately, I can’t show the report for privacy reasons. If you view my portfolio homepage you’ll see I set it up to fit the same two types of people: Quick overview & more detail.

Persona 1

Sandy- Hobsons Support

“I love working with the clients. My least favorite part is feeling helpless, when I can’t fix everything. I know that Hobsons cares about our clients and that they are actively working on this product. I am glad the UX team is asking our department for feedback.”


Sandy completes multiple tasks for Hobsons, including Matching Solutions. The busy season for Matching Solutions is June through September. When clients ask about suggestions for their filter, Sandy shares best practices. She uses Word, Excel, or the ActiveMatch admin tool the most.


  • To be efficient and accurate. Ensuring what the client purchased was done properly.
  • She also wants to help her clients succeed.
  • She collaborates with the sales team when needed, such as when clients have updates to their Active Match statements.

Pain Points

  • Sandy does not like having to work in different systems to do different tasks. It can be inefficient to transfer data back and forth. “I wish we had one system that did everything.”
  • “Internal tools were inconsistent and not updating correctly.”
  • She also finds it challenging that higher education clients can’t see how clients’ data appears in Naviance. Sandy has to log into Naviance to create a screenshot and show the clients what it looks like.
  • “When clients send multiple statements after you’ve built their order, you have to start over. Self-service would be a great option.”

Persona 2

Andrew- Hobsons Sales Account Executive

“It’s on us to keep clients engaged and getting results from us.”


October through April are busy for Andrew because everybody’s back in school. Andrew spends about 40% of the time each month meeting with his clients in person, as it builds better relationships. “The human element is why schools go from spending $10,000 a year to $20,000 a year.” If Hobsons centralized their data in one area, a lot of time would be saved too.


  • Helping my clients to be successful. This is a win for everyone.
  • Putting together data reports in order to get renewals. Crafting emails to make an impact by getting new client interested in Hobsons.
  • Getting through his work efficiently so he can spend more time selling.
  • Collaborates with the Support and Higher Ed teams to get a problem solved or to tag team.

Pain Points

  • Andrew dreads the time-consuming task of putting together custom data reports in preparation for client visits. He has to visit multiple sources, but he knows his clients value the data.
  • Prospecting new clients takes a lot of effort to build lists in his territory.

University Matching

After I researched the support side, I interviewed various universities about what filters would be useful and what self-service capabilities they would like. I created personas and wireframes but cannot show these artifacts due to the private nature of how universities targeted students.

Student Matching

Now that we understood the university side, we reached out to the students. We wanted to connect students with the best-fit universities using preferences and personalization.

  • Matches with academic profile
  • Student’s personal preferences
  • Filter by school traits
  • Ownership over search
  • Personalized results

Wireframe Example

Usability Tests

Usability tests were conducted remotely using wireframe interactive prototype and skype. The users influenced the final mockups.

Student Mockups

Mockups Set 1

Mockups Set 2