Mentoring in User Experience

A student’s concept illustration for creative ways to communicate the difference between campus bicycle and walk lanes.

University of Sussex Estates Services


Education, Non-Profit


I taught students interaction design and user research practices through a live brief with the Sussex Estates department to identify and develop solutions for accessibility barriers on campus.

My Role

Facilitator of Learning, Curriculum Designer, Product Design Convenor


Sussex Estates and Maintenance Department
Media Department
Innovation Center

Time Frame

Fall Semester: 12 weeks (9/2017 – 12/2017)


One of the students’ solutions. Sussex Go: A wayfinding app for finding rooms and accessible pathways within campus buildings.

Mentoring in User Experience

Mentoring people in the methods of user experience and design thinking is a tenet of my practice. I mentor industry colleagues and teach students. Here I share some of the outcomes from student work from an Interaction Design module.

The project

The Estate’s Department at the University of Sussex revealed 109 accessibility barriers on campus. I invited Estates partnered with the Interaction Design module to investigate and develop new ideas to addresses the accessibility issues. For the students, this live brief offered them the opportunity to learn about their campus through the practice of user experience research.

“You have the beauty of teaching some enthusiastic and talented students. It would be wonderful if we could incorporate some of their ideas into current projects.” 

Jayne Townsend, Estates & Maintenance Services Manager 

The Problem

The library on a hill with extensive steps is one of the extreme demonstrations of the 109 accessibility barriers on campus.

Problem to Solve

Sussex Estates needs ideas to improve the campus experience and reduce the 109 accessibility barriers for students, staff, and visitors.


The students identified four different areas for intervention:

  • A rideshare app uses schedule pairing carpooling and parking space availability indicator to reduce congestion and on campus
  • A classroom finder app for navigating the interior of campus buildings
  • A redesign of cycle pathways to improve safety and access for both pedestrians and cyclists.
  • A redesign of crutches to improve safety and comfort for people with temporary injuries.


The students demonstrated growth and learning how to investigate a problem using user research tools and methods.

The proposed solutions were well-received by the Estates Department. The rideshare and classroom finder apps were put forward for funding opportunities in the university.

The Process

Empathy Investigation

To ground the students at the start of the project, I designed a series of empathy tasks for the students to use to investigate the campus. Each group received a persona facing an accessibility barrier. As this persona, the student must complete a series of tasks such as getting a cup of coffee, checking out a book from the library, or finding a room within a building.

The student groups has one of the following personas:

  • Visually impaired student
  • Staff with limited mobility who cannot use steps or stairs
  • An international visitor who does not speak or read English
  • A new staff member who forgot their mobile phone
A task scenario designed for students to explore the campus with limited vision. (Detail from full the scenario)
An example of key outcomes from student-conducted interviews about wayfinding experiences on campus.

Crafting a Narrative in Interviews

Interviews are for investigating and uncovering insight into people’s experiences with a product, environment, and/or event.

I mentored the students on how to plan, write, and conduct a well-designed interview.

  • How to design a narrative that supports the engagement between the researcher and the user.
  • Why it is important to be consistent across all interviews.
  • How to identify valid tangential information the user may share during the interview.
  • How to guard against self-confirmation in analyzing interview data.

Journey Maps

I mentored the students in the process of creating journey maps.

  • How to analyze their observational, interview, and survey data.
  • How to use the data outcomes to inform both structural and emotional states when creating a user journey.

The student learned to appreciate the importance of considering a user’s emotions state in their experience with a product.

This is an example of teaching the students to learn about and include the user’s emotions on a journey map.

“An early understanding and structure of the problem can create a good design. From this, I understand the paramount importance of clients and a product needs over my personal desire to forward any vague concepts I may have.”  

– One of my students experience with this project

Concept Development

I mentored the students on the importance of iterative rounds research and ideation for testing theories. I facilitated constructive group critique sessions and provided guidance for identifying appropriate and viable concepts.

Examples of student concepts:

  • One group explored a concept for addressing the congestion issue on campus.
  • Another group explored potential wayfinding solutions for navigating the campus.

User Testing

I mentored the students on how to plan and conduct user tests.

  • How to develop paper and digital prototypes.
  • How to structure and write task scenarios.
  • How to document user testing sessions.
  • How to analyze their data into informed changes to their products.

“I think Pollie was the perfect tutor to have given us a bit of a reality check this year. We needed to understand how to take people into consideration before designing something. Definitely has taught me a lot and changed my views on a lot of things.”

– One of my students on their experience with this project
Sussex Drive: A mobile prototype developed to address the parking issue by encouraging student ride-sharing.

Video Narratives

Sizzles are short videos that convey a product concept quickly, effectively, and ideally are fun.

I partnered with the media department to conduct a teaching session with the students on developing sizzles to demonstrate their final prototypes.

The student successfully produced short and engaging videos of their final products.

“I heard such a wonderful account of your product design students and their solutions to challenges of access on campus, it’s such a good example of putting expertise in solving our own problems.”

– Andrea Cornwall, Head of School Global Studies

The Results

The students built a foundation in user research methods, interaction design, and design thinking. The students produced final products that inspired the Sussex community.

Sussex Estates and Global Studies Department were impressed and excited by the concept solutions developed by the students. These departments took these ideas forward for consideration by the university for implementation.

Sussex Go: A mobile prototype developed to address the issue of wayfinding within buildings and identifying accessible pathways.