Case Study:


Skillbox is a web-based platform where independent instructors can organize classes and connect with students.

How can an event management platform provide hobbyist educators with the resources they need to earn a living from their passion?

Written by Kelly Schairer


The Product

SKILLBOX is a web-based platform that provides experts and hobbyists with the tools necessary to earn a living as independent instructors by matching them with local individuals interested in learning a skill at a time and venue of the student’s preference and arrangement.

The Team

I worked with 4 other UX designers on this design. We recruited a total of 20 prospective users for the purpose of user interviews and usability tests in addition to 5 subject matter experts interviewed for insight on the problem space. 

My team routinely conducted ideation and synthesis workshops across the design project’s timeline: most notably, a series of affinity diagram sessions after each round of user interviews/tests, a series of 6-8-5 sessions to establish divergent concepts, an empathy map workshop, and whiteboarding sessions that led to the collaborative creation of a 2x2 Matrix and a SWOT analysis

Pictured: Three members of my design team during an affinity diagram workshop

Timeline and Tools

My design team completed this project in 6 weeks across 4 agile sprints. We utilized Sketch, Figma, and G Suite as our primary tools, and also used Zoom, Slack, and Miro to communicate and ideate remotely.

My Role

Domain Research

I compiled and synthesized relevant and up-to-date information from reputable sources on all subjects in the project’s problem space that my team deemed necessary to explore for the success of our design.

User Interviews and Usability Testing

I moderated user interviews and usability test sessions and contributed to the initial recruitment of prospective users who aligned with our target audience. 

Information Architecture

I led the socratic whiteboarding session where my team established a logical and intuitive navigation structure and informational hierarchy for our design. 

Wireframing and Prototyping

I made significant contributions to all visual renderings of our design concepts, from paper wireframes and low-fidelity divergent concept renderings during ideation stage to the first and second iterations of the converged prototype. 

UX Writing

I played a key role in the composition of long-form written reports including a domain research findings brief and a usability test report. I was also integral to shorter-form writing tasks such as the establishment of design principles.


Making Workshops Work

How Does a Hobby Become a Side-Hustle?

My team received a project brief from the perspective of a stakeholder interested in developing a web-based class/workshop organizing platform. It was up to my team to determine the best platform to determine what device would be best medium for the initial launch through research.

The platform would operate from two sides--serving both the hosts and attendees of classes--but we were instructed to focus on developing the class organizers’ user experience while keeping in mind how the product would operate on the other end for prospective class particpants.

The stakeholder was interested in helming a service that would appeal to current and aspiring instructors with unique knowledge and skill-sets who were limited by the time and space necessary to teach their discipline of choice.

The brand principles of Empower, Enrich, and Educate were provided to further guide the direction of our design.

Stakeholder Goals

Here’s a closer look at what our stakeholder specifically wanted the design of this product to address and provide:

  • A One-Stop Shop for Organizers - Our research and ideation was to be guided by the idea that users would want to rely on the service throughout all stages of planning and execution. This would include determining the best device for which to develop the initial incarnation of the service. 

  • Simple and Accessible Management Tools - Since we were operating under the assumption that our users were impeded by lack of time and resources, it was of particular interest for the design to automate and streamline the process of event planning. Our research would determine the best way to do this.

  • Feedback and Statistics - The stakeholder wanted to incorporate some element of post-event reporting so that users would have a reason to continue logging in and engaging with the platform after the conclusion of an event. 


Gathering Research Insights

Understanding the Domain

Our first step towards fulfilling our design objectives was to conduct domain research. My team agreed to formally define our problem space as “educational events,” with particular emphasis on in-person experiences. Our research and analysis of this problem space revealed the following key insights:

  • 75% of Americans surveyed for a 2019 Blueprint study have at least one creative hobby, with 68% of respondents specifically stating that they are eager to use their creativity more often.

  • A 2019 Side Hustle Nation survey revealed that growth and marketing are the biggest challenges for individuals pursuing a passion project, followed closely by time and energy.

  • A 2019 Eventbrite trend report forecasted that curation of memorable experiences, access to live data and analytics for organizers, and increased blend of the personal and professional will define the present and future of events.

Hobbyists with an interest in teaching their discipline recruited for user interviews

Consulting the Experts

We intended to design a product that would emulate the talents of event planners for users without access to that particular skill set, so it made sense for us to seek out the insight and expertise of real-life professional organizers.

Determining this group of event-planners and workshop organizers to be the subject matter experts of our problem space, we recruited and interviewed 5 individuals whose professional experience aligned with our criteria. Three key insights from these interviews would prove to have a significant impact on our direction:

Attendee Happiness is Key

Feedback from attendees impacts internal evaluation of an event’s success and the planning future events.

Logistics are a consistent challenge

Our interview participants specifically named the correct allocation of a budget as a crucial factor impacting event quality and attendee satisfaction.

Keep Your Ducks in a Row

Every single subject matter expert we interviewed stressed that it is important for event organizers to remain organized in a central location in order to prevent small but critical details from falling through the cracks. 

Survey respondents with relevant interest and experience 

Surveying the Users

We sent out a user survey in order to cast a wider net of quantitative data on our prospective user base that could supplement and validate the insights we’d later gather through user interviews.

