Case Study: Harvard Alumni Association

Harvard Alumni Association


Harvard University asked for a best-in-class online Alumni Community portal, serving over 385,000 current and former students worldwide.

Harvard's goals included:

  • Foster connections between alumni and the University.
  • Make the online donation experience more personal and mobile-accessible.
  • Provide administrators with a console that integrates existing systems with new functionality for a single portal where Harvard employees can better support their alumni.

We accomplished this by building a three-part system that includes Online Donations, an Alumni Network with profiles and social networking features, and an Administrative Console for Alumni Association employees.

Online Donations

I led the design of an online giving form system for the Harvard Alumni Association. This system included designing both public-facing forms as well as a custom form builder that allowed untrained Harvard administrators to create new donation forms while ensuring that the donations were routed correctly through Harvard's databases. I led the design for the complete lifecycle of this product including initial requirements gathering, through several revisions, all the way to the implemented design.

By simplifying the donation process into a simple single page, we increased the conversion rate and as well as the average donation amount.

The form administrative interface allows system managers across the 25 schools, museums, and affiliates within Harvard University to create specific forms for their unique donors. Each admin can quickly customize the form templates for their use cases, while the system ensures maintainability and other requirements. Each form template automatically accommodates WCAG 2.0 accessibility standards, implements best practice e-commerce funneling, and matches Harvard University's wider brand and security requirements.

Each administrator quickly became an expert with this interface, so I integrated several UI patterns to make power users more efficient. While novices can always find contextual help and best-practice guidelines, power users appreciate that their most common click-flows are specifically optimized.

A live example of a public-facing form is available on the Harvard Alumni Association's website. See a screenshot of the Administrative Form Builder below.

Alumni Network

I worked closely with both our team and Harvard's to gather requirements, generate user flows, conceptualize, design, revise, and test a cross-platform responsive Alumni experience. Members of the Harvard community can create and customize a personal profile, then search for and connect with fellow users via the connection method of their choice. Other community features include Discussion Forums, Class Notes, and Career Network functionality that allows Alumni to connect both personally and professionally.

Constant input from the developers ensured that we could provide Harvard administrators with a detailed understanding of their users through robust personal profile data gathering, with all the data feeding seamlessly back into a central database for analytics and other analysis.

See screenshots of the Alumni Network below.

Administrative Console

Partnering with one other UX designer and multiple business analysts from Harvard, we designed a custom administration console to put more control into the hands of Harvard administrators. The new system enforces best practices and brand standards while simultaneously decentralizing control to the 25 schools, museums, and affiliates within Harvard University.

Administrators wanted fine-grained control over staff user permissions. An extensible system of administrator roles allows a wide variety of customization, all the way from simply viewing the an alum's most recent login/logout datestamp, to performing alumni profile edits on the alum's behalf and visualizing long-term trends in an alum's community engagement.

See screenshots of the Administrative Console below.

Public Facing Form
Administrative Form Builder
Alumni Profile
Search Results
Administration Console Dashboard
Administering an Alumna's Profile