Simplifying the Event Discovery Experience
User Experience Research Using Contextual Inquiry
Adele H. Smith Stamp Student Union - Center for Campus Life (or STAMP) is located in the heart of the University of Maryland, College Park. STAMP aims to nurture a welcoming and inclusive community for students through events and programming at the University of Maryland (UMD). They host over 3000 events every year. With over 40,000 students from different backgrounds at UMD, finding the right channels of communication is a significant problem for the Marketing team of STAMP.
For the final project of my course on User Experience Research, our team of four conducted user research using contextual inquiry to learn more about the event discovery experiences of the students of UMD.
Eva Quintos Tennant, Assistant Director
Marketing & Communications, STAMP
The students of UMD find it difficult to keep track of their choice of events because of the large number of event announcements on various channels of communication. If we can solve this problem, it would impact the students of UMD positively by reducing information overload.
It would also benefit our client because they will be able to focus their marketing efforts on specific channels and increase student participation in events.
Goal of Our Research
Evaluate existing communication pain points for the STAMP Marketing team
Learn about the different ways in which students find out about events
Propose new strategies to make communication channels more effective
Tools & Methodologies
The Affinity Diagram
Day in the Life Models
Wall Walk & Visioning
Once the background research of STAMP was completed, we conducted stakeholder interviews to corroborate our findings and assumptions with the client. An interview guide was created to conduct contextual interviews of the students of UMD who enjoy attending events and workshops.
A contextual interview is a user-centered, semi-structured interview. It is an important part of the understanding users' needs, behaviors, and goals to create a better product/service.
Demographics of the Interviewees
In order to ensure that our pool of interviewees is representative of the diverse student population of UMD, we found eight students who are a combination of those who -
A) live on or off-campus
B) study in grad school or undergrad (upperclassmen/underclassmen)
C) are in the international or domestic category
SU stands for STAMP User. We named them SU1-8 to keep their identity confidential in the interview notes.
Focus of the Interviews
How do students learn about upcoming events?
Why do students usually visit STAMP?
What type of events do students like to attend?
Do students attend events by themselves or with people?
Where do students keep track of the upcoming events?
What social media channels do students interact with?
During interpretation sessions, the large amount of information that we gathered from our users was organized into interview notes, sequence models, and day-in-the-life models.
An Affinity diagram provided a good way to identify our users' pain points, motivations, and preferences. Interview notes were printed on sticky-notes and grouped based on their natural relationships under labels.
The color of a label takes on the meaning relative to the level of abstraction or part of the model. When reading from the top-down, the labels structure the insights, tell a story about users' issues, and organize all the details known about the issues.
In the slideshow gallery below, levels 1-4 are explained in detail below the images.
Day in the Life Model
The Day-in-the-Life model helped us understand how students' discover, track and attend events at STAMP. In order to better understand what devices, channels and places the students visit, we created a model that represents their journey through the entire process. We identified specific types of people in this process too. This model helped us think about how our solutions would fit into the lives of students.
We consolidated eight day-in-the-life models to create the day-in-the-life model below.
Sequence models helped us learn about the different strategies used by students to find/track events online. I consolidated the eight sequence models that were created during interpretation sessions.
Wall Walk & Visioning
During the "wall walk" session, the team walked the Affinity diagram, consolidated sequence model & day-in-the-life model, and generated initial design ideas in response to it. The bright pink notes contain the design ideas generated during Wall Walk. These notes led to the 'Visioning Session'.
In a series of visions, the team created a story of how students could benefit from the design ideas. This whiteboarding session led to interesting ideas that became product concepts to present to our client.
We developed wireframes for five of our ideas to present to the client. Based on our research, these ideas will have the most impact on how students learn about events from the efforts of STAMP Marketing.
Add to Calendar
Our interviewees expressed that they like to be reminded of events on their phone calendars. There is no straightforward way to add events to a calendar on the existing STAMP website. So this was our first concept pitch to the marketing team.
Food Court Marketing
Students frequent the STAMP building to have lunch or study at the food court. Increasing event marketing efforts in this area would help reach a large student population.
Some students told us that they take photos of posters in order to keep track of the upcoming events. Since physical posters are attention-grabbing, we pitched that including a QR-code in the design would urge more students to RSVP on the Facebook Event page and effectively improving the call-to-action.
Facebook ads are a great way to reach the intended audience. Events hosted by STAMP have Facebook Event pages so sponsored ads will be a great way to announce upcoming programming to students.
Students receive an overwhelming number of newsletters and official listserv emails from University departments. By creating an opt-in service that allows students to select the kind of events they would like to contacted about, STAMP can reach their audience with specifically targetted newsletters.
We presented our findings to the STAMP Marketing team - the coordinators of Marketing & Design and the Assistant Director of the department.
Our user research plan aimed at learning how students discover events that are hosted by STAMP. Through contextual interviews and notes generated from them, we learned that social media, especially Facebook, and word-of-mouth have the highest impact on the decision-making process of a student.
The product concepts were well received by the clients. They plan to implement QR-codes on posters and allocate budgets for Facebook ads in the upcoming semester. The other concepts are going to be presented to the Associate Directors of STAMP in the coming months.
The final presentation is available below. It is also available for download here -