Developing traditional websites involves multiple stages from design to development. Often this process leads to an end product that is built more for a technical audience than for its end users. Recognizing the gap in the traditional process, the web team at the University of Lethbridge has adopted user experience methods to move from a functional build, to making them a more pleasant experience.
UX, an acronym for User Experience, is a practice that uses research to understand user needs, and to align those needs to current products and services. “It has more to do with an improved online experience for students, faculty and staff,” says Michael Warf, Web Manager.
The Web team recently employed UX to determine how students, faculty and staff use the Notice Board. “We know that people are having trouble finding things because, to the eye, it’s a very busy site with competing information and visuals. It’s been a dumping ground of unorganized information. In order to understand how people use it, we set up monitors in the U Hall Atrium and invited passers-by to search for specific things on the Notice Board. This provided us with a fairly clear realization around how they went about using that site. This information will help us build something that will align to both the information the University needs to share, and the ability for users to find what they’re looking for quickly and easily,” Warf says.
UX continues to be used to assist in the design of the University’s student portal. With the ultimate goal of satisfying the needs of both the University and the students, the questions are many and complex. “For example, we know that more students have smart phones than laptops, and that they access their calendars on their phones. Yet, what they can see on their phones was built for desktop and laptop computers. That poses a problem with providing them information in a format they can use.
“Continuing to collaborate with end users in the early design stages of a website helps us to better define the required features and functions that provide a balance between the needs of the University and providing a website that is enjoyable and easy to use.”
Watch for future UX events on campus so you can get involved and help us make your user experience better!