How to build an MVP for a complex online platform.
In three months my team build a working, front-end-ready MVP prototype for an international platform for students. Course browser, application forms, complimentary website – everything was ready for development.
Read time: 15 minutes.
The idea behind MYS was noble and just. Sending young adventurous people from all around the world to Australian courses/colleges and universities. All done really easily via our online platform. To animate a community there was also a social network built around the core business.
That’s for the theory.
Unfortunately, due to complexity of the project and lots of law restrictions, MeStudent homepage, application platform, and social network needed improvements.
The company was on the very beginning of it’s quest to greatness with many questions to answer, problems to solve and risks to take.
The main reason for that was a very complicated education/immigration law in both Australia and Poland. A part of the process was screening, applying for an Australian visa, and then applying for a school. Merging all that in one short and friendly form was quite a challenge!
Luckily, both of my Juniors were smart so I could divide work between the three of us. One of them was really efficient with Webflow as a prototyping tool. The second one was an engineer with a very good reason-driven and logical thinking which was extremely useful during the ideation process.
I tried to utilize their talents with a proper division of tasks. That is how we managed to push the whole project so far in such a short time.
The next step was to find a universal way for students to apply for schools (universities, summer courses, and much more). It’s worth mentioning that each school has a different application form, different procedures, requirements, and different channels of communication.
Fortunately, I was given an access to literally tons of papers, documents, and applications which allowed me and my team to shape the MVP solution for all these crazy requirements.
The outcome of those actions was a list of features which we wanted to add to our system or remove from it — mostly remove. Each design decision was followed with a quite strong argumentation.
We were lucky enough to have a skilled GA guy among MS employees. After few short chats we were provided with quite serious report on google analytics user data. We were able to pinpoint some really interesting facts about our users.
That’s why we decided to work on new homepage and platform simultaneously since they were both equally crucial to the well-being of the company.
Definitely the most rewarding part of the research was talking to students from all over the world via Skype and other channels to see if they needed a service such as MS and how they wanted it served.
We discovered what drived them and what held them back. Those interviews gave us a great deal of knowledge on how to build our platform.
Site Map & User Flows
We used the knowledge from the previous steps of our UX process and applied it to our product, keeping in touch with business restrains, thus creating the first site map for the application platform and social district.
We wanted to engage our users gradually. From a quick and easy signup to a demanding application form. We tried to remove any obstacles to make the whole MS environment stress-free.
I am not going to discuss the social platform as well as some of the features of the application process due to the sensitive data regulations.
Solutions & Information Architecture
Users spend most of their time on other sites. This means that users prefer your site to work the same way as all the other sites they already know.
The list is long but what follows are some examples of how I approached information architecture for this project.
The Index page was designed to present MS’s business value, encourage to register, wake up imagination, answer most crucial questions, and connect with community. Sections were ordered to explain what is MS, how simple it works, why it’s better than competitors, why it’s for you, who is already in, who supports it, and so on. It wasn’t a design masterpiece but we were in rush and could afford more of an MVP version than fully polished page.
We chose a proper language style in between official language and youth slang to emphasize that MS was invented and ran by young passionate students from all around the world, just like our customers.
We bolded out most crucial features, benefits, and cool factors.
The navbar divided the whole platform into social section and application section. Of course, the social section is full of CTA buttons encouraging to apply for courses.
Smart search showed hints while typing in the field. It aggregated data from both social and application sections.
The alerts module worked also for both social and application. It informed you about the progress of your application as well as the discussions you had on social platform.
Many tooltips and hints were added to parts of the application form where it could be unclear for the students to maximize the clarity of the process.
Our prototype was a low fidelity one, so both visual design and interactions were raw. But it was fairly close to a working MVP.
You are more than welcome to click through it, no need to fill in the fields
Unfortunately, I didn’t get the opportunity to work on the final looks for that project. MeStudent had to move their headquarters to their investor’s home country – Australia. They shut down Polish branch as I write this article. I hope to see them doing well and looking good any day soon. Good luck to the new MS Australian team. Fingers crossed for your success!
Want to see what’up with us?
Want to read more?
Here are more stories about the value of User Experience in the digital business.
Get in touch
Hi, I’m Mat. I’m the listener type. Why don’t we talk about your product?