Sept. 2020 – Dec. 2020 (10 weeks)
UX Designer, Content Designer
Tools Used: Drupal, Figma, WWU Design Style Guide, WWU CS Grad Handbook, Google Slides
Skills: Content Editing, Front-End Development, Copywriting, User Interviews, Information Architecture, Heuristic Analysis
In September 2020, Western Washington University’s Computer Science department updated their website (cs.wwu.edu) to match the Drupal theme being deployed campus-wide. With this update, a unique opportunity arose within this update to incorporate a part of my capstone project’s mission of making the graduate student advising process easier by adding new and updating pre-existing webpages about the graduate program.
Yudong Liu, the Graduate Advisor for the Western Washington University Computer Science department at the time of the project, was receiving many repetitive questions from prospective and current graduate students alike regarding admissions, advising, and steps for progressing towards graduation.
Although the departmental website had the necessary resources available that pertained to those asked questions, its current state required cross-navigation and re-routing across other websites and resources to find answers, resulting in a tedious and complex communication process to find the desired information for all parties involved.
To gain a better perspective of what type of relevant content the graduate program would need on their webpages, I immersed myself in the graduate student content space using the Computer Science department’s available resources such as their Graduate Student Handbook and general Grad School website. Furthering my research, I conducted a heuristic analysis of the departmental website’s overall organizational structure using timing, effort, and visibility as key evaluators for finding information.
One of the crucial findings that came out of my research is that good information architecture is essential to making graduate student content more visible. With the vast range of programs that the WWU Computer Science department website contains, making sure the user flow, navigation, and content organization for graduate program information is clear and organized would help pave the way to greater visibility and accessibility.
Structuring the Information & Content
With my findings, I pitched a different information hierarchy and user flow for the website’s Academic section. This included advocating for the separation of undergraduate and graduate pages within website navigation, and introducing about 9 new pages of content detailing specifics about the Computer Science Master’s program that was previously only available within the CS Grad Student Handbook.
Using information gained from interviewing and communicating with SMEs, I also worked with the Graduate Program in crafting a list of 22 potentially relevant frequently-asked questions for prospective students. These questions stretched across categories such as working on their grad application, transferring from another institution, next steps after getting admitted, and financials about tuition, research funding, and scholarships.
Prototyping the Information & Content
With the desired information and content put together, I prototyped the 9 pages of content in Figma adhering to both the university’s design style guide and the newly released Drupal theme. My intended goal with developing the content for these pages was making sure that my target audience, prospective and current students of the Computer Science Master’s program, could quickly find, interpret, and understand information as needed.
By January 2021, the departmental webmaster added several additions to their website based on my content design suggestions.
What I Learned
Be curious, always ask questions, and be open to change/new ideas.
Prior to developing this content, I was not too familiar with how the graduate program or the administrative staff operated within the Computer Science department. Communicating and talking with essential staff and faculty about the graduate program helped me come up with better ideas for content and components that staff could then easily add to the website.