UpSkill: Learning and Skill Tracker

Project Problem

How can we improve upon the motivation of users during the development new skills?
Upskill Mockups

Project Overview

The goal of this project was to develop an skill tracker that empowers students and lifelong learners to efficiently organize their learning resources and notes. One of the main features that needed to be included in this app was adding functionality to reward users for using the program regularly.

UpSkill - a platform that facilitates progress tracking while acquiring new skills or studying for projects was created to meet this need.

Additionally, the program aims to improve users' ability to acquire resources and enable them to track their growth across diverse professional and personal skill sets. UpSkill also fosters a social community where users can connect with others who are also improving  skills in the area of their choice.
View The Figma Prototype

content_paste Responsibilities

This project was a solo project and the result of my thesis exploration. I was responsible  for establishing my own expectations and projected final outcomes.

The main deliverables and phases for this project were...

1. Research
2. Low Fidelity Prototypes
3. Color Palettes & Style Guides
4. Mid Fidelity Prototypes
5. User Testing
6. High Fidelity Prototypes

schedule Constraints

The main constraints for this project were budget and time.

This project had a limited amount of funding available, which limited the variety and amount of user testing available during the research phase, and this project was a school project, which gave me a specific timeframe of one semester to complete the project.
UpSkill Logo

group Users & Audience

For this project I decided to focus on two different types of users.

The first type of user is the "personal skill improver", this type of learner is looking to start a new hobby or improve at a hobby they already have. This includes people who are trying to learn recreational skills such as playing an instrument or creative writing.

The second group of users I considered were professional users. These types of users are typically working to improve more academic skills, such as a programmer who wants to learn a new programming language. It could also include something like a salesperson who wants to improve their public speaking skills.


Research Questions

The following is a list of research questions that were a key to the overall research process for this project.

Competitive Analysis

Competitor Analysis Map
Different Skill learning platforms placed on a axis based on two separate metrics. Social vs Individual Focus represents how much the platforms prioritize social incentive to keep users engaged. Structured vs  Flexible Curriculum reflects how platforms present learning content to users, whether flexible or ridged.
Duolingo is a language learning app that encourages continual use of the platform through the use of streaks and also incentivizes users to use the app every day through daily unique lessons. The app follows up with users who haven't used the platform in a while with call-to-action emails and notifications to remind them of the platform. The app is heavily gamified and uses in-app currency to keep users coming back. In addition, the app uses a "progress score" that shows how users are progressing as they improve with a skill.

The main benefit of the platform for users is the gamified experience and constant reminders to continue learning.

Hello Talk
Hello Talk is a language learning app that allows users to connect with native speakers. The app does not have a structured curriculum and instead matches users based on their interests. Learning functions more like an exchange program than typical school-based learning. By emphasizing the social aspect of learning, Hello Talk is effective in moving users to the next step of language learning, by actually having conversations.

Skill Share
Skill Share allows users to review a variety of approved community lesson plans that cover a wide range of topics. While individual courses can vary in structure, most courses follow a more lecture-based format. While this app has community discussion boards, most of the app is self-paced and independent compared to other learning apps.

Industry Professional Interview

As part of my research during this phase of the project, I contacted an industry professional who had experience designing training content for sales teams. This was an important part of my research, as it led to several different insights about industry standards for learning, particularly in regards to employee training and the metrics used to track skill growth.

How do different learning styles affect how you go about training employees?
"It's important to span learning over weeks and months rather then have it focused on short term growth."
"We provide a mix of learning examples to allow individuals to learn in whatever way they feel comfortable."
"We try to provide opportunities for "hands-on learning" rather than just talking about the concepts."
How do you ensure that the skills learned are retained long after the training?
"We work to set expectations for growth in our trainees, So they have realistic expectations about their improvement. We do assessments before their training to gain an understanding of where their knowledge is at prior to training."
"We have an email a day program to deliver knowledge during the 12 months following their training to ensure learning retention."
"Our team tracks learning with ongoing assessments to demonstrate skill growth, this is done primarily through the use of metrics (your sales have increased by X amount)."
How does your company approach the idea of group learning?
"We do a blend of both self-paced individual learning followed up by group learning."
"Our team has found better performance from learning in small groups rather then large groups. We have a hard max of 15 people per class but prefer smaller classes if possible."
"We find competition sometimes helps promote learning. We challenge groups vs groups rather than individuals vs individuals. For example, we'll compare the metrics of two different branches within a company."

User Focus Groups

For the focus groups during this project, I looked for individuals who were active learners and had a history of continuous learning over long periods of time. The focus group conducted were based on three questions, participants were then asked to write down as many answers as possible in response to the three questions using color coded sticky notes then sort and elaborate on their answers.

Imagine you want to learn to play a new instrument. Using sticky notes what techniques do you apply to ensure your learning?What goalposts do you set for yourself when learning a new skill?Pretend you are picking up a new skill that you haven’t tried in a long time. How do you get inspired to pick up that skill again?
Pink sticky notes from focus group
Yellow sticky notes from focus group
Green sticky notes from focus group
Sticky note based user testing which I conducted for this project.
Sticky notes quickly sorted into different categories based on content and theme of the response.

Research Takeaways

Social Learning
Social elements should be an important factor in any application designed to teach individuals new skills. There are several types of social learning. There is group learning, where users work to learn a new skill along with others. There is also social motivation, such as what Duolingo leverages with its streak functionality; individuals are more likely to continue their learning over a long period of time if they feel that their actions are being compared or tracked with others. Users may feel motivated to keep a streak going if they have a friend who is also on a long streak.

