Strategic development of international higher education platform.
8 minutes reading time
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Since each program page was structured differently, information was hard to scan.
Providing custom made structure for hundreds of pages cost a lot of time and money.
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.
It’s hard to find the right contact person from the institution.
Regardless of its prominent place, not enough people wanted to fill out the contact form.
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.
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.
It's easier to understand and share information in your native language than in English.
Different languages have different constraints (average word length, reading direction, translation costs, etc.)
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).
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.