2.5 Weeks
3 design sprints
UX research
Interaction design
User research
Competitive analysis
Journey map
Pencil and paper
Axure RP
Affinity diagrams



WeSolv was founded to connect MBA students with case competitions, alternatively referred to as enterprise challenges. Traditionally, these challenges are hosted by universities who invite companies to present business problems to their students. The MBAs work in teams to solve the cases on a variable timeline and a winning team’s solution is awarded and can be implemented by the presenting company.

WeSolv began working with our UX team prior to their site launch. Our team wanted to determine the MVP for the platform before WeSolv started backend development. Over the course of two and a half weeks, and three design sprints, we were able to determine what motivates MBA students to participate and engage with companies in enterprise challenges.

An understanding of the user base informed our team in the creation of site wireframes and a fully workable prototype.

Libby Spencer Johnston

What happens at business school?

An MBA is the most popular master’s degree in the US encompassing over 25% of all graduate degrees awarded. Popularity of the advanced degree is attributed to the high return on investment for graduates and the growth in industries associated with advanced business degrees. Most programs are full-time two year commitments.


Research suggests that prestige is highly valued by MBA students. In a survey of GMAT testers, ‘prestige of MBA program’ was ranked as their most important factor in deciding which school to apply to, twice as high as any other attribute, including MBA starting salary. We noticed this trend in our data, especially among students at highly competitive universities.
Understanding this mindset informed our approach to WeSolv’s focus on enterprise challenges. These challenges can require a commitment of a weekend, to months of work. What incentive is there for a busy graduate student to a businesses problems?



Demographic info: Source

Client Expectations

In our kickoff meeting our client defined their mission as a platform for:

‘Professional business students who wanted opportunities to apply fresh thinking to solve real challenges they cared about and to engage with companies nationwide.’

Our client believes that student motivations to join enterprise challenges were (1) the monetary prizes (2) to build their resumes (3) learn new skills and (4) to gain exposure to companies. The client also viewed WeSolv as a platform for students to connect with each other. While enterprise challenges were the reason students would come to the platform, the community and engagement with companies through case competitions were why the students would stay connected to WeSolv.

In order to validate our client’s solution we began researching the domain and what potential users wanted from the platform.

MBA interview insights

We began by interviewing 12 MBA students, nine that were currently in a program and three who had graduated within the past two years. Our interviews focused on if and why these students had participated in case competitions and what worked (and didn’t) in team projects.

We discussed how teams are formed, how they function, teammate communication channels and preferences, and general attitudes towards case studies.  Networking for professional advancement and career path expectations were highlighted by interviewees.

Attitude insights were especially helpful. Almost all of the students we interviewed anticipated employment at a top-tier firm following graduation. In reality 30-50% don’t get an offer until after fall recruitment.

[My] business school is one of the best in the world. Top 5…. You walk out of there with basically one of the best MBAs you could have.

-MBA interview 4/23/16

“I spent the majority of my MBA experience thinking I’m getting a job at a top tier firm[…] until I got punched in the mouth by these companies.”

-MBA interview 4/22/16

Understanding the MBA recruitment process

During a two-year MBA program students go through two recruitment phases. In addition to regular classes, students go to hundreds of networking events on and off campus seeking internships (year one) and job offers (year two). MBA recruiting consists of an eight month courtship process, from June (before incoming MBAs become students) to January (when students are interviewing) where the majority of the activity is in person.

Every networking event aims to provide the MBA student with an opportunity to land an job interview. For some students, enterprise challenges are part of the recruitment process. Challenges can expose companies to students who want to work or intern for them.

Competition for Students Time

When MBA students commit to enterprise challenges they need to be assured that the investment will be as lucrative as other networking opportunities. Recruitment is lengthy and time intensive and students want their efforts to pay off.

While our analysis focused on popular case competitions, we also considered other networking and experiential learning opportunities as competition for students time.

“Between classes, studying, working, networking… a personal life? Only if all your friends are in b-school.”

-MBA interview 4/24/16

Development of Persona

As we gained a better understanding of our market through interviews, analysis and demographical data, three student archetypes emerged.

Alternative Alpha

"Working as a consultant led me to my graduate degree, but I’m finding I need something different in my post-MBA career."

The alternative Alpha or Alt-Alpha is a student who may be as highly sought after as an Alpha but has a slightly different attitude towards their next career step. Interested in not-for-profit or other non-traditional MBA paths the Alt-Alpha gets frustrated with traditional recruitment methods. They desire immersive involvement to fully explore career options.
Sonia Flores
Sonia Flores
Stanford University MBA Class of 2018


"I didn’t consider the possibility that I wouldn’t get an offer from a top tier firm. Now what am I supposed to do?"

