Shmoop Test Prep


Our old test prep tool had very confusing non-linear navigation and extremely outdated designs (though I do think the buffalo and the drill were a nice touch). The system needed to provide students a linear test prep experience, not force them to constantly figure out where to go next.


I served as the primary UX Architect, UI Designer, and User Researcher.

Prototype Links

Phase 1: Interviews and Meetings

Between interviews, usability testing, and feedback fed to us through the sales/customer success teams, we had a good idea of what was wrong/missing.

System and Competitor Inventory

We did a full-system inventory of the present system and of a few competitors. Some of the issues we found were:

  • Non-linear navigation
  • Decision fatigue from too many options
  • Mental exhaustion from too much data, too little meaning

A few strengths we found were:

  • Using a diagnostic to evaluate skill level
  • Recommending drills and readings based on those skill levels
  • A system that walks you through each step.

User Flow

The present user flow, even when simplified, was a bit chaotic:

Along with the head of our Learning Sciences department, we developed an improved experience, one that told them where to go next.

Finding: Students don’t care about analytics

Time spent, drills done, readings reviewed, the users didn’t care about this data. Though we still kept it available (in a history page), we learned that the students really only want to answer two questions.

“What should I work on next?”

“How am I doing?”

This finding alone was critical in removing clutter, deleting unnecessary information, and providing relevant options driven by data and selected by Shmoop. Thus taking the cognitive load off of the student.

The New Experience

In collaboration with our brilliant team of engineers (I’m not just saying that, they’re frikkin’ geniuses) we began to brainstorm an improved initial experience.

The main page, on first load, directly told students to take the diagnostic, and from that point on served as a “How am I doing?” reporter.

Students would spend most of their time in “Study.” Sometimes, the standardized tests had many subjects and topics, but the diagnostic driven focus indicator (the Shmoop Recommends icon), recommended areas of focus.

On a further iteration, we even developed a system that would tie drills and readings directly together, thus allowing students to strategically read and test their skills.

Future Plans

Future plans included the idea of using the skill tags associated with each reading and dynamically generating drills based on those tags and the user’s skill in each. We would also dynamically adjust the difficulty of the questions depending on how well they were answering (if questions were too hard, go down a step in difficulty. If they were too easy, go up).

Result: Improved CSAT

Redesigned the student Test Prep tool, leading to a CSAT increase from 1.8 to 4.3 in three months (5-point scale).

Result: Increased User Confidence

It basically has everything I need to not be stressed about the ACT. I love it, super helpful. Thank you!


The diagnostics and explanations are thorough and so helpful. I got a 28 on my ACT (my first projected score was 14).


This has been an awesome way to help me study for my act! I have found the diagnostic tests are super convenient to help track my progress


Customer service and tech support are second to none. These folks are the best hand holders in the business.

District IT Manager

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