18 hobbyists with interest or experience in teaching their skill responded to our survey.  By analyzing the resulting data, we drew a few important conclusions:

  • Though there is no specific set of criteria that qualifies an individual to teach most disciplines on a small scale, many respondents revealed in open-ended answer prompts that they do not feel sufficiently empowered or qualified to instruct others in their chosen discipline. 

  • When asked about their motivations to pursue teaching, only 40% of respondents cited the possibility of making a profit. The majority of respondents were driven to teach by passion, social enrichment, and pleasure rather than monetary gain.

  • Respondents with previous experience instructing their discipline leveraged their own personal networks as their primary method to source students (with 70% leveraging word-of-mouth), but ultimately find their network to be an insufficient resource to supplement class attendance.

Current and former instructors recruited for user interviews

Understanding the Users

Our next step was to communicate directly with prospective users who aligned with the criteria of our target user base in order to fully understand the problems our design would need to address.

We interviewed 11 individuals with experience earning an income by teaching a skill or hobby--either full-time or as a side-hustle--across a wide span of disciplines including yoga, arts and crafts, graphic design, and baking.

Here are a few insightful quotes from our interviews:

“Work is work, but teaching yoga is fulfilling because I’m helping people. I’m cultivating this safe environment for people growing in their yoga practice, and seeing how it impacts them mentally and emotionally.”
- Joanne H. (Yoga Instructor)

“I’m not there to make money. I’m realistically losing money by being there.”
- Ray S. (Graphic Design Instructor)

“It's, like, a ton of work seeking out these opportunities, and most of them fall through.” 
- Preston H. (Culinary Instructor)

Though our interview participants practiced a variety of different disciplines, they shared a similar perspective on the pleasures and challenges of educating. These interview sessions ultimately revealed that hobbyist educators:

  • Approach sharing their expertise as a passion project
  • Prefer teaching in-person to teaching remotely
  • Struggle to provide or obtain appropriate venues in which to teach
  • Value student feedback, but have no formal way of getting it.

By categorizing our qualitative data through an affinity diagram session, we concluded that our target users...

  • Have the ultimate goal of teaching in an enjoyable environment and providing a positive experience to their pupils
  • Are motivated primarily by passion, both for their particular area of expertise and for the experience of teaching itself
  • Are frustrated and inhibited by the difficulties of organizing logistics, sourcing students, and marketing

With our interviews done, we’d completed our preliminary research and were ready to synthesize our findings into actionable goalposts and guidelines. 


Forging a Design Path

Visualizing the User

My team created the user persona of Johanna through synthesis of our research findings. This persona would help us empathize with users throughout the design process by giving a “face” to our user base.

User PersonaJohanna is inspired by her passion for her craft, but frustrated by the costs and details that fall through the cracks as she pursues teaching without sufficient guidance.

Visualizing the Problem

In order to thoroughly walk a mile in Johanna’s shoes and explore how to best serve her needs, we also completed a journey map exercise where we examined her thoughts and feelings through every step of planning and hosting a class.

Persona Journey MapThough the transgressions of students in an environment they perceive to be less formal and professional may seem minor, they quickly add up and and hurt the instructor’s bottom line.

Defining the Problem

Our prelimnary domain research revealed that the current moment of event planning is defined by a blend of the personal and the professional. As our research progressed, we discovered the drawbacks of this model: by posturing students as friends and peers, instructors risk sacrificing the ability to be taken seriously. Students are more likely to cancel without sufficient notice or underestimate the monetary value of the services provided, making it more difficult for instructors to turn a profit. 

We concluded that the central problem of this domain was an imbalance between the strengths and weaknesses of our users. These users would benefit most from a design that would allow them to focus on the expertise they bring to the table and serve as a “business partner” with the entrepreneurial skills to match.

Armed with a clear understanding of our target users and the factors that hinder their success, we articulated the problem our design would address:

Entrepreneurially-challenged enthusiasts interested in teaching their craft to others need assistance planning logistics and sourcing attendees in order to execute their vision for an entertaining and educational experience.

Approaching the Solution

Tasked with determining how to effectively bolster the strengths of our users while compensating for their weaknesses, we established six design principles to inform the direction of our project:

CONNECTIVITYEach user has a different notion of their ideal student and the best channel through which to reach those students. Users should be able to leverage the social media platform of their choice to reach their desired audience.
UNIVERSALThe platform’s base of potential users will not be limited to a preset list of disciplines-- it will be accessible and usable for enthusiasts with any background or skillset who wants to share their knowledge with others. 

EFFORTLESSSince our users have limited free time to organize and promote their classes, it’s important that interested parties aren’t inhibited by a learning curve. Tools and task flows should be straightforward and reflect the existing mental model.
GUIDINGSome people have a flair for business--the strengths of our users lie elsewhere! This service will allow users to turn their passion into a profession by simplifying the grittier details while steadily building their flair for business.

OWNERSHIPOur users want to establish and maintain independence in their teaching pursuits. They will acclimate best to a platform that encourages creative decision-making while maintaining a sense of personal authority and autonomy.
ENCOURAGINGThe design of this service will embolden users to invest further in the talents and passions they already possess by establishing a friendly and optimistic atmosphere for class planning and execution.