The 30-50% of MBAs who do not receive an offer in the fall often land in this category. As this student realizes the need to realign expectations they 'pivot' and look to find the right job for their strengths and interests. Because time is more limited for their search Betas prioritize meaningful engagement with companies to stand out and prospect quickly.
Clay Thornton
Clay Thornton
Cal Poly MBA Class of 2017


"I figured out my trajectory early on and getting an offer from one of the big four confirmed that for me."

Traditionally from a consulting background, this is how most MBAs see themselves. An Alpha excels in the traditional MBA path, and has a strong network from their undergraduate and prior work experience. This student excels at the traditional MBA path to success.
Ashley McKenna
Ashley McKenna
Harvard MBA Class of 2018

WeSolv Touchpoints in the Recruitment process

Not every student needs WeSolv. Most Alphas we spoke to did not see the need for case studies and viewed them as unnecessary work. WeSolv was a better fit for Alt-Alphas and Betas. We used these insights to develop an experience map of these students journey.

Empathize to Align

During our first conversation our client posed the problem as: Business students want opportunities to apply fresh thinking to solve real challenges they care about and to engage with companies nationwide.

Our client’s initial wireframes focused development on MBA to MBA networking, while highlighting enterprise challenges as ways to earn cash prizes, while learn new skills with the possibility of company interaction. Our data found that students were (1) not interested in networking with other students, (2) experience and prizes were not enough of an incentive in light of time constraints, while (3) company interaction was the greatest asset WeSolv could offer.

To better serve the audience we needed to align the client’s assumptions with the following insights:

Vertical Networking

Peer-to-peer networking is primarily used for benchmarking. Alumni networking feels like recruitment. In-person networking with potential employers is the highest priority of MBAs – and even more important for Betas and Alt-Alphas.

Market Saturation

LinkedIn is the primary tool used by MBAs for ‘social media’ networking. MBAs admit that the platform has it’s faults but they rarely see a need for any available alternative outside of the popular website.

Value to Users

WeSolv’s true value to MBAs is its potential to enact their problem solving skills in front of the companies they want to work for. Prizes offered little incentive compared to an interview offer or to work with a potential mentor in their field.

Highlighting these three points helped our team align the platform’s priority for future development and features with our client’s initial wireframes. We presented the following problem statement as a summation of research.

Time-strapped MBA students need efficient, immersive exposure to diverse careers and companies that better align with their talents and passions.

To apply context to the needs of users we developed experience principles the platform needed to address. Even after the stickies were taken down from the walls these principles helped us by saying no to some possibilities and yes to others.

Experience Principles

You’re not off the path, you’re on your own.

Opportunities to discover career options that are better aligned with users true interests and talent; providing multiple avenues to demonstrate skills.

Leverage your P.O.D.

Let talents to bring users richer opportunity; celebrate difference in experience, thought, career options, companies, and demographics.

Authenticity drives impact

Solve real problems; build and impact rather than simulate; create genuine interactions with companies.

Maximize your Return on Investment

Maximize the value of users time and talent through case competitions as opposed to traditional recruitment channels.

Transparency in people, places, and the process

Better access to who companies are, how users engage with them, the parameters of the case competition, and the talent of the community; make information more informative and minimize uncertainty.

Libby Spencer Johnston

Rapid Iterative Testing

After aligning with the client on our experience principles and research directive, we began preparing models for concept testing. Using wireframes provided by the client as a guide we created an initial site map.

Paper Prototypes

To accommodate our abbreviated timeline, we decided that each teammate would create a separate portion of the flow for testing. I focused on the team building/selection flow along with common flows.

experience principles as features

WeSolv fits your path

strong landing page with a clear explanation of “How the process works,” featuring testimonials alongside example challenges and companies prove an alignment for users interests and skills.

Leverage & highlight your talent

Team building flow showcases users by building teams with all skill sets implemented. Users are offered opportunity to construct teams in non-random, draft styles where their talents are sought after.

Authentic results for users

Complete company profiles are absolutely necessary for legitimacy of site and challenges, in order to instill confidence in the platform providing genuine interactions with companies.

Maximize Your Commitment

In opposition to other recruitment channels Case Details clearly communicate to users what they stand to gain during enterprise challenges by highlighting key stakeholders, deliverables and logistical information.

