Stefan T. Nickells
UX Research
UX / UI Design





Spring 2022


UX Research | UX / UI Design


Co-Lead Designer

PeopleGrove helps connect students and alumni within their university network to assist their career journey and provide a place to seek advice and share knowledge. The growth team wasn't seeing the member sign-ups they expected and zeroed-in on the sign-up flow as the culprit.

My partner and I were tasked with determining how to increase user acquisition rates through a revamped signup flow by creating a research-driven visual & content structure and by emphasizing the product's core value proposition: building relationships.

A product with hidden promise

PeopleGrove approached our team looking to solve a specific problem:

Too few people were creating accounts

Over 99% of outreach emails to the target audience ( failed to generate a successful sign-up. They've grown by focusing on their customers (higher education institutions) but needed to address the concerns and motivations of their end users (college students & alumni).

Improving the content and logic of this early customer touchpoint framed our alignment on the KPIs and business goals as we moved into our research.

Setting the target

After laying out the existing flows visually, we could make some initial hypotheses as to why engagement (and conversion) was so low:

A fungible landing page
As a white label product, the design AND content need to speak more intentionally to specific communities so students can feel the strength of their school's network.

Irrelevant questions
Initial questions were sourced from the RIASEC test which is a career-focused survey but was never designed for the "product onboarding" environment.

Content needs context
Whether on the landing page or in the sign-up flow, content like testimonials from students or tool tips for questions need to be linked to a perceivable value with corresponding details.

Peering through the fog

Discussing the research plan with our PM helped us validate the “right” problem and enabled an appropriate user-based solution to the obstacles around higher rates of user sign-ups (conversional goal).

Initial Solutions

Dialing in our research plan helped us validate the “right” problem and enabled an appropriate user-based solution to the obstacles around higher rates of user sign-ups (conversional goal).

Key Insights

First, we decided to update the user flow to provide a clear and separate offering to each of our two target audiences: students and alumni. The initial division didn't capitalize on the distinct characteristics of these separate audiences and, consequently, both groups responded accordingly by abandoning the flow. Due to project time constraints and a team member jumping ship, we focused only on the student flow.

Because our team was small and our project window tight (we lost a designer to a new gig along the way), my partner and I divided and conquered. I addressed structure and content of the landing page with our opportunity areas as guidance.

I used Content Designer Terry Podmajersky’s model for understanding the perspectives of business and user goals in a virtuous product cycle:

Fine-tuning through testing

Following the credo of “test early and often”, we generated a quick-turnaround, clickable prototype to observe user behaviors and attitudes. Below are some of the improvements we implemented in response to user feedback before putting together a mid-fidelity to ship.

Converging on the final deliverable

Providing iterative feedback to each of our respective elements, my partner and I merged the landing page and sign-up flow into a Figma prototype. Because of the positive stakeholder reviews of the previous iterations, we decided to put in a few extra hours and gloss the wireframes with a little institutional design.

My partner is an alumnus at UC Berkeley, as were some of our interviewees, and because PeopleGrove's platform is a white label product, we used the university's visual identity for the prototype.

Design Team Credits

UX Co-Lead

Joël Yap

With UX-first copy, descriptions are built upon goal-oriented actions, helping a specific group of people solve the problems that came up e.g. "database lists quickly evaporate" or "manual retrieval doesn't reward the time invested with high enough conversion rates.

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