User experience takes precedent in today’s world

With more than 45,000 students, the University of Arizona (UArizona), a public research university in Tucson, needed an online student center that delivered a high-quality user experience to today’s class of digital natives.

The university had systems to power the back end but wanted better integration with the front end of its student center. At the same time, they started to implement different engagement capabilities, including academic advising and events management, as more and more of student life went virtual. Recognizing the limitations of its existing software, the university sought a flexible solution to bridge the gaps, streamline workflows, and create the user experience that accounted for current needs.

To achieve these goals, UArizona looked to optimize its systems rather than merely reskin the design. Darcy Van Patten, the university’s Executive Director, Digital Transformation and Student and Academic Technologies, explains, “When I think about platforms that have been live for decades, the user experience is fairly short-lived. We needed to have the flexibility to update that front end much more quickly than what a back-end platform might allow.”

University of Arizona Digital Student Experience Portal

Student input and streamlined process

After selecting InFlight for its ability to modernize its existing platforms, the university turned to its students for input. Intent on providing what students want and need, rather than assuming, the university asked students to share feedback, highlight problem areas, review prototypes, and test new designs. Van Patten says, “We spent a lot of time working directly with students, they were part of our process from the very beginning. Doing things like card sort exercises and focus group usability testing to make sure the navigation was easy to understand. With InFlight, we had a lot more flexibility to get the user experience we wanted.”

As part of the new experience, InFlight helped the university combine multi-step processes into single interactions while improving the student center’s overall look and feel with university branding and a mobile-optimized, responsive layout. Van Patten reveals, “That’s my favorite example, where we were able to make it easier for students to take the actions that they need to take without going through a bunch of different screens and clicking a thousand times.”

Result highlights critical interaction points

Since introducing the updates in July 2020, the university has received positive feedback from students and leadership. Putting critical information related to class enrollment, financial aid, and learning modalities front and center, the new student center provides direct access to the information students need – quickly.

UArizona student Richaunti Williams offers, “I found that the new updates to the student center website made navigation extremely easy. It’s convenient that all of the information I typically go on UAccess to find is right on the homepage across the navigation bar. The drop-down menus are great and make finding what you need that much easier!”

Van Patten concludes, “We know our students are digital natives. They expect a personalized experience, and they expect it to be of good quality. Especially now, as we have more of our students interacting with the university digitally due to COVID-19. The quality of their experience becomes even more important because that’s how they experience their relationship with the university. In many cases, InFlight’s expertise offered us solutions, proactively, to challenges that we hadn’t even yet identified.”

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