Information Systems PhD Website Redesign

As Information Systems Assistant at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, I was responsible for redesigning the school's IS doctoral program webpage. For this project, I worked under the direct supervision of an associate professor in the IS department and in collaboration with several other faculty members.

 

The design challenges was to improve webpage usability, update content and showcase the unique nature of the program. The solution involved a prototyping process informed by usability research, stakeholder input and survey respondent data.

Brainstorming

Early prototyping included black and white hand-drawn sketches before progressing to low-fidelity color mockups created in Inkscape.

Once it became clear that the preferred route for this project was to overhaul the body of the webpage - while leaving the University's header and sidebar navigation consistent with the main website - I was able to focus on how to address the design challenges within these specific spacing and functionality constraints. The above sketches show two such ideas for updating the content presentation and menu options for the I.S. department's doctoral program subsection. The navigation illustrated in the image on the left became the basis for subsequent prototypes.

General Feedback Survey Results

 What position do you currently hold at UMBC?

Answer Choice

Student

Faculty

Staff

Alumni

Responses

14

9

1

0

Percentage

58.33 %

37.50 %

4.17 %

--

24 total respondents

 What information should be emphasized on the Information Systems doctoral 
 program webpage? (you may select more than one answer)

Answer Choice

Program requirements

Faculty research highlights

Admission requirements

Current and graduated student profiles

Responses

19

16

15

10

Percentage

79.17 %

66.67 %

62.50 %

41.67 %

60 responses form 24 total respondents

 What part(s) of the webpage requires improvement? (you may select more than
 one answer)

Answer Choice

Too much text

Does not convey unique nature of the program

Lack of faculty and student research highlights

Interface issues (color, font size, etc.)

Not clearly organized

Other (please specify) *

Responses

16

15

13

9

8

7

Percentage

69.57 %

65.22 %

56.52 %

39.13 %

34.78 %

30.43 %

68 responses from 23 total respondents (1 skipped)

* ‘Other’ responses:

  • Navigation is tricky given the 2 level dropdown menu. Also performance is slow.

  • Long unclear titles, difficult nested menus, what happened to the forms?

  • Improve organization to make it easy for visitors to find program information, tuition and research assistant jobs.

  • Cause of "too much text" complaint might be overly complicated rules for program completion. Unclear why such rigid and abrupt deadlines are required, especially for students who might also be working full-time (+) jobs.

  • There are no images on the page, making it appear quite bland.

  • Lack of Links to courses description in program descriptions.

  • Not enough about faculty.

 What content issue should be prioritized?

Answer Choice

Too much text

Lack of faculty and student research highlights

Does not convey unique nature of the program

Other (please specify) *

Not clearly organized

Interface issues (color, font size, etc.)

Responses

6

6

4

3

2

2

Percentage

26.09 %

26.09 %

17.39 %

13.04 %

8.70 %

8.70 %

23 total respondents (1 skipped)

* ‘Other’ responses:

  • Page organization on homepage

  • See comments in #3 above

  • Too much text and organization

Homepage

Input from UMBC's own faculty and students - more specifically, responses from the first survey - was used to craft the new welcome message. The webpage has been divided into a handful of subpages, shown in the horiztonal navigation menu, in order to split up text-heavy content while introducing a few new features at the same time.

Content Rejuvenation

The content on the two requirement pages was redesigned in an effort to make it easier for students and prospective students to navigate the considerable amount of information specific to this particular doctoral program. Text content was broken up with new headings, line breaks, links and bulleted and numbered lists.

Students

The student profile section seeks to address issues supported by the majority of survey number one participants, like the need for more faculty and research highlights and emphasis on what makes the program unique. Students who responded to written interview questions were featured on the redesigned webpage.

Frequently Asked Questions

After two rounds of surveys the top 10 frequently asked questions for the program were chosen for inclusion within this new feature. The aforementioned questions are presented and allow the user to be redirected to a the associated answer after clicking a particular question. Several answers also include pertinent links that facilitate access to additional information and resources.

Below is a list of common questions regarding UMBC’s Doctor of Philosophy in Information Systems program. From the following options, select 10 questions you would like to see answered on the webpage.

What is a Comprehensive Exam?

Can PhD students be part-time?

What benefits do graduate assistants receive?

How do I know if this program matches my research interests?

What are the GRE requirements and acceptable scores?

What is the policy for waving some of the PhD requirements?

Can the PhD program be done remotely/online?

What are the PhD program completion deadlines?

Why should I apply to UMBC for my Information Systems PhD?

Will there be financial support for PhD students?

What types of jobs can one expect with an Information Systems PhD compared to masters degree?

In the application materials, what should the Statement of Purpose include?

What are the PhD program course requirements?

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