The DePaul Alumni Sharing Knowledge (ASK) Network; An Alumni-Student Advising Mobile App

SEP 2020

Reimagining the DePaul Alumni Sharing Knowledge (ASK) network as a mobile app experience by using the principles of social interaction designing

Proposal to senior management at workplace & Social Interaction Design coursework

Research, user-interviews, wireframing & prototyping, lo-fi, mid-fi, hi-fi designing, usability testing

Figma, Pen & paper

10 weeks


I worked with the DePaul ASK Network department for 2 years as a Program & Communications Assistant. I was responsible for advocating the ASK network, an online mentoring tool that connects students and alumni. ASK is hosted on a platform called PeopleGrove. Presently, the platform is designed for the web and is not fully mobile-friendly.

Informed by my interactions with alumni and students over 2 years, I designed a mobile app version of ASK for my coursework for the social interaction design class. This project is my take on how the app would look and function on a mobile device. All the features and functionalities presented are based on what students said they would like to see in a mobile app that lets them connect with other students and alumni to network and seek mentorship.


How may we empower the curious students of DePaul University with a solution that enables the exchange of knowledge among less experienced students, more experienced students, and alumni?


8 out of 10 students I spoke to said they use their mobile phone to access college related information

DePaul ASK Network is a program run by the Career Center with the primary purpose of helping students connect with alumni to seek guidance and mentorship for college support and discovering careers. In its current form, new or less experienced students cannot connect with more experienced students of DePaul. Also, there is no sense of instant gratification among students who have used the network in the past. I identified this as an opportunity to make the mentoring network at DePaul a bit more social and inclusive, to drive a sense of belonging among students and alumni.

  • 7 out of 10 students felt that the existing program was too formal
  • All 10 students said they are open to connecting with more experienced students for advice
  • 8 students said the current website does not offer them support with quick advice
  • 9 students felt the program was restrictive
  • At least 5 students said they relied on Facebook groups and other avenues to seek college-related advice

The DePaul ASK Network as a Mobile App

Based on insights from my job role and the data usage gathered from the existing website, I designed the DePaul ASK Network as a social media mobile app. The presented solution focuses on students and their journey through the app.

Here's introducing the new DePaul ASK Network mobile app, a community enabling social networking app for knowledge exchange among students and alumni of DePaul.

Gathering advice through note-taking

One of the inherent human activities is collecting, which can help in achieving personal identity and a nurturing hobby to make one feel good, safe, and loved. The new app feature–Diary, allows students to collect advice from various posts across their home feed and add pieces of advice to a personal diary. This mimics the real-word habit of note-taking.

Instant gratification

The home feed Wall of Advice is the answer to quick, just-in-time advice that does not need long-term formal mentoring. Students can post a question and even control who can respond to their post. The personalized home feed with user-generated content makes the app sticky, generates repeated app visits, increases engagement, and promotes a sense of social community.

A redesigned Network tab

The network tab recommends mentors based on industry preferences and lets students connect with mentors quickly and easily. The messaging and schedule call features integrate Google tools like Google Meet, Google Hangouts, and Google Translate. Students also have the option of searching for more mentors using simple filters.

Simpler mentor search & discovery through filters

Above: Search and filters in Network tab.

Students can use the search option in the network tab to search for mentors using keywords. 2 levels of filters can be set and are as follows:

A high-level filter to view the results by type of mentor

  • Students can choose from options that include View All, View only more Experienced Students, or View only Alumni

A search-results level filter for narrowing down options

  • Informed from the user interviews, 4 main filters were identified– Location, Industry, Majors & Help Topics. Students can use these to narrow down their options further

In the following sections, I will explain the steps I took throughout my process to arrive at the final design solution. I will also explain my rationale behind the design decisions.

Research & Strategy

Secondary Research

Solving any problem requires getting to the root of the problem, understand the exact requirements of the users, and then come up with a solution. I started by conducting some secondary research to complement and inform the insights I gathered while working with students and alumni as a part of my job responsibility at the ASK department.


