Maximizing the impact of Udemy's UX Design internship program

Udemy is a San Francisco based startup in the on-demand online education space. It provides a platform for instructors in all areas of expertise to share their courses and for students to purchase and take those courses.

As a product designer at Udemy, I worked on the UX and visual design for instructor and student experiences, including a dashboard for instructors to track their course performance and the interactive quizzes.

The summer of 2015, I hired and mentored the Design team's intern, Alice Yan, on a project to completely overhaul the Udemy Support Center.


Context

The Design team had a great opportunity to start building a presence in the design community

As many teams within Udemy were getting ready to welcome interns for the summer of 2015, the Design team had no plans to bring on an intern.

Many non-critical but impactful user-facing design projects were being backlogged due to lack of design resources. With a bit of structure, I saw them becoming perfect design intern projects.

I have interned at many companies while getting my career off the ground and I wanted to pay it forward to another aspiring designer. Furthermore, teaching is one of the best ways to learn, and I wanted to grow my design skills.

Two of the memorable design internships I had while in school

Two of the memorable design internships I had while in school


Process

Embracing chaos and making the most of an unpredictable situation

I wanted the intern to have a meaningful project that they could own and also see the whole design process from brainstorming to launch.

After doing some outreach, I learned that the Support team has long requested an overhaul of the Support center but had no available design resources. The Support Center was a key experience for frustrated students and instructors seeking help.

Unfortunately, the site was difficult to navigate, full of visual bugs, and a poor representation of Udemy’s design values. Users were giving up and going straight to the Contact Support button, which translated into more work for the support team.

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After approval from my manager, I established a group of stakeholders, outlined an internship plan, went through hiring process and selected intern.

A few things happened before Alice arrived. First, the director of the Support team, the primary stakeholder, went on paternity leave a few weeks earlier than planned. Second, the project manager for the Support team became unavailable due to escalating problems with a critical part of the Udemy platform.

For the first several weeks of the internship, I was unexpectedly not only mentoring Alice, but managing the project.

The summer continued and I mentored Alice through the design process and several iterations of the UX and applying the Udemy style guide to the visual design.

The front page was re-designed to present the most popular articles (which addressed the vast majority of questions), clearly separate help for students and instructors, and look more visually similar to the main site.

Other pages such as the search results were also re-designed to use UI elements and UX patterns from the main site.

I also mentored Alice through the spec creation process and how to design responsively. Until leading another designer through the process, I had forgotten how important it was to point out every detail of a design to an engineer to reduce risk of misinterpretation (especially relevant to this project since our engineer was working remotely).

There were still unexpected hurdles down the line. Development was still in progress by end of internship so I took over and stayed with the project until the quality assurance process was complete and the new Support Center was fully out the door.


Reflection

Going from point A to point B is never a straight line

The whole process was the quite the ride, but in the end I was able to achieve all the goals I set out in the beginning:

  • Empower an aspiring designer to own and ship a project

  • Learn through teaching

  • Help improve Udemy’s user experience

I now understand why many intern projects are more centered around theory rather than applicationthe mayhem involved in putting a design into production can make it difficult to take time to absorb knowledge.

To cap things off, I wrote a reflection essay with Alice and published it on Medium to benefit other aspiring designers and interns.

Frances Tung