Not only was this project great, but the teamwork behind it was excellent! This is an excellent interface. I wish it was widely available.
Yulia Goldenberg, Ph.D.
The Academic College, TLV-Yaffo
As part of my psychology BA studies and the Human-Computer Interaction major, I participated in the UX design for complex systems course, and this is my team's final project - we decided to improve the existing student portal.
We knew that as a group of students, it will be difficult to leave our personal thoughts and beliefs about how a product like this should behave and look.
Company Goal & Mission
We came up with a defined goal and mission which will lead us through the project process:
Creating a convenient and understandable system that mediates between the student and the services of the educational institution.
Making information, tasks, and assignments easily accessible to the student.
Integrate existing college systems so the students can perform actions and receive information in a fast and accessible way.
Improving the user satisfaction survey score.
Reducing unnecessary communication with technical support.
Increasing the percentage of system logins.
Reducing performing actions time.
Reducing user error percentage in the system.
We performed a detailed review of our current competitors which are similar systems being used in different institutions, then we gather the findings into pros and cons:
Simple and intuitive system navigation.
Accessible lecturers contact information.
Calendar with relevant and contextual information.
Accessible files per class and time.
Irrelevant info & actions located in key system locations.
Irrelevant info & actions for different type of users (student / lecturer)
Bad use of UI and layout.
System Added Value
Simplicity: Provide ease of use for the users, by the salience of main features, without confusion.
Efficiency: Lowering the number of support applications, and therefore it’s institute’s resources.
Certainty: Provide certainty for the user's actions through a holisticand consistent experience throughout the system.
Key Success Factors
We defined these success factors which can help us messure how well our design is performing when launch and being used by students:
Reduce lecturer's information search time to 1.5 minutes.
Reduce download a presentation / document time below 1.5 minutes.
Reduce works and exercises submission time below 2 minutes.
Increasing the average system satisfaction to at least 4 out of 5.
Potential users: Students, lecturers, technical support teams.
Customers: Universities & colleges
General stakeholders: The founding team
Discover User Research Methods
We knew a deep and profound research would provide us the answers we needed to base our product's decision on.
We performed both quantitive - user feedback questionnaire, and qualitative - user interviews, methods, as well as questioning the technical support team in our instution and some of our lecturers, all of this in order to get to the bottom of it.
We committed the following qualitative and quantitative methods:
Users feedback - 50 student: Self reported, open-ended and close-ended information provided by a sample of users (students) through an online questionnaire.
Interviews - 5 students & 3 lecturers: A researcher conduct interviews with potential users (students and lecturers),to discuss in depth what the participant thinks about the topic in question.
Qualitative Research - User Interviews
At first, we wrote an interview script for us to use while interviewing the students.
Here are some of the comments we received from students about how they are using the current system:
I realized that this is the given system and I need to accept it, there isn’t any other option.
I felt frustrated, if I understood what is written on a button - I would not be wasting time.
It's disappointing, you invest a lot of money in tuition and you accept a reasonable system to work with.
I felt I had to fight to be able to grab the courses I needed.
I'll be more patient next time, I do not know if there will be a change.
The questionnaire we built consists mainly of questions about two categories: Actions and information items, and in each category, there were 17 questions. For example, under the category "Actions" there is an item "Sending a message to a lecturer".
On each item, participants were asked to rate according to two categories: importance and frequency. From 1 (very low importance) to 4 (very high importance), and from 1 (very low frequency) to 4 (very high frequency).
From the results we received - we could see how many people (N) marked the score on a 1-4 scale. To get an exact result of which item is more important / more frequent, we created a formula with a wider scale of 200 (the number of participants N=50, times the number from the 1-4 scale) so that each result shows the numerical value of the item.
The Formula: [(N*value)+(N*value)+(N*value)+(N*value)] / max-value
Example item - My average score:
According to its frequency: 15 people marked 1, 17 people marked 2, 11 people marked 3 and 7 people marked 4.
According to the formula = [SUM (C21 * 4, E21 * 3, G21 * 2, I21 * 1)] / 200 = ((15 * 1) + (17 * 2) + (11 * 3) + (7 * 4)) /200 = 0.5 - Its the value of the average score frequency.
