With roughly 1.5 million my.byui.edu page visits per month, Roger Nichols, BYU-Idaho user experience and web development manager, knows a thing or two about the importance of helping people in the easiest, most convenient manner.
Nichols and his team are on the final stretch of the first phase to update, simplify, and enhance the myBYU portal for campus students.
“If we have that much traffic going through there, we need to improve the experience for students,” Nichols said.
The first goal is to create a beta version which personalizes the user experience, then to refine the beta to fit the needs of students, and ultimately replace the traditional site with a new experience that better help students succeed.
“We plan to use the data we collect from this beta version to continue to make improvements. Once we have a good, solid portal in place, it will become the default and replace the old portal,” Nichols said.
The traditional myBYUI site leads students to a general page composed of several tabs with links to other pages. The beta version will replace the links with a personalized central hub, a space where students will have instant access to frequented information without having to spend time navigating through links.
There is a method to the madness that has helped Nichols and his team come up with the best experience for students.
It started by taking a deeper look into the web analytics. Not only did the team discover how many page visits were hit each month, the team also collected valuable information regarding a user’s traffic patterns, or where a student goes once they are on the page.
“From the analytics we ran, most people on myBYUI go to email and to I-Learn,” said Nichols, explaining that many of the links on the front page of the traditional site were not being utilized. The research didn’t stop there though.
Nichols and his team then interviewed students, asking them questions to gauge their interests. Questions were asked to better understand what students would like to see, how they typically tend to categorize things, and even what they would find most helpful on the portal.
These questions and data were then applied to create a wireframe, aimed at molding the ideas into a prototype that would provide students with a revolutionized experience. The wireframe is basically a skeleton of developed design, giving quick insights into what works best.
An important part of testing and refining a design is to understand how individuals will respond to certain situations.
“People say one thing, and will do another, we give them real scenarios and see what they do,” Nichols said.
After countless hours of analyzing, reviewing, listening, and tweaking, the beta version reflects the hard work of designers who put the student experience first on their priority lists.
New features to look for include the aforementioned centralized location, or hub, with the most visited parts of the traditional site. After logging on, students will immediately see the page organized into several categorized panels, each with an important role.
One panel will include recent emails, another will feature financial information. One panel will be dedicated to I-Learn where students can easily see which assignments are soon due.
“If you want to know if you have an assignment due, you just log in and there it is,” Nichols said.
Other features include identification at the top left of the page, where students will see their own information and picture, insuring students that they have arrived in the right place.
Any “holds” associated with the account will be listed at the top of the screen, and there will be another panel featuring links to other sites found on the traditional site. All of these are customizable by the student, based on what they want to see.
“The new design seeks to fulfill the needs of students, and provide anything we can do to take that mental load off of students,” Nichols said. “Even a live feed of the Testing Center will be featured in a panel, eliminating the guesswork previously associated with lines at the Testing Center.”
Most importantly, Nichols says the new portal can easily be adjusted to fit the needs of students. The new design embodies the value that BYU-Idaho has for each of its students, focusing on a personal, custom experience for the individual.
“We’re going to take what we’ve developed and hopefully get a lot more feedback from students, see how things are working—what they like and what they don’t like—and continue to kind of tweak and modify,” Nichols said.
Once the beta version is refined and polished Nichols and his team have plans to create more myBYUI ”dashboards” for other groups on campus including faculty, employees, etc. in the future.