UX Design for optiMize: optiPortal

OptiMize unleashes that potential by creating inspiring environments for students to take action on self-directed projects that work toward a just and sustainable world. The optiMize system consists of three main features, including optiCore, optiData, and optiPortal.

Goal: The focus of this UX design is to create a community platform that participants can easily and successfully find collaborations.

Timeline: 2 weeks

Team: 2 collaborators

Role: Product Manager & Lead UI Designer


  1. Wrote out a research plan
  2. Sent out surveys
  3. Conducted user interviews
  4. Synthesized research through affinity mapping
  5. Conducted & quantified card sorting tests
  6. Crafted personas & scenarios
  7. Mapped out customer journeys
  8. Recommendations
  9. Presented findings to clients

Research Introduction

This research aims to identify how mentors and mentees get connected, what communication methods they use, and what challenges and opportunities with the mentorship process they have encountered.

Business Canvas

A business canvas was built to help us make sure our end prototype meets our clients' needs and users who would be using this platform.



To conduct this research, we will use a screener survey to identify users that fit either of the following profiles:

  1. Students or alumni who are interested in working on a passion project or start-up
  2. Mentors who have participated in mentorship programs

We will ask additional survey participants who meet the above criteria and agree to a follow-up survey and/or interview. Participants will be given one of two questionnaires/interview prompts depending on which category they fit into (Mentor or Mentee).

Screener Survey Sample Questions

There were a total of 10 questions:

  1. How do you search for people that share your interests and passions? (Multi-select Option Group)
  2. Have you ever participated as a mentor in a mentorship program? (Y/N)
  3. How do you learn about mentorship opportunities? (Multi-select Option Group)
  4. Are you willing to participate in a follow-up survey or interview? (Survey/Interview Option Group)

Screen-out Criteria:

  1. The participant is not willing to participate in either type of follow-up (survey or interview)
  2. The participant is not interested in starting a project AND participant has no mentorship experience,
  3. The participant has little interest in starting a project and 0–1 years of volunteer experience AND has no mentorship experience.

Mentor Survey/Interview Sample Questions

We had a total of 10 questions:

  1. Briefly describe how you were connected with your mentee.
  2. How did your mentee’s work tie into your area of expertise?
  3. Was your mentorship in-person, remote, or both?
  4. What did you like about the mentorship experience?
  5. What did you find challenging about the mentorship experience?
  6. What were the opportunities for improvement around your mentorship experience?

Mentee Survey/Interview Sample Questions

We had a total of 10 questions:

  1. Have you ever participated in a mentorship program as a mentee for a project or start-up?
  2. What skills and traits do you look for in a mentor?
  3. What resources did you use to find your mentor?
  4. What roadblocks or challenges did you have in finding your mentor?
  5. Was your mentorship experience in-person, remote, or both?
  6. What did you like about the mentorship experience?
  7. What did you find challenging about the mentorship experience?
  8. What were the opportunities for improvement around your mentorship experience?


We would have liked to reach 80 participants from our broad screener survey but could get responses from 59.

Ideally, we were looking for 15+ participants for follow-up interviews & surveys. Half of our targets will be participants will have had some experience as a mentor. The other half will be participants who have been part of a fellowship or started a passion project. We hope to find participants who have experience being mentored.

However, in reality, we were only able to interview a total of 7 people out of the 59. Out of the 7 interviewees, 3 had experience both as a mentor as well as a mentee. We were able to get valuable insight even with the limited pool of interviewers.

To further support our findings, we did some secondary research as well and really focusing on how on the different ways people connect.

Quote from an interview participant


As another part of our research, we conducted 6 open card sorting activities to understand how people categorize items and find common categories throughout the participants. It will be a useful approach for designing information architecture, workflows, menu structure, and web site navigation paths.

We will then conduct 5+ closed card sorting activities based on the open card sorting to improve our navigation system.

Key Findings:

The largest pain point was discovered based on research and interviews.

Based on our research and interviews, we put together an affinity map and found several pain-point ideas.

  • 6 out of 7 mentors had a bad experience with a mentee at one point or another
  • Mentees were assigned to mentors in all formal mentorships (excluding informal mentorships)
  • 6 out of 7 mentors preferred in-person meetings or would only meet in-person
  • 5 out of 7 believed there needed to be “a connection” for the mentorship to be successful

Personas/Scenarios/Journey Mapping:

Having a solid understanding of what the client wanted and hearing the issues participants have in finding the right match between a mentor and mentee, we proceeded to build our personas — Luke Schuler & Karrie Ferro.

Karrie’s Journey Map
Luke’s Journey Map

Connecting the two personas

By building out personas & journey maps, my team member and I were able to really focus on Karrie and Luke's needs. Whenever we felt lost in our ideation & design process, we kept on going back and referencing our fictional people's needs. It was a great way to make sure that we're headed on the right path and that user needs always come first! Based on our personas and the limited time sprint, we built out a mid-to-high-fidelity prototype while staying true to the user's needs.

Sketching & Ideation Sprint

User Flow
5-minute design sprint
An expanded 5-minute design sprint
Samples of our paper prototypes. Not all sheets are shown.

Usability Testing:

Having built out our paper prototype, we took some time to build out a usability test plan.

The reason for having n plan of attack when usability testing is because we needed to be very specific and clear about our scenario and the tasks we would like feedback on. We were able to get in 5 paper prototype tests and 3 clickable prototypes. Based on our usability tests, we found a couple of areas where testers were perplexed.

  • Discovered layout issues on the main dashboard
  • The onboarding flow needed to rework
  • Lack of search bar on certain elements was confusing to some users

Have we had more time, I would like to conduct more usability tests on our clickable prototype.

Wireframes & Clickable Prototype:

Using our low-fidelity prototypes, we began to migrate and build out our designs on Axure. There was definitely a major learning curve with Axure, but some parts were similar to Sketch or Figma. What’s great about Axure is that we make our design dynamic, meaning actual clickable parts work as if it were a true website. Below are just a couple of pages out of several built-in Axure.

Log In Flow
Finding Collaborators Page
Finding Projects Page
Karrie’s Dashboard

Next Steps:

  • Usability tests with optiMize community
  • Research on how this will connect with optiCore and optiData
  • Research on security surrounding access to personal information




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