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Digital product design
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Into Global

Introducing a user-centred design process to an international student recruitment business

Researcher & product designer

Contractor (2018-2020)


INTO partner with 100s of universities in the UK and US and recruit international students for their applications and studies. Their regional offices and agents required an application tracker so they can monitor student applications as they’re processed by admissions teams. Students pay between £18k - £60k per annum, with INTO taking a percentage… every student has an incredibly valuable ROI.


INTOs application tracker didn’t allow users to easily manage large numbers of applications. It was inferior to competitor portals so agents were likely to complete applications elsewhere, thus losing INTO valuable revenue.

Who I worked with

  • Senior stakeholders in US and UK
  • Development teams
  • Admissions teams in UK and US
  • Product directors and owners
  • Design management and UI designers
  • Analytics teams


I worked with INTOs admission and development teams to design and deliver an entirely new application tracker that gave live updates to students over the entire application process. It flagged blockers and enabled users to quickly resolve these in the system. Users are frequently on the road at schools and education fairs so mobile-optimization was also critical.


Usage of the new tracker far exceeded that of the old solution. Applications were processed faster, with less unknown delays and users were given more accurate information about their progress. The improved usability, with more accurate data, made INTO’s portal easier and faster than competitors. It therefore motivated agents to direct more students through INTO; earning them valuable per-student commission.

“Ben’s work is methodical, detailed and professional. He has a great knack for understanding the business objectives from stakeholders, understanding our customers and translating these into recommendations and then products… I cannot recommend him enough as a UX consultant.”

Rachel Smith (Product design director)

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The new application tracking feature

Canvas MA

Project canvas to help plan the work and it's phases

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The old feature we were replacing

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Working with our developers to sketch a mobile experience

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Working with our developers to sketch a mobile experience

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Working with our developers to sketch a mobile experience

Key activities / projects

Product roadmap strategy

I undertook a 3 month discovery project to research the problems and needs of the portal’s users so we could clarify and prioritise their product roadmap. Through internal and external interviews I mapped out the domain and it’s issues so that we could identify opportunities. I used a combination of quantitative surveys and qualitative evaluations (with directors and managers) to rank the opportunities so that INTO’s product team could confidently proceed with a rationalised strategic roadmap for the next 3 years.

Project canvas

Project canvas to kick off the planning phase and establish goals and objectives

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The research study participants and methodology

Recruitment tools research wall

Prior to Covid, presenting findings in a research room, and touring stakeholders to walk around them was a decent way of dividing and consuming such a large body of findings

Domain map

A key asset of the research study was to map out the players, actions and assets of the student recruitment process

App structure

Outlining the product structure and its individual applications helped us plan an end to end service and assess any gaps

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Over 40 initiatives and workstreams were outlined and voted on by directors and end-users to help us spot opportunities and disregard others

Journey mapping workshops

To deliver a new application tracker we needed to fully understand the user, business and technical requirements at each stage of an application. We also needed to account for all of the variations of different courses, countries-of-study and student origin. To do this I ran several in-person and remote workshops to map out the entire process with INTO’s US and UK admission teams, salesforce specialists, business analysts and product owners. The detailed and technical journey map acted as a ‘source of truth’ for us to plan user facing capabilities and content as well as development requirements.

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We gathered any internal documentation that outlined the admissions processes

MA journey mapping

A mapping workshop allowed members from each department to outline all of the steps each type of application went through...

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...and list barriers and opportunities so that we could brainstorm solutions

Stages v2

The business process was then translated into a technical process map which we would use to trigger actions and messaging in the application

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The new product: a 5 stage journey that tracked several types of applications and triggered application updates and deadlines for documentation

End-to-end research study, design and beta test

As the project spanned 12 months I took the opportunity to recruit a specific set of users to act as a panel for ongoing research activities. My typical approach is to start with generative studies then progress to evaluative concept testing before moving onto prototypes and finally beta testing with production code. I pushed our development team to release rough prototypes to the panel so we could test with real data which uncovered a number of factors that we hadn’t accounted for. For the open A/B Beta release I set up Heap to record usage and interaction metrics so we could measure when the new feature’s usage exceeded that of the old. I also reviewed daily Hotjar recordings to watch the feature in the wild and spot bugs and faults in the design. Together this gave us confidence that the new feature was both water-tight and superior to the old feature which we slowly deprecated.

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Beta research study methodology blending qualitative and quantitative techniques

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Satisfaction with the new vs old feature were enquired about in the survey

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Tracking the usage of the new feature aginst the old one helped us gauge adoption the

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Technical teams had concerns about loading speeds in China so we added survey questions to enquire

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We tracked adoption of the new beta feature against the existing product to monitor when we could start to decommission the old product

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Specific interactions were tracked as they were better leading indicators to adoption than page views

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Whilst surveying users about the new feature we took the opportunity to get their votes on our feature roadmap

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The old feature with a banner to optionally direct users to the new feature. This was a key measurement in tracking adoption

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The new product: a 5 stage journey that tracked several types of applications and triggered application updates and deadlines for documentation

Lessons learned

  • Test with real data as soon as you can. We elicited so much more feedback (bugs and edge-cases) when users saw the feature with their own data rather than design prototypes
  • Build relationships with some of your research participants - once you’ve warmed them up to testing/feedback, you can quickly hop on a call to sense-check decisions

Get in touch

If you’d like to discuss any roles, projects or how research and design might solve your business problems, drop me an email.

Send me an email