Optimizing the IDA Application Process

How might potential IDA applicants successfully locate and complete the Fellowship application at higher rates?
IDA leadership wanted to increase awareness of program resources,  especially applications for their year-long Artist Fellowship program.
I was IDA’s Community Manager, tasked with leading this user acquisition redesign and otherwise optimizing artist outreach and engagement efforts.
The Institute for Diversity in the Arts (IDA) trains and supports underrepresented student artists in creative leadership
and practice.


My approach for improving IDA’s user acquisition strategy included:

  • 1

    Understanding current Fellow’s application experiences and usability ratings of the IDA website and application portal

  • 2

    Centering interview questions on users’ background, feelings, and pain points during their online experience  

  • 3

    Leading human-centered findings communication to improve the application’s accessibility and intuitiveness

Determining the User Sample

Application creators, prospective applicants, and successful applicants

Interview Design

For the interviews, I generated an interview guide of 6 questions, which included:
How was it navigating your IDA application process? [Probe: Were there any surprise challenges or particularly smooth points?]
What led you to apply? Probe: Were there factors which discouraged you from applying?


From these interviews, I developed two person profiles.

Alexis' Persona

About Alexis
Alexis is a Sophomore who has about five months’ experience in digital art. Her major poses intense time demands on her but she really enjoys exploring the world of digital art and illustration, despite her worries of being an imposter or not a “real” artist. She’s excited by IDA’s fellowship offerings but isn’t sure if she is qualified enough to apply. In her spare time, she's also involved in Stanford Women in Design.
Part-time Visual Artist & First-generation college student
Age: 19
Hometown: Los Angeles, CA
Major: Computer Science, Spanish Minor
  • Learning about software like Figma & Sketchup
  • Designing for accessibility
  • Indie concerts
  • Artistic mentorship
  • Emerging AI technologies
Pain Points
  • Determining eligibility criteria for the Fellowship
  • Communicating her qualifications and experience as an artist in the applications short-form questions
  • Understanding the time commitment the Fellowship entails
App Satisfaction Ratings
  • Locating the IDA Site
  • Accessing info on Fellowship
  • Locating the application
  • Completing the application
  • Application Follow-up
"I want to develop my knowledge of visual craft and design aesthetics."
Application Influences
  • Hearing testimonials of friends in the Fellowship
  • Watching IDA's Instagram Lives about the Fellowship

Ryan's Persona

About Ryan
Ryan is a Senior with about two years of experience writing poetry. He has been involved in writing and debate communities since the beginning of college and feels confident in his abilities to further develop as an artist. He’s excited by IDA’s fellowship offerings and intends to apply, though he worries about the time commitment. In his spare time, he is involved with Stanford's Spoken Word Collective. He is also applying to law school.
"I'm hoping to expand my artistic skills and build a writing portfolio."
Poet, Student Body President
Age: 21
Hometown: Tampa, FL
Major: English
  • Mock Trial
  • Poetry slams
  • Developing professional artistic identity
  • Publication resources
  • Phil'z Coffee
Pain Points
  • Locating the application portal felt difficult
  • Application process felt too laborious and fractionated
  • Wasn't sure about his eligibility / whether it was worth completing the application
App Satisfaction Ratings
  • Locating the IDA Site
  • Accessing info on Fellowship
  • Locating the application
  • Completing the application
  • Application Follow-up
Application Influences
  • Seeing the Fellows' work in their Final Showcase
  • Speaking with IDA Leadership at a campus Arts Fair

Analysis to Action

Upon examining my interview findings, I found that the most common pain points for the application process. Given this, I brainstormed and proposed alternate website configurations to improve application accessibility and clarity.

Pain Points

Actionable Solutions

Uncertainty about how to access the application
Creating a responsive button linked to the application
Confusion about what the Fellowship entailed (i.e. time commitment)
Clarifying Fellowship expectations, overview, and time commitment
Lack of clarity about Fellowship Eligibility criteria
Emphasizing that IDA sought applications from all majors and backgrounds


IDA was able to increase user acquisitions in the form of artist Fellow applications that year by 25%.

* Applications are projected to grow next year by 35%


This project helped me extend my knowledge of user-centered site design, especially allowing me to expand my skills in persona creation, site optimization, and user acquisition.

Favorite Challenge

IDA targets a majority undergraduate population, and outreach efforts are hard to keep sustainable on a campus with programming happening all the time. Being able to speak directly with users to figure out which outreach and events were most informative and useful for them allowed me to streamline outreach efforts and consolidate site information in the most concise, accessible way possible.