Designing a Unified Academic Enrollment Experience
Spotlight: Large University in Southern USA
As part of a small team, I designed a mobile solution for a large community college to level up their application, enrollment, and class selection process. My responsibilities included user interviews, analysis, journey mapping, usability testing, and wireframes. Through multiple trips from Boston to Texas, we introduced technology that resulted in the application process being reduced from an arduous process that often required 6-8 trips to campus to a streamlined flow usually requiring two or three trips.
Client: Large Community College in Texas

Timeline: May - July 2019

My Role: UX Researcher and UI Designer
Team: UX Practice Manager, Visual Designer, Business Analyst, Project Manager, iOS Developer, Android Developer, Web Developer, Client's Technology Board Chair, Lead IT Professional, and Myself

Tools: Adobe XD, Lucidchart, Microsoft Excel
The Problem
The Large Community College in Texas, which I'll call LCCT, knew that it needed to reform its application and enrollment process. There were many stories of students needing to visit campus six or more times before they were able to get their their application succesfully submitted. The technology systems in use had been in place since the mid-90's, and students were responsible for submitting information in four and in some cases five separate systems with unique login procedures and credentials. Browser compatibility, complete lack of mobile friendliness, and poor accessibility plagued the experience from beginning to end.
Students were responsible for submitting information in four and in some cases five separate systems with unique login procedures and credentials.
Research
In our initial workshops, we heard from a very diverse and opinionated group of 30+ stakeholders in a classroom. It was a privilege to see our UX Practice Manager calmly and swiftly talk through and notate on the whiteboard a tidal wave of information - topics, subtopics, complaints, suggestions — the passion of the crowd was evident. During these workshops, I collected questions from the audience, started organizing the tidal wave, and discussed what we saw with our business analyst.
Early Themes. Starting to map the student experience and some of the themes from our initial workshops.
Our next step was to talk directly to our users and map their experience. We conducted 30 user interviews between the two of us, with students from a representative range of ages and backgrounds, paying attention to perceptions, pain points, and opportunities. For some of the interviews we split the duties and one of us asked questions while the other one took notes, and for some interviews we both asked questions and took notes ourselves.

The interviews helped us gain a full understanding of the application, enrollment, and class selection processes. Analysis on the interviews resulted in a 'highlights' document, shown in part below. We used the highlights document to help us with user journey mapping, feature list prioritization, and wireframe development.
Highlight Document. We constructed this document to distill the most meaningful moments from the interviews.
High Level Journey Map. This is a journey map illustrating the initial student experience that we constructed in the first days of the project. You can see our understanding of the topics at hand starting to shape up.
Detailed Journey Map. This is the same journey map, but expanded and refined to help our stakeholder groups understand what we were defining as the 'MVP experience'. Eventually, this map was duplicated and edited to become the 'future state' journey map that I discuss below.
Ideation & Conceptualization
Through the process of iterating on the journey map, discussing the priority list with our design team, and gaining clarity on the opportunities presented by combining many systems into one single database, we optimized for a cohesive digital experience — identified trips that could be combined, data that could be auto-filled, and revised the order of key moments in the enrollment process.

Building on our current-state journey map, I created a future-state journey map, which, although not pictured due to confidentiality, was a critically important document. Styled similarly to a service map with multiple swim lanes of interactions, this future-state journey map helped us to identify and understand the key moments in the journey that we wanted to optimize for. From this future-state journey map and all of the research we had done at that point, I derived a list of features, prioritized them, and that enabled me to start mapping the experience out on a page by creating wireframes.
Wireframes: These key screens represent the dynamic contextual home page, surfacing the most important tasks to the front page for students to have an easier, less disjointed enrollment experience.
A key innovation that I identified at this point was the app's structure. Through exploratory wireframes, I broke each step down into an interactive checklist and designed the app so that the current task list would surface up to the 'top level' of the app's home page: a dynamic contextual home page design. Instead of needing to independently keep track of what task is up next, users could simply visit their home page and their current checklist would be right at the top of the page.
Instead of needing to independently keep track of what task is up next, users could simply visit their home page and their current checklist would be right at the top of the page.
In order to test the structure even before visual design was applied, I created a clickable prototype with these wireframes, and again together with the business analyst, we performed usability testing with 10 users to make sure it would support the needs we had outlined. We received a large amount of actionable and detailed feedback, ranging from having overlooked certain features like a job board, to not understanding certain naming conventions that we were proposing. However, in general, we received reactions of relief and delight from these usability tests, with students commenting 'This would have saved me hours and hours' and 'You only have to look here? Thank heavens, I have lost my passwords so many times'.
Reactions: Some of the reactions that we heard, felt were important, and chose to highlight in our deck for our stakeholders presenting our findings from usability testing.
Sharing feedback: Here are several slides from a deck that we created to share the feedback we received from usability testing. With my BA colleague, I created an analysis document combining feedback from the 10 usability tests and distilled that into this deck.
Visual design (not my work): As prototyping and usability testing wrapped up, I was being called to join another project. I sent my wireframes over to a colleague for visual design. He translated the wireframes into the client's brand and prepared these three options. The client ultimately selected a combination of options 1 and 3.
Results & Impact
Several years later, I have heard that this system continues to support the LCCT student experience and that the school's technology team has gone on to integrate document-scanning features that we had been discussing during the planning process, further reducing the need for trips to campus during the application process.
Key Takeaways
  • 💎 Instead of following a long, complicated word document and independently checking off tasks, students can simply follow the next step indicated by the app to apply and enroll to LCCT.
  • 💎 Academic Advisory team conducts scheduled tours with almost 100% full occupancy, reducing need for small group tours or other last minue arrangements for students who missed the main tour. Students are showing up on time for tours, tests, and meetings.
  • 💎 Design process included extensive user interviews as well as usability testing to ensure that we were designing for our users, and not overlooking key factors at any step.
  • 💎 Class selection process moved out of old, slow, PC-only system to a modern mobile layout. Text size and color was adjusted for improved accessibility, leading to less stress around the class selection process.
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