UofP Application Center Redesign
At the University of Phoenix, I was on a team of 8, working on a project to redesigned the establishment's Application Center, the prospective student portal. This project included research, testing, and iteration, all of which was conducted in the University's in-house research lab. This Application Center is the sourcing point of the university’s revenue as well as the potential students’ entrance to the degree programs available.
The goal of the redesign was to make the application process more approachable, to encourage potential users to complete the lengthy personal information forms. Also needed for the redesign was to provide user checkpoints in the application process, with save and revisit options.
My role as designer was to ideate and conceptualize concepts, based on data gathered by our research team and business requirements identified by Management Committee.
Based on the Agile processes and timelines, the teams met 2 or 3 times each week to share progress in order to refine the product using new knowledge and research findings. The UX team started with extensive market research, which led to the UI teams’ initial design ideas, sketches to wireframes to comps, and then after many iterations and prototyping, we went to user testing, during which we gathered 28 hours of recorded interview data with potential users in our on-site facility.
Challenges of the project centered around sharing advancements across teams. We lacked a platform where everyone could access live project updates, oftentimes delaying progression and wasting meeting time. Another challenge was directing other teams to prioritize solutions to propel the user, within the business requirements and technological limitations.
Across our design team, challenges included rapid changes to prototypes between, and sometimes during, testing sessions. We performed 4-7 user testing sessions daily and frequently make live changes to the prototype – pushed live moments before the user interacted with them. (The immediacy of the activity was particularly exciting for me.) A major challenge for our developers was to enable users to upload their required documents into the application. Our solution was to instruct users to create an account, add their documents to the in-site uploader, and then access the files in the Application Center.
With our redesign of the Application Center, a comprehensive collection of questions and information was successfully completed by 11 of our 12 test participants. The feedback received was overwhelmingly positive: "unthreatening" and "not overwhelming despite all of the boxes to check and lines to fill out". One user said, "If I knew it was this easy to apply, I would have done it years ago."
The greatest challenge for me in this project was recognizing and accommodating the impact of numerous cross-team misunderstandings and timing setbacks. This confirmed to me that every project needs a disciplined Project Manager. Upon completing my assignment at the University of Phoenix, I am hyper-aware of the importance of various research methods, and I will continue to explore methodologies for user-centered design moving into my future endeavors.