Sam
Gray
MySchools - Contextual Guidance

No One Reads the Manual

The Challenge

The annual school directories contain dozens of pages of front matter that explain the application process. A cottage industry of paid consultants developed just to help families understand it all.

Guidance counselors help students with applications, and there’s no replacement for their hands-on work. But their busy schedules mean that many families unable to hire outside help navigate much of the process on their own, doing their best to understand the lengthy printed “manual”. Our user research highlighted just how much confusion surrounded admissions policies and requirements.

What parent has the time to read all this, just to understand the process?
The Goal

I advocated to incorporate guidance on the admissions process, in order to reduce families’ need to refer to a separate manual.

While initial requirements called for functionality to search and apply, I asserted that users familiar with analogous tools like TurboTax would expect MySchools to explain and guide them through the process. This led to our adopted goal of reducing the need for users to consult the printed manual.

The Approach

I proposed and wrote copy for onboarding walkthroughs and oversaw the design of interactive checklists.

Rather than asking users to read an exhaustive guide before beginning, I designed pop-up walkthroughs that are triggered at key points in the user’s progress. This helps pace their onboarding, and connects the interface directly to their understanding of the process.

I proposed and contributed copy for “coachmarks” sprinkled throughout the experience that replace the exhaustive onboarding information families were previously expected to review before even beginning the application process.

We also developed a Help section where users can find more information about the walkthroughs’ topics. And interactive checklists allow users to track their progress and learn about offline activities like school visits and admissions tests.

I proposed onboarding and progress-tracking features like the Help section and interactive checklists, and I directed their UX design.
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