Mobile app case study | Concept project


Adult students taking online courses want to learn new skills to advance their career, 
but they rarely make progress because they're busy and lose motivation


Accountability app to help people complete their online courses and hone their skills, 
so they can advance their career

Role, Setup

Solo · Dec 2020 · Figma

Visual Design

Interaction Design

Product Thinking

User Research

1. Context

Massive Open Online Courses ("MOOCs") have been life-changing for people across the globe, as they've made education accessible.

They've also changed my life.
As a kid, I loved to draw and make my own comics. But by choosing a degree in math & business, I became distant from the world of creativity. Fast forward a few years, thanks to Coursera, Class101, Youtube, etc. I became a self-taught designer and rekindled my love for arts.

During the COVID-19 Pandemic, I decided to upgrade my visual design skills. But even though I had more time, I found it oddly difficult to stay on top of my new learnings.
The market agrees; the biggest ed platform Coursera saw 600% increase in enrollments. But the problem persists - the completion rate in online courses is only 5-15%, and that's expected to decline even further.

Having experienced this problem myself (and by many others), I decided to tackle it.

2. Design Challenge - 1 st Hypothesis

How might we improve the completion rate of online courses for career-driven people?

I hypothesized that the underlying cause is due to having no tangible consequences 
of incompletion. Examples: failing a college course is expensive, missing assignment deadlines that lead to lower grade, etc.

I kept my hypothesis simple here, as I'll test it in the next section.

3. Research


  1. To validate there is a problem worth solving
  2. To discover user's motivation / desire
  3. To start forming a solution based on the research data

Methods Used

  1. User survey (15 participants)
  2. User interview (5 participants)
  3. Competitor research (4 companies)

User Survey

Used Typeform to craft the survey

Gathered participants from online forums centered around online education

Focused on discovering the biggest challenge experienced in taking online courses

User Interview

Used Zoom to video chat

Focused on understanding the user stories - emotions, motivation, pattern of pain

3.1. User Research - Insights by Data

Total sample size: 20 participants from user survey & interview

Are you currently working?

Figure 1

What’s your motivation for taking
online courses?

Figure 2

How many online courses
have you started
in 2020?

Figure 3

How many of those courses 
have you completed as of Oct. 2020?

Figure 4

What’s your biggest challenge in

completing the online courses?

Figure 5

3.2. User Research - Qualitiative Insights

During the user interviews over Zoom, I observed deeper motivations and desires of my target users.
I’ve turned those observations into user personas to paint a clear picture:

User Persona 1
User Persona 1

3.3. Competitor Research

Goal: to learn what my target users love & hate, so I can improve my solution

Methods used

Read customer reviews (G2, GetApp)

Used the apps myself

Asked user research participants if they’ve used these solutions - none did

Competitor Analysis
Opportunities Identified

4. Design Challenge - revisited with

research insights

Equipped with insights from user survey, user interview and competitor research,
I modified my first set of hypotheses.
Specifically, I was able to narrowly define my users, problem, and HMW statement,
which were critical in forming my design solution.

How might we improve the completion rate of
online courses?

Initial Hypotheses

Adults taking online courses for side hustle

Reframed Hypotheses w/ Research Insights

Adult students, currently in a job, that are taking online courses for career advancements

Adult students taking online courses want to learn new skills to advance their career, but they rarely make progress because they're busy and 
lose motivation

How might we incentivize the career-focused people to make progress in their online courses?


Busy adult students are not making progress with their courses as they quickly lose motivation.



5. Process

5.1. User Flow

I mapped out the user flow based on the user stories observed in the interviews.
It was clear that my project scope should be the nodes around “gets distracted” as it corresponded to the biggest challenge experienced by my users (refer to Section 3.1., Figure 5).

5.3. User Testing


To test if each function works & serves its purpose

Functions tested:
onboarding, creating a study goal & reward, logging a study note then sharing it on Community, completing a goal

To remove unnecessary features or steps (minimize the cognitive load)


Recruited 5 participants from user research pool

Used Zoom to video chat & screenshare

Used Figma for the prototype

User Feedback

Design Changes

Provide a Selection button to opt in/out

Educate the users about Community during
the onboarding

"I wasn't aware there's a Community feature until
much later"

"If I'm getting distracted, how will it remind me to get back to my study?"

Prompt the user to set a study reminder during goal creation

"I don't like that my goals are automatically made public to the internet"

5.4. Final Design

I started the final design by first creating a UI style guide,
then individual mobile screens by functions/features.

Onboarding pt.1 - Sign-up

Self-select model to understand what users study, so I can customize their feed

Onboarding pt.2 - Guided tour

Get users accustomed to using the app by walking through a real example "Learn this app" + incentivize them with a small gift

Creating a study goal & reward

Step-by-step instruction, so users don’t feel anxiety about buying into the system

Setting a study reminder

As backed by the user testing, this is a core feature of the app as it helps users build a successful study habit. User is prompted to set a study reminder during goal creation, but also can do so in the goal page.

Sharing notes on Community

Users can share insights, progress or even questions on the Amica's Community. This feature was a design opportunity identified in competitor analysis.

Completing the study goal &
claiming the reward

Users unlock their rewards once they've completed their study goals. They upload their proof of completion (e.g. certification) and the Community peers will approve it.

6. Visual Design

Before the hi-fi (final) design, I made most of the visual design decisions, which resulted in a style guide. Here are some key decisions:

Grid & spacing - 8pt grid system

Typography - I used the golden ratio to determine the key type sizes

Colors - I chose a deep green color ("Pine Tree"). Green symbolizes new beginnings and growth. It was perfect as Amica users want to learn new courses/skills and I want to be encouraging. All the other colors, incl. accent and semantics, were chosen personally by me to reflect a deep, toned-down mood of the primary color Pine Tree.

Onboarding illustrations - Icons8

Guidelines - Material, Apple's Human Interface, Atomic design system

7. Measuring Success

I selected two metrics to measure the success of the solution.

1. User Retention Rate

For any product, retention is used to measure Product-Market Fit
‍Retention rate = the metric that represents value my users receive (%)
                           / Ideal frequency of user activity in my product

For Amica, retention is the Number of study goals completed / bi-monthly,
assuming the average duration of an online course is 4-12 weeks.

But since bi-monthly is a long time for data to gather, I suggest a secondary metric:

Number of study notes logged / weekly  
Assuming that the user studies a few times per week and logs notes into our app, this rate represents the user's progression towards the user's end goal (completion of a study goal). This can be measured on a weekly basis, so it will help me iterate the product faster.

2. Percentage (%) of goals completed to goals created

The promise of the app is to help people complete their study goals.

I'd interview the cohort of users who have

8. Reflection

Product - ability to link the Coursera, edX courses directly into the app, so it properly monitors the user's progress towards completion

iOS vs. Android - I designed a unified interface. But in reality, I should highlight the UI differences between iOS and Android, so that the developer can properly implement for each platform