Ultimately, we designed a scalable mobile application that:


  • Provides scaffolding, supporting the ambassador on multiple levels

    • Facilitates collaboration and camaraderie

    • Tracks progress toward goals

    • Offers recommendations and peer-created tips

    • Provides checklist, event & social media support

    • Checks in regularly with ambassadors to evaluate progress & well-being

  • Emphasizes long-term value and provides short-term scalable options

  • Supports business goals

    • Progress tracking at an individual level, team level, and across universities to inform programmatic decisions


The app was designed in a modular manner, such that MathWorks could implement a subset of features in the short-term, and build out the remainder over time, if they so desired. Site map below.


The MATLAB student ambassador program leverages current undergraduate and graduate students to increase campus-wide awareness and use of MATLAB--a multi-level numerical computing platform--through on-campus events, workshops, and social media. MathWorks required a user interface solution that would support the expansion of their MATLAB student ambassador program from 19 to 1,000 students in the span of two years. 

As I interviewed users and MathWorks stakeholders about the program, several issues became apparent:

  • The MathWorks team managing the program was small and would be unable to provide one-on-one support to individual ambassadors, should the program increase in size.

  • Training resources and communication channels were scattered (e.g. email, Google Drive, Sharepoint).

  • Ambassadors wanted help planning their activities (e.g. workshops, social media promotion), as well as feedback on their performance.

  • And, most illuminating, I discovered that MathWorks, a company known for building complex, data-driven software, was not tracking the impact of individual ambassadors or the program as a whole. This lack of analytics not only impaired the team's ability to garner internal support and resources to expand the program, but would severely limit their ability to make well-informed, data-driven decisions about the program's future.


I worked in a team of five graduate students to design a robust, mobile app prototype that would address these and other user needs. The mobile app was envisioned as part of a larger UI solution that would include a web portal for ambassadors and MathWorks employees. 

The prototype leveraged data-driven recommendations, affective design, community building, and gamification. Additionally, we designed the UI in modular fashion, enabling MathWorks to build out a subset of features in the short-term, and the remainder over time.









  • Served as project manager (i.e. scheduled and led team meetings, delegated project work, served as primary point of contact for stakeholders)

  • Created protocol for MATLAB student ambassador and MATLAB student user interviews

  • Conducted interviews with MATLAB student ambassador and student users; reported findings back to team

  • Generated persona based on interview data (i.e. "Ryan")

  • Created conceptual model for UI solution

  • Designed app dashboard, team, and challenge screens, including sketches, wireframes, and medium fidelity prototype in Axure RP

  • Co-wrote final report with colleague Sara Garver

  • Co-created and delivered final presentation to MathWorks stakeholders with colleague Sara Garver

  • Mentored junior team members


  • Understanding stakeholder needs and problem space

  • Generating user research protocols (i.e. non-biased, non-leading interview protocol)

  • Conducting user research (i.e. interviews)

  • Analyzing user research data using affinity diagramming

  • Sketching

  • Wireframing in Balsamiq

  • Generating low- and high-fidelity prototypes in Axure RP

  • Communicating findings to stakeholders (i.e. written report, oral presentation)


Create a user interface solution for MathWorks' MATLAB student ambassador program

Want more detail? Read on...


Research: We began our design process by interviewing key stakeholders at MathWorks, including the student ambassador program lead. From that conversation, we derived the institutional and business goals for the program, and established a preliminary problem statement. We then jointly brainstormed the topics and types of questions we wished to discuss with our primary user group: the student ambassadors. I created the interview protocol and conducted an interview with a student ambassador, on behalf of my team. As we were only granted access to one student ambassador, I proactively sought out and conducted interviews with three current MATLAB student users about their experiences with the MATLAB ambassador program and support resources. I reported back all findings to the team. 

Data analysis: Using the user research data collected, we revised our problem statement and project goals. I also generated two personas: a prototypical student ambassador ("Ryan") and a student ambassador program manager at MathWorks ("Jordan"). I shared the personas with the team and integrated their feedback. Two of my team members then devised a series of context scenarios, which we jointly reviewed and revised. Our team also collectively drafted the project scope, assumptions, requirements and criteria, as well as a task analysis for the student ambassador persona.





























Brainstorm & Ideate: We leveraged various digital tools for communication, collaboration, scheduling, and asset management (i.e. Slack,  Realtimeboard, Doodle polls, Google Drive). Realtimeboard, a digital whiteboard that allows for remote collaboration, proved particularly valuable. It enabled us to conduct online data analysis and brainstorming sessions, as well as share sketches, wireframes, and design inspiration. 

We began by utilizing affinity diagramming to organize and analyze the user research data. From that exercise, we identified the key functionality for the UI, and what information would be most pertinent to retrieve and display. We then conducted several initial rounds of brainstorming, including a free association around data collection, data visualization, and gamification. This included finding and sharing visual exemplars culled from existing interfaces.









Finally, we identified our guiding design principles. These included data collection and display, gamification (as a means to motivate and engage), community building, offloading (i.e. let the system handle menial or repetitive tasks), and affective design (e.g. collecting self-reflective data and offering relevant recommendations).


Design: We conducted several rounds of sketching, identifying the most promising concepts. It is important to note that we intentionally did not restrict sketching to a specific platform (e.g. desktop, tablet, smartphone), and considered several non-digital interface solutions/systems as well. Ultimately, we opted for a mobile first UI solution.


We reflected and iterated upon our sketches, then moved to low-fidelity paper and Balsamiq prototypes.

We presented the low-fidelity prototypes to a group of UX designers familiar with the MathWorks brief and project goals. We then channeled their feedback into our first-round, high-fidelity prototype. This prototype was similarly presented for group review and iterated upon. The final prototype was presented to MathWorks stakeholders.

Select screens illustrating the evolution of the dashboard are depicted below.



























Project management: Our team consisted of students working on both the East and West Coasts. Due to the differing time zones and limited availability of select team members, I knew we needed to work differently. I established biweekly team meetings, assigning pre-work, collaboratively establishing meeting agendas, and moderating our sessions to ensure we stayed on track. Additionally, we created subgroups who tackled different aspects of the project. For instance, three team members focused on creating a visual style guide for the app and implemented those changes to the Axure prototype, while myself and Sara Garver co-created and delivered the final report and presentation.

Limited user access: As access to MATLAB student ambassadors was limited, I proactively sought out additional data sources. I individually recruited and conducted interviews with three current MATLAB student users about their experiences with the MATLAB ambassador program and support resources. This data was, in turn, shared with my team and helped inform the UI design, specifically those screens related to event planning and social media promotion.

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© 2017 Vanessa Wiegel