Transparency = Legitimacy

Providing clear access to who companies are via extensive company profiles was the biggest draw for potential users. A quick summary of higher profile companies and a more in-depth look at smaller companies completely sold the platforms concept.

Testing roadblocks & insights

To accommodate the busy schedules of MBA students we tested using paper prototypes and asked concurrent questions during testing to determine which features users preferred. Using concurrent and retrospective probing we gained insights that influenced the next round of wireframes.

“I just need to know it’s legit.”

-Concept test 4.25.16

Users need to know what WeSolv is upfront. They need to feel comfortable in the legitimacy of the platform in order to implement it.

“Are other users going to see my connections?”

-Concept test 4.24.16

Users expressed a resistance to sharing personal information and connecting social networks like LinkedIn – although many saw no issue sharing the same info on sites such as Glassdoor and Indeed.

“I don’t know if I can trust these users [as potential teammates].”

-Concept test 4.25.16

Testers prioritized their current network and were resistant to the idea of partnering and creating teams within the platform.

“I see the value for MBAs and startups.”

-Concept test 4.25.16

Understanding who the featured companies were and what they offered to users of the platform was paramount to testers. High profile companies like Tesla elicited strong reactions, while users needed extensive profiles for companies with a lower profile.

Usability Testing

For our next round of testing we had six MBAs test the wireframes for six major tasks relevant to future users.

Explore landing page & preview screens
Sign In
Explore Companies
Explore Projects
Find a team
Join enterprise challenge

Usability feedback & implementation

Driving sign ups

One of the biggest concerns for the client was balancing the privacy of companies and potential users. The company and project preview pages are the ‘carrot’ that WeSolv uses to drive sign-ups, pages that are accessible without signing up for the platform. Our first iteration of the preview pages were more limited, focusing on a single company/project. Usability tests showed us that testers wanted to see a more diverse range so the final wireframes reflected that.


Sharing personal information

Most users will not read the fine print, but still need assurance about how their information will be used. To get users comfortable with the idea of sharing their names, school affiliation and other info, we used a gradual profile build. In the final wireframes users could import info from LinkedIn. LinkedIn info is only available to businesses who use the platform, something that was important to users.

To find teammates and enter enterprise challenges users must then complete their profile so other users can view it. Final wireframes include a profile picture, personal statement and geographic information, with the option to import from other platforms. The final wireframe also served as a portal for other parts of the website, where the previous iteration was solely a profile.

Exploring companies

The initial wireframes provided gateway access to company information. Our final wireframes expanded these listings with individual company pages. Company pages would be most useful for newer and smaller companies that don’t have the name recognition of bigger firms. Users liked that company profiles featured completed projects including solutions, how they were implemented, links to the winning team’s profile, feedback from students and companies, and the ability to see if previous competitions resulted in hires.


Enterprise challenge discovery and details 

In the final wireframes we added details users asked for during usability tests. Filters for environment (on-site, remote, etc) and travel requirements, and the ability to sort by start date were added to discovery. Users like the ability to see what skills challenges required and seeing who the key stakeholders for project would be. Details for individual enterprise challenges also included key dates visually display, student experience ratings, and the option to share challenges via email. 

Validation considerations

Balancing the goals of students and WeSolv’s partnering companies presented one of the largest blockers. Despite an initial unwillingness to release personal information, the potential value of enterprise challenges superseded concerns. All testers affirmed their interest in the platform and their willingness to use it.

“When will this be live?”

Usability feedback 5.7.16

Project Roadmap

Our team’s work aided in defining WeSolv’s plaform for MBA users. As part of the final process we highlighted the MVP elements and worked to lay out a roadmap for future UX and UI considerations, with prioritization for development and annotated wireframes.


Phase one: MVP

  • Landing Page
  • Project/Company Previews
  • Sign Up/Profile Build
  • Project/Company Discovery & Details
  • Project Apply

Phase two

  • Teammate Search/Team Build from WeSolv Network
  • My Team Network
  • Messaging
  • Company Employee Page

Wireframe Annotations

Final Thoughts

Prior to launching their platform, our client had a lot of work that needed attention. The WeSolv UX team took the initiative in developing the Information architecture that would make the launch a success. As our team continued to explore the market, we had to balance user needs and client expectations. We learned how to a ask client to realign in a space where they have more expertise – by being prepared with data and user models. These insights showed our client what design thinking can bring to their platform – creating 3.0 before 1.0 ever launched.

Questions? Comments? I’d love to hear your feedback.

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