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Why Our Alumni Engagement Platform is Designed for Emotions

Written by

Declan Cassells

One of the most challenging and exciting parts of working in UX, especially on an alumni engagement platform, is immersing yourself in a new world to gain an understanding of how and why things work the way they do.

Alumni Engagement

I’ve found myself working in call centres for days, climbing water towers to get a reading from equipment and throwing parties in office basements, all in the name of understanding how a product or service works, or how a real person uses it.


When I joined Talivest I dived into my initial discovery phase. I talked to employees, employers, recruiters and HR professionals looking for patterns and common threads that I could use to inform the design of a system for connecting companies and alumni.

Typically you’ll find a groove when doing this research, a sort of middle ground between individual stories you use as your base when trying to gather information but to my dismay the more people I talked to the wider the gaps between their individual experiences seemed to get.

As I looked over the interviews again I noticed that there was a pattern emerging after all. While people frequently forgot the exact details of leaving a job ( “I think I had to do a survey or maybe sign something?), those I interviewed clearly remembered and articulated the emotional aspect of it.

Sentences like…

I felt so guilty handing in my notice

I was really angry that I didn’t even get a thank you” “

After a while I really missed my old team

…cropped up again and again in my notes. While the employee experience is going to vary wildly depending on the industry, job title and company culture, all employees, whether CEO or intern, are human first. The human emotions they felt at certain beats during their career path was the pattern I was looking for. It became clear that we should be designing for emotion rather than actions.

While designing for emotion may seem like a slightly abstract concept, it can have real tangible effects on how a platform is designed. Imagine a scenario where our research shows us that users are much more likely to sign up on page where they can see a an image of someone they used to work with that’s already on the platform. “Oh I used to get on really well with her, I’d sign up to see what she’s up to now

Great! So we know we need to show our users a familiar face as early as possible to elicit that emotional response. To show them someone they are likely to recognise, we need to gather when they worked at the company, in which office etc during the sign-up process in order match them to another user with the similar credentials and present their image on the screen. You can see how an abstract concept starts to quickly become a tangible requirement list.

Similarly, mapping emotion gives us an idea of when a user will be most receptive to receiving an invite to an alumni network. Many of us have the experience of meeting old colleagues for a drink, but this rarely happens in the days or weeks immediately after we leave a job. The emotional space is in that initial time is taken up with the excitement and nerves of a new job. As new becomes routine, that’s when the nostalgia starts to creep in, the curiosity as to what’s going on in the old office and perhaps the time where an invite to reconnect with your colleagues would look be most appealing!

In trying to match the emotional beats of our users and trying to create those emotional responses we’re essentially trying to give our product a personality, to give it empathy through design and inviting our users to becoming friends with it. What better challenge could you possibly ask for as a designer?

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