Helping University Staff build a better future

Helping University Staff build a better future

Helping University Staff build a better future

Helping University Staff build a better future

The challenge

The challenge

An analoge system in a digital world.

Paperwork. Everyone hates it. Imagine having to edit, proofread and somehow store hundreds of interlinked documents - yearly.

Our client was one of Australia's biggest universities, in need of software that would digitalize the lifecycle of their documents.

To comply with my non-disclosure agreement, I have omitted and obfuscated confidential information in this case study. All information in this case study is my own and does not necessarily reflect the views of the Client.

My role

As the UI / UX Designer (and later on Mirror Product owner) my role was to collaborate with the Product owners and engineering team to create a smooth user experience.

I had a key role in the team early on, pitching an initial set of 21 screens, as part of the winning proposal.

In the projects' early stages, I collaborated daily with the core Product team to define the architecture of the software. This was done through wireframes and user flows until we reached the critical amount of knowledge necessary to start work on the mockups.

The problems:

1. Data hierarchy and content navigation

2. Creating a future-proof and flexible editor for work with the Australian curriculum

Our proposed strategy was to mirror the process and paperwork university staff had already been using for the past decade.

This would help us avoid any issues the staff might have with understanding the system conceptually. The majority of the users did not have technical backgrounds and are most comfortable in primarily textual workspaces.

What we did:

  1. Brainstormed in product owner meetings
  2. Explored through user flows, sketches and wireframes
  3. Designed Mockups, Prototypes, Style guide & Component documents
  4. Usability tests

The approach

Phase 1:
Research + User interviews

The projects' key stakeholders would be the users later on so we included them in the design process early on. Considering the core functionalities were based on the existing manual process, the Product team primarily spent their time interviewing users.

We found that the majority of staff were happy with the current process, but described it as repetetive and error prone (since the documentation needed to be filled out manually each year).

Phase 2:
Analyse + Map out solutions

Once the product team understood the users needs, we would have a series of follow-up brainstorming sessions to devise approaches to their problems.

I would then proceed to make wireframes from meeting notes and data tables recieved from the university.

Phase 3:
Sketch, test, validate, repeat.

Since the Product owners had the business' needs in mind and I had the users needs in mind, it was my job to bridge the gap between business and customers.

Once a solution was chosen from the wireframe phase - we would go back and test the set of screens or functionality with the users.

An in-depth look

The Uni's curriculum system is vast, covering numerous individual programs, courses and classes.

The system was (for starters) envisioned as being divided into 7 segments: Couses, Templates, Maps, Competency tables, Collaboration, Publishing and Settings.

Since it was so large, we decided to start designing from the core product - the course curriculum and then continue working outward from there.
A "Simple Curriculum" was defined for the MVP, in which we slowly started going through all the features that needed to be included.

The issue was - how could we future-proof the curriculum?

It needed to be an interconnected source of truth, but at the same time remaine flexible and editable. We needed to be able to duplicate, edit and evaluate the document, while being able to disconnect and reconnect it to a set of Australian accreditation documents. 

The solution

Dynamically generated, component based online documents.

Since we needed to create a truely flexible document, that has the ability to create any curriculum imaginable, we came to the idea to make a component based set of Curriculum templates.
The user would be able to drag and drop, reorder and edit the document in any way they wanted to.

After a series of technical team meetings, we managed to go through the template proposals and wireframes and reach a collective decision about the crude functionalities.

I returned to the drawing board with the product team and we came up with a (starter) set of 15 field component types that could cover all data types.

The Results

The University has a best-in-class online Curriculum Management System which has finally been set in the 21st century. 

The new online platform experience has recieved amazing feedback, even from the initial proposal documents. 

Thanks to our user-centered approach, the design iterations were at a minimum - mostly due to some information changes coming directly from the client, during the different design phases.


Lessons learnt

Lessons learnt

This project has by far, had the greatest impact on my professional development. First and foremost, collaborating closely with the remote side of the team, where the Product owners have more than 25 years of experience, left a big impact on me.

Being responsible for creating a design system from scratch taught me about the impact my designs have on the team as a whole. I learnt that deep immersion into every design decision is imperative for saving a lot of teamwork down the road.

Having in mind I was the only designer on the team - the fact that the user-centered design was recieved so well by the client gave me great professional satisfaction.

It was a real privilege to be part of the team that took on the ambitious task of converting a soeley manual, offline process into a template and component based online system.

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