  • The network is restricted to only student-to-alumni networking and alumni-to-alumni networking
  • There are multiple groups run by the students on Facebook, where most of the conversations about college life happen
  • Many young students are still new to LinkedIn and networking etiquette. They shy away from reaching out to more experienced peers for guidance
  • Most students prefer to connect with alumni in their specific fields/industries
  • Compared to other apps like Handshake, LinkedIn, and Bumble Bizz, the process of discovery and matching with a mentor through the web only interface is confusing and often time-consuming on a mobile browser

Findings from the 1-on-1 Interviews with 10 students and usability tests with 5 students

To dig deeper about the discoverability and reaching out to mentors on the website, I relied on qualitative data from the interviews in conjunction with the results from the usability tests.

I asked 5 students to explore the network tab and discover a mentor they would like to reach using their mobile phones.


  • While all the students could figure how to use the network tab to discover a mentor, they wished for a simpler navigation
  • 3 Students spent more time on the homepage of the network tab and made a comment about ineffective mentor suggestions
  • 2 students talked about too many filters to be confusing
  • All students wished for a more effective search bar

My goal from the one-on-one interviews was to identify student requirements and their barriers from a mobile app that would let them connect with peers and alumni for advice. The core findings are as follows:

Intimidating process

  • Students felt that the process of discovering and connecting with a mentor on the existing ASK network was long and intimidating
“I feel rushed or pushed when my school asks me to do it. It shouldn’t be an obligation”

The need for instant gratification

  • Many questions that the students have do not require formal mentorship. Students want options of a place to go to for quick advice as well as a place to go to for a more formal long term mentorship based on their needs
  • 4 alumni I spoke to said that they were interested in giving students quick advice through a conversation format like a social home feed
“I wish there was a place where I could just type out my experiences that can be advice for new students. You know, like a Twitter feed”

Learning from more experienced students

  • Less experienced students assumed that more experienced students would not advise them. When in fact, 15 of 20 students I spoke to who were in their sophomore, junior, and senior years said they were willing to advise less experienced students
  • The current setup with the ASK network does not offer the feature of students connecting with each other and there lacked a sense of community on the existing ASK network
“I’ve been in their shoes before. If my advice can help them not make the mistakes I made, I'm happy to help” 

More social and less obligation

  • Students felt that their first experience with the ASK network felt more of an obligation and less friendly. They wanted a social-style app to seek advice
  • Students wanted clear and easy ways to connect with alumni. Most of them I spoke to said they wanted to talk to an alum working in an industry they were majoring in

Next, I used the insights generated to come up with a persona to guide my design decisions

Affinity Mapping


Competitive Analysis

I conducted a quick competitive analysis of how recommendations or matching happens on other apps. I looked at Bumble Bizz, Linkedin, and Facebook

Bumble connection building process is like dating

  • Pros: It’s fun and engaging
  • Cons: This may not work for something serious and slightly professional like mentoring

Facebook uses a search-based connection building process using filters

  • Pros: Is flexible and has filters so it adds customization
  • Cons: It can be complicated for students to set too many filters

LinkedIn has a recommendations page and search feature

  • Pros: This approach shows a compact list of probable matches
  • Cons: Does not convey enough info and the user needs to click to card to get more information

Brainstorming & Goal Setting

After I gathered insights and identified the barriers, I started brainstorming on paper to collate all my thoughts and set some goals to achieve with my design

Based on what I had gathered from research and my analysis using affinity mapping, I set some high level goals to achieve with the design. I also made a list of features that I though were feasible for a mobile app version of the university's mentoring solution


  • The app should have a sticky social angle that would increase student participation and screen time
  • Discovering and connecting with mentors should be easy AF!
  • Scheduling, calling or video-calling a mentor should happen within the app
  • Students should be able gain instant gratification through the app when seeking for advice


