“I absolutely fell in love with this industry,” says UX/UI Designer Chelsea Balderson
One reason the University of Chicago Study Abroad Office chose to partner with Via TRM was how aesthetically pleasing, easy to use and intuitive UChicago found Via’s software solutions.
Finding visually appealing and intuitive software that was easy to navigate was also important to the Office of Education Abroad at Michigan State University, which ranks No. 1 for study abroad among the nation’s public universities, according to U.S. News & World Report.
Like UChicago, MSU found what it was looking for in Via.
So, what makes Via software so great? First, it was created by international educators for international educators. That means Via knows what universities and study abroad program providers are facing because, well, we’ve been in their shoes. Second, we’re always collaborating with the IE community to make Via’s software solutions even better. We do that by conducting User Experience (UX) and User Interaction (UI) research. Those sessions are conducted monthly by Via’s Chelsea Balderson.
As Via’s UX/UI designer, Chelsea focuses on all aspects of Via’s product development, including design, usability and function. Her goal: to create an optimal user experience for Via’s partners in the IE community.
“Instead of finding solutions that work best for a single client, we work to find solutions that work for all,” says Chelsea, who is based in Florida, and enjoys gardening in her free time. “We also focus heavily on accessibility for all of our users. Accessibility and inclusivity is a need—it’s not an afterthought at Via.”
The user experience designer job description seems like it was written for Chelsea. With a desire to help improve people’s lives, she studied health education and human behavior at the University of Florida.
“I studied a lot about what makes people tick and behave in different manners,” she says. “From high school through early college courses, I was heavily focused in technology. I find it interesting to bridge those two together. It’s always rewarding when you see a product launch or get customer feedback on how their lives have improved based on a simple tweak—or sometimes a large-scale change. It’s always inspiring to see all of the pieces come together and form something great.”
Before coming to work with Via in 2021, Chelsea worked in the InsurTech industry for eight years. It was there that she saw a big need for implementing user research and product design. She dove into the process of listening to customer needs—and then solving for them to implement.
“I fell absolutely in love with this industry where you can be creative, but you also work with everyone from the end user to the business lead team. It’s amazing to be involved so heavily in the customer experience.”
Chelsea’s user experience design career path then led her to Via.
Chelsea works with Via’s business team to develop goals for research. They create a list of questions to ask existing and prospective clients. The next step is to invite users to participate in the research. Chelsea then talks one-on-one with research participants to learn more about their needs and concerns. She then quantifies the data and shares it with the Via team. While Chelsea works on the design, she also works with Via engineers to work through what it will take to implement.
Getting people to participate in the research hasn’t been challenging, she says.
“Our clients are wonderful,” Chelsea says. “They are so receptive to getting involved and answering our questions so we can learn more about their needs. I think it goes back to Via’s history of being receptive to clients wishes. If they tell us there is something we really need on our platform, we make a big effort to implement it, especially if it’s something that will help the majority of our clients.”
Participants, she says, appreciate being asked to be part of user research. “They get to have a say in what we build. I think that’s extremely valuable to any organization,” Chelsea says.
Each month during 2022, Via is hosting user research around a theme. January, for example, is focused on travel alerts and advisories—how Via can give admins the tools they need to keep their travelers safe abroad. In February, as another example, Via will focus on program budgets: how to transparently share with travelers and their families how much a program is going to cost—before they apply.
“We want to hear what they have to say and what questions they have because those questions help us to form better products,” Chelsea says.
Anyone who wants to participate in user research can get in touch with their Via account representative or fill out the form below to sign up.
Sign Up to be Contacted for User Research:
Via also hosts monthly “Ask Me Anything” where attendees can ask the Via team questions and give input. Weekly training sessions are also held so clients have another opportunity to ask questions and provide feedback.
Via TRM believes global experiences will change our world. That’s why we created traveler relationship management and travel risk management software, which helps universities and study abroad program providers to empower global experiences. With this blog, we’re looking to feature people who share Via’s “why.” If that’s you or one of your colleagues, tell us more. We might just feature you here!