Ban Banner (or at least reform it!)

Cameron Chaleff
Sep 9, 2019 · 4 min read

An array of bureaucratic functions are exclusively accessible through the disaster that is selfservice.brown.edu, better known as Banner.

Common uses of Banner include changing grade options and viewing unofficial transcripts, but it’s also used for other functions, such as viewing financial aid/admission decisions, changing meal plan options, and updating personal information recorded by the University. For the sake of demonstration, let’s assume I’m accessing Banner for the purpose of changing my grade options for CSCI 0130.

the landing page after logging in to selfservice.brown.edu

Somehow, this interface manages to be simultaneously rather minimal and extremely distracting. There are three groups of menus for me to chose from, the tabs at the top left, the blue links to the left, and the list below “Main Menu”. There’s no clear hierarchy, and I’m unsure where I should be looking to click. There’s also redundancy, both “Personal Information” and “Student” appear in two places.

In the most prominent spot is a notice to School of Public Health Applicants, completely irrelevant to Undergraduates (whom I’d imagine make up the majority of Banner’s users).

Clicking on either “Applicant and Student” or “Student” will bring you to the same page.

This page has a notice from 2016, but I think it’s stuck in the 1990s.

I’m brought to a page that shows me 7 options and another irrelevant notification, (this time because it’s 3 years old!). 4 of the 7 options are placement tests, or pertain only to new students. Why do I have to navigate through this every time I want to adjust my courses or view my transcript? There’s still no mention of changing grade options, leaving it unclear where to click.

I’ll find what I’m looking for by clicking “Registration”, presenting me with another long list with many redundant options.

What’s the difference betweeen “Week at a Glance”, “Student Detail Schedule”, and “Active Registration”?

Even once I’ve finally made my way to the correct page, the labeling is still not aligned with common speech. Who refers to grades as “Class Options”?

Not only does this interface require 3 clicks to navigate to a very common use of the systeem, each step of the way it’s not clear what selection will bring you to your desired location.

I’m imagining that Banner’s current confusing and (quite frankly) ugly state is due to its exclusive use within the University community. Banner is not a public face of Brown University, it’s a system for managing internal information that needs to be kept secure. Aesthetics and ease of use wouldn’t be top priorities

Even still, with minimal changes Banner can be made significantly easier to navigate. Ideally, Banner would only display options relevant to the user accessing it. As a current Senior, I should not be able to see the links to “Review My Application(s)” (to Brown).

We could eliminate the confusing top menu bar, and have one list of self-explanatory links. Proxy access can be relocated within “Personal Information”, where other similar Confidentiality options are located.

I propose the following Main Menu reorganization:

Eliminating the top menu bar reduces clutter and ambiguity.
The redesigned Registration page has three clearly distinguished options, in plain language.
Finally, with only two clicks, you can quickly and easily navigate to change grade options.

Clear titles would eliminate ambiguity and make it much easier to learn and remember how to navigate to common functions. Though the design would still not be aesthetically pleasing, these simple changes would eliminate much friction in the user experience.

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