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Masterstudies

Strategic development of international higher education platform.

8 minutes reading time

Project

Masterstudies

Masterstudies is one of the most popular websites for helping international students find their next step in higher education. It is also translated to more than 40 languages for a global and young audience and used for more than a decade worldwide.

Scope

The first three months of a 7-month long design and research project for a higher education platform. Design efforts went further than the look and feel, so we had the chance to help the client create and implement a better value proposition for their users in the context of their competition.

3 Phases of the project plan.

Goal

The client’s goal was to raise dwindling conversion rates on the site. We aimed to understand the underlying reasons for this decrease and propose a strategic, prioritized, full-scale design plan that solves the problems we unearthed and helps put the site back ahead of its competitors.

Challenges

Conflict of interest between the student users and the paying customers (universities) was challenging to navigate. Still, our client was very grateful for helping them articulate that dichotomy in a way that facilitated making meaningful, strategic, and organizational decisions.

Team

On our side, we had two designers and a researcher. We worked together with a diverse team of stakeholders who represented different perspectives from community management, content creation, marketing, and sales to linguistics, and strategic development.

6 nationalities were represented in our team. We organised two 3-day-long workshops together, one in Oslo and one in Budapest.

Research

Our UX researcher started with Google Analytics reports and a couple of interviews for the existing website. Having data from analytics and the interviews helped us understand the target audience's main pain points in the beginning.

After that, she started conducting usability tests on the early prototype. She tested with people from all around the world currently studying in Budapest and looking for a place where they can do a Master's degree. Testing the evolving and expanding prototype, she collected more than 1300 observations. All organized in a cross-filterable Airtable research system.

Design

Ideation

We started the design process with sketching workshops, where we ideated multiple solutions for every critical page type. The user journey had to be left intact since the website has a significant traffic of millions of visitors monthly, and we wanted to change only one thing at a time. This strategy helped us in the long run because we had time to understand the product better.

Quick, early stage wireframes.

Wireframes

We collaborated in collaborated in Axure with my designer peer. Since we were testing both mobile and desktop versions, we divided the work by these two platform types in an offset manner so we made sure we are not designing the same features at the same time. This provided the benefit of being able to work independently while keeping consistency through daily check-ins.

UI Design

After having validated the most important user journeys in Axure, we migrated to work in Figma, which allows for amazing real-time collaboration. We kept dividing the work between us by platforms but kept collaborating very closely, always aware of what the other is working on. We planned on how and when we want to execute certain features and made sure that we have a slight offset between the two designers, so we don't design different solutions for the same page.

Here is the live website embedded.
Visit website
Some examples of the countless states and variations we have delivered.

Key Features Redesigned

Improved filtering and search capabilities

User problem

Hard to make sense of all the available categories. They are numerous and sometimes overlapping. It makes browsing between them not as efficient as users expect it to be.

Business/Tech Challenge

To maximize SEO, discipline (category) and field of study (sub-category) names were very detailed and redundant. Too many definitions that are overlapping resulted in an overwhelming amount of options to choose from.

Solution

We applied progressive disclosure to make filtering less overwhelming by showing only the disciplines first. On the other hand, it is also possible to custom select from multiple categories, which increases flexibility.

Browsing and filtering both have dedicated user flows now.
Animation made in Principle to show desired functioning.

Content page template redesign

Quick, early stage wireframes.

User problem

Since each program page was structured differently, information was hard to scan.

Business/Tech Challenge

Providing custom made structure for hundreds of pages cost a lot of time and money.

Solution

After several user interviews, we identified the critical information students were looking for when searching for a degree. Based on this information, we came up with a template and a navigation system.

Re-thinking the layout was a good investment in the long run: the easier students find the necessary information, the more likely they contact the school.

Finding the right moment to ask for data

User problem

It’s hard to find the right contact person from the institution.

Business/Tech Challenge

Regardless of its prominent place, not enough people wanted to fill out the contact form.

Solution

When entering a program page users are not likely to fill out a form without checking the program details. They also wanted to understand where their information was being sent to. By changing the title and moving the form to the bottom of the page we made the site feel more trustworthy.

Solution

When entering a program page, users are not likely to fill out a form without checking the program details. They also wanted to understand where their information was being sent to. Changing the title and moving the form to the bottom of the page made the site feel more trustworthy.

Data collection before & after.

Localization - 44 languages without major UI modifications

User problem

It's easier to understand and share information in your native language than in English.

Business/Tech Challenge

Different languages have different constraints (average word length, reading direction, translation costs, etc.)

Solution

From day one, we prepared for this challenge and planned the interface accordingly. In the UI phase, we also tested our designs in different languages (e.g., German, Arabic, Japanese).

Arabic translation of a program page.

Conclusion

We're thrilled to work on this project and had a lot of fantastic feedback and support from the team in Oslo. This case study was the summary of the first three months of our collaboration. In the second phase of the project, we concentrated on creating a user dashboard and student to university messaging and notification system.

Thank you for reading this case study! 🙏

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