  • Networking tab
  • Home feed with customization
  • Note taking
  • Voice & Video calling
  • Scheduling meetings
  • Notifications
  • Skills display
  • Informative profile page

Sketching & lo-fi designs


After few pencil sketches, I moved to Figma to continue wireframing. I focused on some key user flows and used wireframing to think through the flows. Shown below are 3 of the most important flows


Design rationale:

The initial idea for the onboarding was to gather important information from the users and use that data to present them with a home feed customized to their needs. For this purpose, I decided to collect their interest areas, industries they were interested in, and what kind of advice they were going to seek. To help them get started with their profile page, a profile pic and a note about what advice they wanted were collected as a part of the onboarding process. 

Home feed & Note-taking

Design rationale:

To mimic the real-world habit of note-taking, I designed a feature where students can save advice from across their home feed to a diary section in the app which acts like a personal diary that the students can revisit anytime.


Design rationale:

Students wanted networking to be very easy with few barriers. I designed the networking flow to be supportive. Students can either send a message or schedule a call from multiple locations in the app during their journey. While sending the first message, students can use email template guides based on their goals to craft a message.

1) They can use various filters to search for mentors and message them directly from the Network tab
2) They can either message a mentor or schedule a meeting directly from any mentor's profile page
3) They can also schedule a meeting from the messages tab in the app

User Testing

I used Figma and quickly prototyped each flow at every stage of designing and followed a task-based testing approach. I tested the 3 flows with 5 users by giving them tasks to achieve. I conducted 2 rounds of testing– one mif-fi prototypes and another with hi-fi prototypes.

Rapid Prototyping & Testing

The final changes made and implemented in the hi-fi designs are as follows:

  • Reduced onboarding steps from 5 to 2
  • Added a new details gathering screen during onboarding to collect more user info in step 2
  • Detailed out the Set Preferences screen on the home feed and moved collecting the preferences data from the onboarding process to first time home screen use
  • Changed the like button in the home feed replies to a fire button
  • Added Add Notes & My notes buttons in the Diary section
  • Redesigned the network page experience based on what students said in the user tests – network recommendations based on industries, profile snapshots now show enough information in a quick snapshot, and I added number of answers by mentors to showcase how likely mentors are to respond to questions

Hi-fi Designs of a Few Key Screens

The home screen feed

  • The home screen feed follows a card layout where questions are shared for more experienced students and alumni to view and reply to
  • Students can customize their feed by setting their preferences and turn topics on or off using toggle switches
  • The card layout mimics a notebook that students are used to in the real world
  • Clicking on each card navigates the students to the conversation thread of that post
  • Students can create tags to their posts for their questions to show up in searches
  • Students can compose a post straight from the home screen using the Create FAB

The Network Tab

  • The network page gives students quick access to their past mentors and recently connected mentors
  • The recommendations are limited to industries and common areas of interests
  • Students can also choose from a more generic popular mentors recommendation for general advice
  • Each mentor card showcases the type of mentor they are, their average ratings from other mentees, and the total number of answers they have provided to posts. The idea is that the mentor is more likely to respond to new posts and mentees based on the number of past engagement 

The Mentor Profile Page

  • Each profile page has 3 main interactions– a Message button and Schedule button, and a Share Profile button,
  • The likeliness of the mentor responding to a mentee is highlighted as an insight on the mentor's profile
  • The opening content of the profile view is based on cues provided during the profile creation stage. The boring about me section now has an interesting story about an impactful experience the mentor had in the past
  • Mentor's interests are listed as tags for better searchability


This was an individual project. I was the only UX designer and I proactively redesigned a web only mentoring network interface that I was managing professionally, towards my coursework of the Social Interaction Design course and even presented it to the senior management at the workplace.


The goal for this project was to design the ASK Network as an Android app by using the knowledge of social interaction design patterns. All the design decisions presented have been informed by research and by common social media interaction patterns.

I thoroughly enjoyed using real world habits as design inspirations and implementing them to solve problems students face while using a powerful tool like the ASK Network.