We got a numerical value that we later added together with the importance value (same formula). According to the final scores (frequency score + importance score) we displayed the items hierarchically with a matching color coding.
After we received all of the data from both the user interviews and the user feedback, we converted it to a task analysis format which will provide us with the bottom line prioritization of all of the data items and actions our users will perform on the platform.
Using the system is possible from anywhere with an internet connection, on campus or at home, accessible both via desktop and smartphone.
Goals in the system & Motivation Level
Receive information: course and assignment calendar, exam dates, lecturer's messages, previous year's exams.
Take actions: submitting assignments & exercises, downloading & viewing presentations, ordering documents, course registration and paying tuition.
Lecturer's contact details, set reception hours
sync academic calendar, course registration,
home screen personalization, submissions dates,
tests from previous years, course syllabus.
Dates of submission of works
Test and exams dates
Messages from lecturer
Tests from previous years
Works and exercises submission
Download & viewing presentations
Ordering documents & certificates
Payment of tuition
Downloading a presentation file of a certain course
College of Management Academic
Each course displayed presenting it’s vital info.
Hierarchy of information is logical and intuitive.
Hadassah Academic College
Courses layout was clear and efficient.
Consistent content throughout courses.
Simple layout, easy to scan and understandable.
Most relevant information are displayed.
Match between system and the real world.
Consistency and standards.
Recognition rather than recall.
Flexibility and efficiency of use.
Help and documentation.
Visual layout maybe to simple/cute.
Lack student's personal information - year, school, grades.
Submission of assignments and exercises
Clean ,flat & modern dashboard UI.
Clear hierarchy, profile area.
Simple, easy to scan and understandable layout.
System search bar, accessible support.
Information dashboard display
Search bar efficiency
Outlined important action (such as register for new courses)
Flexibility and efficiency of use
Aesthetic and minimalist design
Solution based customized system
Help and documentation
Can cause cognitive overload
Can cause orientation confusion
Can take time to adjust
We presented both concepts to our classmates and lecturer and collected their feedback.
Concept 01 - Winning
Orientation was clear
Aesthetically pleasing and unthreatening
Usage of images created a clearer action decision
User friendly UI
Language differences could be a confounding factor
Might be too simplistic
Division of Info and actions was clear
Search bar was noted positively
Customized layout option received positive feedback
Dashboard’s info caused disorientation
feedback concerning high cognitive overload
Next, we developed the final version of the product based on the most preferred features and layouts from both concepts.
Out-of-scope questions in the current process that require further consideration
Convert the final design to work on both mobile and tablet devices.
Create full user fellows for all the actions and screen in the system.
Define further KPI’s for more features.
A-B testings for main screens and features.
Create a system for a lecturer profile.
Present and collect feedback from more stakeholders.
Main Dilemmas we faced
Methodological Approaches and Research
The quantitative questionnaire we published to our participants contained plenty of specific information we wanted to gather, and that could have led to form abandonment. To prevent that, we decided that all questions about the user experience are to be scaled from 1 to 4 (instead of open ended questions) to in order to prevent burnouts.
The scaling wasn’t accidental. We decided to analyze our finding through an even scale based on methodological research methods, due to the fact that odd scale can lead to ambiguous results when participants are filling the ‘middle’ answer. Put it simply, we allowed our participants to choose an answer that leans towards one end.
On the qualitative research, when we started the competitor’s research so we can understand what student systems are on the market, we didn’t had enough knowledge about the system’s backend, and this gap led us to conduct a qualitative research with our campuses online support team, to discover and research ‘Moodle’ system, which led us to the finding that it is used by all of the universities in Israel.
Design and UCD
When we designed our final concepts, we had to decide how to present the courses that are taking place on the same day within the homepage screen. We thought maybe we could present different picture for each course to differentiate between them, but after some research we decided to apply the ‘Aesthetic and minimalist design’ heuristic and have each presented with its title and a unique color gradient.
An issue that was brought forward at the peer review was high cognitive load - too much details. We wanted to reduce cognitive load when viewing the homepage, and therefore we allowed users to see which tasks, exams and other to-do’s they have by adding a small indication number at the title. this principle is based on ‘Visibility of System Status’ - the user knows at a moment glace what else he needs to accomplish, without being overwhelmed by information.