Bronx.Tech was a web-based platform whose main goal was to connect teachers in New York City with professionals that work in technology companies. By connecting through a platform, teachers are able to build relationships with developers, designers, or data scientists and potentially secure internships for their students. On the flip side, tech companies would be able to help schools and train top talent.
What is the best way to connect teachers with technology professionals in New York City, in the hopes that students would benefit?
Upon my first introduction to Bronx.Tech's co-founders, I was told they wanted to create a platform to initiate communication between two parties that normally do not interact - teachers that spend most of their time in the classroom and technology professionals that are in offices. The initial thought was to have a sort of social networking site, or a more closely associate with a forum like StackOverflow or Reddit.
From here, two main users were identified:
The mutual gain from the Bronx.Tech platform became as follows:
The following Value Proposition Canvas was drawn up to get a sense of what this type of forum could solve.
Creating an MVP meant making a forum that can be used by both teachers and professionals. I approached this by looking at some of the most popular forums out there, including Reddit and StackOverflow. Both have the same vertical structure that relied mainly on a comments and upvotes. In terms of the platform we wanted to build, the upvoting system made sense for a sort of gamification element - if we wanted a teacher or professional to be taken seriously on a particular topic, they would be incentivized to create good content, namely posts that taught something.
In the initial brainstorming process, I sat with stakeholders and teachers that had signed on to see an MVP of the product. Features like a chat and a scheduling system were drawn up on the first iteration of the application.
From seen in the User Flows above, the Messaging and Calendar sections were eventually scrapped, as they took users away from the platform. This was not the goal, so these features needed to be reconsidered. Through a period of revisited testing after the initial MVP was presented to selected teachers and professionals, I was able to redraw a brand new matrix of needs of the users versus the needs of the business.
From this matrix, it can be assumed that the most important elements of the Bronx.Tech platform included the forum, as well as a user profile feature. In addition to this, an element of gamification was what needed to be added from a business perspective. A point system would award those who interact with the platform most, incentiving action and keeping users on the platform.
In terms of styling, a design system was created to give the application a good look.
This design system could be found in all elements of the platform, as seen from screenshots below.
The Bronx.Tech platform ended up signing close to a dozen contracts with high schools in the NYC city, as well as a couple medium-sized technology companies. With a clickable prototype built in React, the platform's forum capability became a live feature, but couldn't gain enough momentum to sustain. Bronx.Tech was a unique project to be a part of, since I was involved in just about every step of the design and much of the React development. While I was unsure what sort of features would make the most sense for the split types of users, I was able to learn a better method as to how to interview users and understand that sometimes even the most sought after features, such as chat functionality in this case, have negative side effects. It's also important to leverage third party tools - like in this case, a scheduling software - when needed in place of spending time on this functionality for an MVP. This is different from cutting corners, because the same needs can still be addressed with a third party solution, while my own focus could have been focused on aspects of the project that were more unique and pressing to the actual platform.