As a UX Design Assistant at UC Berkeley Student Information Systems (SIS), in the Spring 2017 semester, I worked on a redesign of the undergraduate enrollment card within the MyAcademics page in the central platform used by UC Berkeley undergrads, grads, faculty, and staff. The project will be extended into the Fall 2017 semester, as it needs further user testing and validation from other teams within SIS.
I worked on this project independently (but shoutout to my lovely supervisor Bernie, as well as other designers who helped me out with research and feedback!), working on problem definition, research, ideation, wireframing, and lightweight testing.
Enrolling in classes at UC Berkeley is notoriously high-stress. While there are some wider institutional issues such as overcrowding of classes and strained resources, the software has its issues too – specifically, the Class Enrollment card in the MyAcademics page that students use to plan and enroll for classes has poor affordances, unclear copy, and confusing resources.
Initially, I conducted broad research on the overall enrollment experience for Cal undergraduate students. I wanted to understand how students from each of the 5 different colleges within UC Berkeley approached planning for enrolling in classes, understood what classes they needed to take, engaged with advising, and selected classes.
I conducted interviews with college peer advisers, who are current students that also provide academic advising for students within their college. I also sent out a questionnaire to other students who were interested in talking about their enrollment experiences.
I affinity mapped observations and feedback from user research in order to synthesize insights and understand what design direction to work on.
The most common feedback and insights centered around the following four topics:
- Students have trouble understanding the relationship between the Schedule Planner and the Shopping Cart. (The Schedule Planner is where you try out different schedules, picking out different classes and generating different potential schedules. You can then import classes from the Schedule Planner into the Shopping Cart, where you actually enroll in those classes.)
The enrollment card, contained within the MyAcademics tab, is unclear. There are inconsistent copy and unclear affordances, often leaving students confused as to what resources are available on the card, and what tasks they need to complete in order to enroll in their classes.
Many students have trouble finding the classes they need. They often have trouble finding adequate descriptions, professors, and textbooks, and sometimes even have trouble finding the class codes that they need to enroll.
Students have issues with waitlists. A major pain point that many students mentioned to me was that they were never sure if they were getting off the waitlist of a class, or if they swapped discussion sections, if they were going to lose their waitlist spot for the lecture.
Narrowing Project Scope
Based on the insights that I synthesized from conducting user research, I decided on a design direction to work on. While the most apparent concern that I understood from research was the relationship between the Schedule Planner and the Shopping Cart, considering my limited time and resources working with SIS until the end of the spring 2017 semester, I decided to explore a redesign of the enrollment card.
Beginning work on the card, I sketched out different ideas of organizing all of the content related to enrollment – multi-year planning, class catalogs, textbooks, enrollment appointments, and adjusting classes.
While working on sketches, I focused on addressing issues found during research, so I worked on making the copy more clear and consistent, calls to action more apparent, and developed different ways to organize and display sections to make students more aware of the resources available and the tasks they needed to complete in the enrollment card to enroll in their classes.
After hashing out a few ideas for content organization on the enrollment card, I moved to Figma to wireframe my ideas. I first built a simple UI library of different buttons and content for each section so that I could more efficiently build the different ideas that I had for organizing the card. Visual design was guided by existing CalCentral design guidelines.
LIGHTWEIGHT USER TESTING + FEEDBACK
Using the wireframes of different combinations of tabs open or card dropdowns, I was able to conduct a few lightweight user tests to get some feedback. I interviewed 3 students of different backgrounds – I will be continuing testing in the fall 2017 semester.
Some quick feedback highlights:
- Testers did not look to click at the “help” link. This link was something that SIS had been looking to implement for over a year before I joined the project, but did not have sufficient testing on, so I added it into my screens during lightweight testing.
- Even when I pointed one of the testers to it, they said that they didn’t see it, and would only “maybe” go to it
- Testers liked that the calls to action were turned from links into buttons.
- One tester did not think that the multi-year planner should be first. (In the current card on CalCentral, the multi-year planner is the first section.)
- One tester liked the tab organization, to see one section at a time.
- But they did recognize that some people would prefer the dropdown organization to see multiple sections at a time, and that you could drop or collapse the sections.
This project is being extended into the Fall 2017 semester. In the upcoming semester, I hope to conduct more rigorous user testing, create further iterations of the designs, and push for the implementation of some changes to the enrollment card.
Working on this project in the spring 2017 semester, I learned a few lessons:
- I have to be flexible about my process (and my process is always evolving!) – I was concerned user research was stretched out for a long time, since I had some time constraints and was concerned that I would not have enough work done by the end of the semester. However, while time constraints are important to consider, it's important to not get stuck in a cemented process and be flexible depending on a project's scope and needs.
- I have to consider legal boundaries of my work, especially in working with education-related products – when I was conducting user research, no one said that they ever explored a “Class textbooks” link that was available on the existing enrollment card, so I considered eliminating it from the card, but that link is actually legally required to be there.
Moving forward in the fall 2017 semester, some improvements that I want to look into:
- For the dropdown formatting, I'm concerned that the card would become too long and not fit well with the rest of the CalCentral MyAcademics page (there's a screenshot of the current one above, where the dropdown length is already an issue) so I need to look into other ways to organize the different sections of resources so that the card does not become too long.
- I want to make the copy as clear as possible. With something as high-stress as class enrollment, the language needs to lead students to the exact tasks they need to complete in order to successful enroll in the classes that they want.
- I want to make the card robust enough to work during different phases of the semester, from the different enrollment phases, to the adjustment period at the beginning of each semester, to weeks into the semester once class adjustment is over.
Internally, I was also able to make a list of recommendations based on the user research that I conducted that the department could explore. I’m excited to see what SIS will work on in the future!