Homework Helper is an internal company tool that allows employees to quickly and efficiently compile homework for their students.
Brownstone Tutors needed to revamp their existing Homework Helper tool. Designed by only a single developer, tutors needed to read a two-page instruction manual in order to navigate the site. Homework Helper allows tutors to compile SAT questions into a PDF that they can assign to their students.
The existing system is unwieldy to use and difficult to parse information out of, thus lowering efficiency. How can we provide the tutors at Brownstone with a quick and easy way to compile SAT questions to send to their students?
Homework Helper is a proprietary tool of Brownstone Tutors that lets employees compile SAT-prep questions into a PDF which they can then print out and assign to their students. It was developed solely by one of the full-stack developers at Brownstone Tutors and lacked the necessary usability that employees needed.
The Homework Helper tool required a two-page tutorial document to understand how to navigate it. This wasted valuable employee time that should be spent helping students and turned many employees off from using it in the first place.
The Homework Helper users are entirely internal employees. In order to help establish the scope of this project, I made sure to determine if there would ever be any plans to monetize this service, which there were not.
The tutors that use this program are in their mid-20s to 30s, graduates of prestigious universities, but not necessarily the most tech-savvy. Gathering qualitative data from these users would provide me with a direction on how to proceed. I brought up the idea with the stakeholder and founder of the company. I advocated the benefits of taking some time to run user interviews. He put me in touch with several employees at Brownstone Tutors.
The system was far too crowded. Too much information was present which overwhelmed users' cognitive load and caused them to abandon the tool.
Important features were missing from the existing system. Being unable to rearrange questions is a huge pain point.
How users were supposed to filter results to even find the questions they wanted to use was unwieldy and unclear.
The tutors showed a clear understanding of basic computer competency. They knew exactly what they wanted to be able to do, and explained it to me in terms befitting someone who has used technology in the past. I empathized with the users and understood their situation clearly.
The base product can do what they want it to do. Navigating how to do it is the main difficulty.
The original interface was only a single screen. This cluttered interface needed to be broken up in order to gradually introduce the user to more relevant information. This would both limit cognitive load and allow newcomers to parse what they are seeing on screen. Creating a user flow was necessary to figure out the most logical and convenient way to separate the information.
I worked with the other product designer on a design studio session. This way we could rapidly iterate ideas back and forth as to how we were going to represent each screen in the user flow.
Given that the Homework Editor still contains multiple elements on a single screen. We devoted time to mapping out where the location of features should be. We placed the filter on the left-hand side since that’s the first step the tutor needs to do in order to reveal the list of questions. These questions will go in the middle and adding them to the homework sheet will be on the far right.
Next, we went into Figma and created a mid-fidelity prototype for usability testing. We made sure to not only usability test the mid-fi with people from the company but also outsiders. We did this to ensure that everyone, even potentially new tutors to the company, could figure out how to navigate the new and improved Homework Helper system.
Users tended to search and add all the questions they wanted to the homework sheet first. Afterwards, they would go into the edit screen and rearrange from there.
Users did not like that they couldn’t keep tabs on the questions that they already added to homework. Having to frequently go back and forth between pages was frustrating.
Users unanimously preferred a drag-and-drop method to homework rearranging instead of using an up and down arrow button set.
Users thought that the Save/Assign button was related to the filters and not to the homework assignment as a whole.
After feedback from our initial usability test, we knew we needed to redo the layout. We now divided the screen into adjustable thirds that still maintain the order in which the user will interact with it:
The user searches the filter to narrow down the question list, then they use the question list to add problems to the homework sheet. In order to mitigate the cluttered-interface pain point, I made sure information is gradually introduced as the user interacts with the Homework Helper.
We initially avoided adding a drag and drop feature because we did not have a developer during this stage of the project. Being able to consult one earlier in the process would have been helpful, but we were finally able to get confirmation that dragging and dropping would be feasible to implement.
Since this tool is going to be used on tutors’ laptops, it was important to make it responsive. A tutor might also have notes about their student, a calculator app, or an internet browser open simultaneously. I used the Breakpoints Figma plugin to recreate how exactly the screens would look while re-sized.
My work led to an increase in overall company productivity! Tutors now enjoyed using the Homework Helper tool and it led to them being able to spend more time helping students. Now that they are easily able to compile homework and easily place each problem in their proper order, they can more closely teach students the way they want to.
Working on the Homework Helper tool was a nice, small, and more tightly-focused exercise in designing. I learned how to adjust my traditional B2C UX workflow for a smaller, more centralized user base.
I also gained plenty of knowledge with responsive design and structuring in Figma that I will take to my jobs moving forward!