The ADEPT (Awareness of Decisions in Evaluation of Promotion and Tenure) team at Georgia Tech works towards giving professionals in academia (like professors and other faculty) information about how promotion and tenure activities happen in academia. The existing tool was built around 10 years ago and consists of three activities/games: Simulated Meetings, Navigating Your Career, and Annotated Vitae. Each game is primarily targeted towards a particular group of stakeholders.

I worked in a team of four over the past year to redesign and develop these games. I worked as the designer alongside our advising professor who oversaw working of the project, a developer, and a content strategist.


How may we redesign an existing flash-based role-playing game to incorporate a better user experience focusing on inclusivity for stakeholders within the academic space.


We had a very short amount of time dedicated to research, as we needed to concentrate on designing, developing, and taking the entire tool live in a short span of time. We spent a short amount of time dedicated solely to research, and then started designing along with our research simultaneously.

Existing Product

The existing product was an out of date Flash game that needed to be downloaded to be played. The existing tool also didn’t comply with any of the brand guidelines of Georgia Tech, which is the parent organization that this initiative belongs to.

The only element of this existing product that we decided to keep was the actual textual content. We decided to completely redesign the user experience and visual elements.

Older designs

Learning tools

To begin with, we researched existing learning tools like Duolingo and Coursera to understand what works and what doesn’t when it comes to information architecture, user flows, and task analyses.

Inspirations for design

Based on our analysis, these are some of the design implications we generated :

  • Creating characters and including the player as a “part of the group” can craft a more engaging experience for the player.
  • It is important to constantly display the player’s progress to inform them of how much of the game is completed and how much is left.
  • Appropriate alerts and validations: The timeline for the development of this game limited us to work without any backend work, which meant that once a player quits a game, that session ends and isn’t saved anywhere, implying that they lose all progress made on it.


Based on our target audience in the academic realm we created two distinct user personas. These guided our design process that followed and made sure we designed for a specific user and avoided trying to design for everyone.


Our design phase began with revising the task flow and the information architecture to provide a better user experience. We then moved on to low-fidelity paper prototypes and eventually began the visual and UI design part.

Task Analysis

Based on the analyses of educational tools that we carried out in the research phase, we created a revised user flow for the game.

User Flow

Low Fidelity Prototypes

Introductory Page
Members’ Bio Option 1
Members’ Bio Option 2
Simulated Meeting Main Screen
Simulated Meeting Transcript
Navigate your Career Main Screen

Characters – Visual Design

Our existing content consisted of conversations between different stakeholders, depending on the game. For example, Simulated Meeting was a discussion between four panel members (the user being one of these four members). Therefore, we designed characters to go with the names and scenarios for each of these games.

Visual Design of Characters

Designing for Diversity:  The academic community at Georgia Tech is striving to create a safe and inclusive atmosphere for all its members. One of the requirements for this project was to be part of that initiative. Our characters are designed to represent the diversity in race, gender, and more that is often seen in the faculty at different educational institutions across the country.

User Interfaces

Following brand guidelines

While this product is owned by Georgia Tech, its users would be from multiple educational institutes. Therefore it was important to follow Georgia Tech’s brand guidelines and at the same time retain a general visual design that is inclusive to all audiences.

Easily distinguishing participants in the conversation

Following Gestalts principle of similarity, each character was given their own distinct color in the conversation. This was generally the color of their clothing. This color also served as an accent color for the chat bubbles to let the users easily distinguish the person talking.

Recognize rather than Recall

Users would often need to refer to the candidate’s profile (CV and Case Study) while making decisions. The user first reviews this profile on the introductory page of the game. The same profile is then condensed and conveniently placed on the sidebar, from where it can be accessed at any stage in the game.

Estimated Time

Professors are often very busy during their week and dedicating an undivided stretch of time to this activity may require some planning. The opening screen tells the user the approximate time it would take to complete the activity. Now they can make an informed decision of whether they should start the game immediately or come back another time.

Progress Bar

The progress bar will  constantly inform the user of how much of the game is completed and how much is remaining.


We conducted multiple focus groups at different stages in the process to get feedback. The focus groups consisted of academic faculty who would ideally be using this tool; both young faculty as well as seasoned professors who would serve as panelists and mentors. We also involved professionals with expertise in accessible design.

Based on responses from the users we made changes in the designs. Some crucial feedback was:

  • Increase white space and font size. Some of the older faculty preferred larger fonts and more white space between different statements. Therefore, we reanalyzed our conversation transcripts, which initially just looked like plain old scripts and chose to go with a text app format instead.
Descriptions of panel members
Conversation transcript
  • The language should be fit for academics. Therefore, there’s no need to keep it extremely simple, like we generally do for other games and websites. It should include suitable terminologies. But the working of the game should be explained in simple terms, where faculty that is not very familiar with technology and digital games understands the rules of the game.

Current Status

The website consisting of these games is ready to go live this April 2018 after one last round of testing.