Case study

Gathering user requirements

A college admissions platform for prospects to organize, build and refine applications to multiple institutions.


While gathering requirements for the project we had regular access to our clients, but we hadn’t talked to college applicants users or their support network. We felt like we lacked an understanding of their work and needs.


I reached out to the local guidance counselor community and found some who were willing to volunteer their time. We interviewed them and developed personas.

Counselor persona

Because of potential issues around working with minors, we asked the counselors about their students instead of interviewing college prospects directly. We created proto-personas for that user base from those interviews.


These personas enriched our understanding of the complexity of the college application process. We referenced them continually while we developed user stories and journey maps.

Applicant and counselor journey map

These contacts also became useful when the team was designing the platform. I ran usability tests with counselors on our prototypes. Among other things, the usability tests revealed that critical functionality was hidden in plain sight because the designer had positioned it in a way similar to many banner ads.