The purpose of this UX project was to create a better study selection experience for prospective higher-education students. As a UX Designer, my role in this project was to translate user research results into several high-fidelity wireframe concepts.
Analysis of the existing website and observing user behaviour concluded that there were fundamental issues in the user journey flows and presentation of data; in particular in the areas of searching, browsing, and comparing tertiary institution quality indicators.
The descriptors of what information is actually being presented were also lacking, as the content and language of the website as a whole were more suited for researchers and analysts rather than prospective students.
To create recommendations on how to address these issues, several wireframe concepts were crafted for Searching, Browsing, and Comparing tertiary institution quality indicators and put forward to the test to prospective students in focus groups.
1. Searching for institutions
Three wireframe concepts for Searching were tested in focus groups to uncover what mindset prospective students are in when they are selecting institutions to apply for.
- Do prospective students already have a handful of institutions in mind that they want to compare?
- Are they set on what areas of study they want to study, and the general location of the institutions?
- Do they know where to start looking, or in need of finding out which institutions offer what they are looking for?
- Are they interested in discovering and extending their options to institutions that have similar offerings?
These are some of the questions that these wireframes were designed to help answer. Focus group attendees were asked to discuss which of the 3 wireframes would be most useful for them when looking to compare institutions.
2. Browsing search results
Three wireframe concepts for Browing search results were tested in focus groups to uncover which snippet of information is useful to see when they are selecting institutions to compare.
- What information helps prospective students narrow down which institutions and study areas they want to compare?
- What layout helps them scan search results and spot what they are interested in?
- What visual cues make it obvious what they can do next?
These are some of the questions that these wireframes were designed to help answer. Focus group attendees were asked to discuss which of the 3 wireframes would be most useful for them when picking out which institutions to compare.
3. Comparing institutions
What users can compare about institutions on this website was unchangeable. Three wireframe concepts for comparing institutions’ quality indicators were tested in focus groups to uncover what label would help prospective students understand what they are comparing, and how the data should be presented to best help them decide what institutions to apply for.
- What graphical elements would help users compare indicators at one glance when data is similar across institutions?
- What copy would help them understand what the indicators mean?
- Would comparing per institution or per indicator help users more?
- How can we transform data into useful information? (e.g. present a reference point such as the national average)
These are some of the questions that these wireframes were designed to help answer. Focus group attendees were asked to discuss which of the 3 wireframes would be most useful for them when comparing institutions.
Unsurprisingly, the 3 concepts received equal votes as it depended on what point in their decision making process they were making the comparison. But when asked which concept bets suits their needs if they had already a shortlist of institutions in mind, all votes went to concept #1.
Piecing it all together
Different approaches to discovering and comparing study options were explored in these concept designs, and these were tested in front of realistic audiences to uncover the way prospective students actually want to engage and explore tertiary institutions.
Feedback and insights from focus groups were used to combine and refine the wireframes, formulating a workflow and visual cues that are suited to the mindsets of high school graduates, their parents, and mature age prospective students.
Common scenarios gathered from focus groups and user testing were then transformed into high-fidelity wireframes that surround the searching and comparing, communicating user flows from start to finish.