Reasons for Learning
Individuals can have a variety of different motivations for learning, which can change the intensity of their learning and their goals within learning. For example, a user who is trying to learn guitar for personal reasons may only have the goal of learning a few songs to play for their friends. Someone with the goal of becoming a professional guitarist may have a much more intense training regimen. Consequently, a platform that promotes the teaching of a variety of different skills must remain flexible for users who may have different motivations.

Progress & Metrics
For users who are trying to track their learning over a long period of time, it's important to provide a variety of ways for them to look back at their progress and see how much they've improved, giving them a sense of accomplishment. This could be done by allowing users to view their progress on a timeline or by building progress reminders into the application.
Key findings from focus group
The most valuable sticky notes from my user focus groups


The main goal of the research phase of this project was to understand and construct a solid backbone of information that would allow me to better understand the needs of my target demographic and help build user personas that could be integrated during later stages of the project.

For this project, I ultimately decided to focus on two different types of core users - professional and personal.

I created two personas to reflect these two user groups, "Jacob Fletcher" was the professional user who was looking to improve his coding skills for work. "Ryan Reeves" was the persona who was looking to learn the violin during his personal time.

The main takeaway I obtained from this process is that there are a variety of different motivations users have when learning a new skill, they may have different needs and motivations, all of which need to be incorporated into this project in order to best facilitate the range of user learning habits.
Persona for "Ryan Reeves" which I used for my personal user.
The Ryan Reeves - Personal learner persona which was based on my understanding of user's needs from focus groups. Ryan's main goal is to gain a competency at a totally new skill.
Persona for "Jacob Fletcher" which I used for the professional user
The Jacob Fletcher - Professional learner persona which was based on my understanding of user's needs from focus groups. The main goal of this persona is to identify a potential user who is intent on learning new skills to improve upon their preexisting knowledge.

Low Fidelity Prototypes

Explore mockup low fidelity
Low Fidelity: The initial version of the UpSkill board has the timeline locked to the right side of the screen rather than the center. Additionally three categories of learning were under three different names that I later changed due to user testing.
Journey creation, low fidelity
Low Fidelity: Users start creating a journey by choosing the skill they would like to learn from a list of popular skills or by searching for the skill.
Explore section low fidelity
Low Fidelity: Explore section. At this stage, I hadn't properly planned out many of the social elements of the platform.
journey board mockup variation low fidelity
Low Fidelity: Introduction of a horizontal timeline and edited version of suggested learning content.
Mid fidelity mockup user creating text notes
Mid Fidelity: Introduction of coloured content within the board.

User Testing

After creating low and mid fidelity mockups for this project, I conducted a series of focus group tests in an attempt to receive critical feedback for the platform. I aimed to get a mix of people with and without UX design experience. The following is a list of quotes I received as feedback followed by what improvements I made to incorporate the feedback.
"When I first got onto the main board I wasn't sure what to do."
Introduced tutorial section to guide new users when they open up the board for the first time. 
"I liked the concept of the three categories but I wasn't sure what to do with the goals section since it was very broad."
Separated the goals section into short term vs long term goals so users feel less pressed to complete a monumental task each day but still had the feeling of progress.
"The yellow color here might be too light, have you tried viewing this through greyscale."
Reimagined color scheme and button size/ format in attempts to be more inclusive. Also ran color scheme through "adobe color" accessibility checker.
"I personally would use this platform mainly for the social appeal as I could see it as a place to get comfortable being vulnerable about the learning process."
Improved the design of the social features and added a tab on the suggested learning tab that included both friends content and content previously liked.

Style Guide

Style tile for this mockup

Final Design & Reflection

This final section of design focused on the refinement of my mid fidelity prototypes and the incorporation of the feedback I had received from my user testing.

Part of this process was substituting the original color palette that I had generated with an alternative one that had a higher contrast.

Over the course of this project I experimented with a variety of different concepts and ideas. For example, during the initial brainstorming I had planned low fidelity mockups of a "whiteboarding tool" which people would use to track notes and resources. The concept was very similar to other tools that are currently on the market such as PureRef.

When transitioning away from the "whiteboarding tool" idea towards a "learning tool" I wanted to focus on making the platform unique from the competition and able to stand on its own as a valuable tool within the industry rather then a copy of a platform already out there.

UpSkill is distinct from other platforms in its competitive space because it is a social platform mixed with a learning platform. It has the appeal of daily social posting like platforms like Instagram with the unique focus on learning skills similar to Duolingo.

Based on my research and user testing of this product this incorporation of social and goal orientated appeal will allow users of this platform to have increased motivation during skill development over the long term.
View The Figma Prototype
High fidelity mockup
The main content feed for the UpSkill app. Users of the app sort their learning into three separate categories: Learning, Practice, and Goals. Users can browse various content suggestions using the left-hand tab. Each day a user logs in and adds to a skill is tracked, with consecutive days counted as streaks within the app, which is one of the primary systems designed to motivate users to engage with the app.
Explore section mockup
The Upskill Explore Page, One of the benefits of UpSkill is that it introduces a social element to the learning process, allowing users to view other individuals' journeys and share their learning as they improve in a given skill. Using the Pro Journey tab, users can also follow people who have a professional level of knowledge in a skill.
The Sign In page for the upskill platform
Login page for UpSkill
Tutorial section high fidelity
Introduction to the tutorial section of UpSkill.
Calendar for upskill high fidelity
Final calendar prototype functionality. Improved design is based on feedback.