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 time that should be spent helping students. It discouraged employees from using it in the first place.
The tutors that use this program are in their mid-20s to 30s, graduates of prestigious universities, but not necessarily the most tech-savvy. 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 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 stakeholder and the developer on some initial sketches that addressed the concerns brought up during user testing.
Given that the Homework Editor still contains multiple elements on a single screen. I felt it made the most sense to have the order in which interactions will typically occur go from left to right.
I went into Figma and created a mid-fidelity prototype for usability testing.
I made sure to test the mid-fi with people from the company and outsiders. I did this to ensure that everyone, even potentially new hires, could figure out how to navigate the new and improved Homework Helper.
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 maintain the order in which the user interacts with the tool.
Going from left to right, the user searches the filter to narrow down the question list, then they use the question list to add problems to the homework sheet.
I made sure information was gradually introduced as the user interacted with the Homework Helper.
Since users disliked going back and forth between screens, now they can add and remove homework problems from the primary view.
Questions added to the Homework section can be drag-and-dropped to re-arrange the order.
When the user is done finding questions, they can navigate to the "Review Homework" screen.
This provides the user with a view of only the homework questions which, like before, can be drag-and-dropped to the tutor's liking.
It was very important to make this prototype responsive. A tutor might also have notes about their student, a calculator app, or an internet browser open simultaneously.
I used a combination of nested Auto-layout components and the Breakpoints Figma plugin to recreate how the screen would look when the window itself was resized and when individual sections of the page were resized.
My work led to an increase in overall company productivity! Tutors now enjoyed using the Homework Helper tool, which led to them spending more time helping students. Now that they can compile homework and place each problem in their proper order, they can more closely teach students how 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 workflow for a smaller, more centralized user base. I also gained plenty of knowledge of responsive design and structuring in Figma!