CCA onboarding

Professional Work, 2018 | Focus - User Research . User Interface

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The leadership of the Masters in Interaction Design Program (MDes) at the California College of the Arts formed a partnership with our group to envision a unique experience for incoming students. 

the goal

Design a communication product that informs students and guides them through the onboarding phase and helps builds a sense of belonging and reinforces the values of the program.


Draw on the knowledge of current and past students, members of the departments involved in supporting incoming students, such as Finance, Housing, and International Students Advisors. 



Secondary research


Interviews and surveys

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card sorts


Comparative analysis 


Secondary research

Summarized Findings: 

Various departments at play.

We found out that the CCA  had various departments that were in charge of different parts of the process and information is not always shared seamlessly between the departments. The overall grouping that we mapped was that of leaders on the program, the manager and the contributors.

Comparative analysis

Summarized Findings: 

Separate products dedicated to onboarding students.


We did a comparative analysis of various schools like Standford, MIT, RISD, Pratt, and UCLA to see how they had formatted their onboarding process. 


Interviews and surveys

Summarized Findings: 

Students rely on their own network of peers and alumni to find the answers to their questions.

Domestic students also face difficulties, especially concerning finance and housing.

CCA’s current platform cannot be equally accessed in all parts of the world.

Students need support even after the classes start, especially concerning healthcare.


We spoke to the various departments, alumni, current students and new incoming students to understand what the main concerns and pain points are. We were able to understand the various systems in play and got a lot of insight into the governing bodies and workflows inside CCA. 

Personas and journey maps

The information from the personal interviews was used to create two main personas and their current journeys. One persona was that of an incoming international student and the other of an incoming domestic student. Both user groups had their own unique set of needs, requirements and frustrations. 

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Card Sorting

Summarized Findings: 

Balancing the time-sensitive things and individual needs is important.


We did card sorting exercises with the students and the departments in charge of the various stages of onboarding the students to understand how the content of the onboarding guide had to be structured. We got various replies from different groups and decided to structure it by what had to be done immediately and what seemed to be desired next step.


Information Architecture

We used the information for the card sort to then create an information architecture of the content and its order of important.

How might we provide a simpler navigation system to the incoming M.des students?

How might we help students find and connect with the
M.des community before school starts?

How to help students manage their schedule?

The big "How might we's"

How might we provide a customizable interface to help students to only focus on the task they need to get done?

How might we integrate housing information and make it easier for student to understand?

How might we provide students easily accessible and clear contact information?

Ideation and testing

01. product form

When we started thinking about the product, we looked at various ways to make the onboarding guide. We created pro's and con's list for each of the discussed methods to decide on the most ideal option. 

A digital website was the most ideal option. 

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Road blocks and challenges

We could not build a website from scratch. 


When we went to speak with the different departments with our proposal, it was shot down. This was because CCA did not have the time or budget to make a brand new website with all the information and they wanted to start somewhere ASAP.


The second problem was that the information necessary was already available but in multiple scattered webpages and we had to build a product that would not disturb the various administrative departments that were already in place.  

02. addressing the problem

Different products for different timelines. 

We countered this challenge by dividing up the project goal. The hub for a version that could be used in the immediate future, the full portal which had all the required content | well-curated by the various departments | chatbots to answer the question ASAP and the combination which was the transition phase from the hub to the full portal. 

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Immediate future

Envisioned future

Ideal Future

03.Low fidelity Paper prototype testing

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Once we conducted the paper prototype testing, we took the insights from there and made our high fidelity prototypes.

Login page



I wanted it to be a reflection of the M.des program - Futuristic | Modern | Experimental  

The students first look into the program. I wanted to add some delight to the experience with subtle interactive elements.

Checklist . Navigation . Contact info 

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A clear checklist for tasks that need to be completed. Quick navigation to the necessary links. Easy and accurate way to contact the required departments. 


Takeaways and learnings

• Design is not always erasing and building new systems but rather finding ways to modify and accommodate old systems while re-arranging them in a way that is easier for the user.

• Always take into consideration the various players involved and how they are interconnected while designing a product.


• What works for one user base might not for another. Know all the sectors that you are designing for.

The End.