Redesigning an Online Course Registration System for Kent State University

A Case Study in UXD Process

The Client

Kent State University (KSU) Registrar*

The Problem

The online course registration system at Kent State University (KSU) is outdated and boring. The university has even received complaints that their course registration interface is antiquated and hard-to-use.

The Goal

Re-design the KSU online course registration system using modern interface standards and taking into account provided user and stakeholder information derived from previous research.

Methods and Deliverables

research plan proposal• assumption persona • journey map • design tenets • heuristic evaluation • sketches• wireframes

My Role

For this project I was responsible for creating all deliverables and artifacts, from the research plan to the wireframes. For the heuristic evaluation in particular, I evaluated the current KSU online registration system along with 3 other evaluators.

Additional Team Members

KSU Faculty • 3 heuristic evaluators

The Process

Exploratory Research Plan

The first step in the process was to come up with an exploratory research plan. The goals of this initial stage of research were to:

  1. Gain a better understanding of the target demographic
  2. Inquire about the needs and requirements of the users
  3. Ask users about their likes and dislikes regarding the online registration system
  4. Identify which points of interaction with the current system cause users the highest levels of frustration
  5. Find out which websites aesthetically appeal to the users
  6. Investigate which analogies could be used in the UI and validate which users prefer based on their website suggestions

This spreadsheet template was used to ensure that research methods were properly aligned with goals, and to make sure recruiting, sample questions, and timetables. A detailed visual timeline was also plotted out to aid the planning process, and gain a better idea of overlap and resources needed.

Assumption persona visual artifact

Assumption Persona

Based on the previously collected information about users and stakeholders, assumption personas were created. Assumption personas are useful for getting the team to stop thinking about themselves as the end user.

Journey Map

A journey map was created to complement the assumption persona. The journey map seeks to visually describe the users’ current process and identify pain points. This journey map also calls out what parts of the process are done mechanically instead of digitally. Journey maps can be made for one or more personas.

Journey map of the current registration process

Design Tenets

The information provided gave us an idea to get an idea of what the most important concepts are for the redesign, according to users and stakeholders. Based on this information a set of design tenets were defined. These tenets will be used to keep the project on track when important design decisions need to be made.

Candid Simplicity
A simple, minimalistic user interface should be embraced without hiding or obscuring access to important features at each step.
Automated Personalization
Wherever possible, previously obtained information in the system should be leveraged to provide the user with the most customized experience possible.
Fingertip Flow
The tools needed at each step of the flow should be displayed in an obvious, but non-obtrusive way, at the user’s fingertips.
Less Time, More Efficiency
The less time a user spends registering for classes, the more efficient the system is.
Digital Kingdom
Provide users with any necessary information in a digital format.

Heuristic Evaluation

A heuristic evaluation was conducted in order to rate the current registration system interface and identify strong and weak points. Seven of ten usability heuristics, as defined by Jakob Nielsen, were used for this evaluation. Four evaluators contributed and an average rating was calculated for each of the seven heuristics.

Snapshot of heuristic evaluation showing ratings and comments


After completing the previous artifacts, it was time to assimilate all the knowledge gathered and begin to define a new user flow and draft some ideas for the different screens. A user flow was sketched out, followed by cycles of sketching screens and reviewing the sketches.


For the final stage of the project, a lo-fi version of the sketched wireframes was created using Apple Keynote.

Lo-fi course registration view wireframe

Observations and Lessons Learned

  1. In order to run a successful and efficient user research cycle a lot of detailed planning is required.
  2. Make sure to use previously obtained data when available so that research is not being repeated.
  3. Although not a part of the scope for this project, it is important to create a journey map for all potential system users. For example, at KSU, both advisors and students need to use the registration system. It would be important to chart both of these journey maps in order to gain a more complete understanding of system use. Nevertheless, for the purposes of this project only the student user was taken into account.
  4. Competitive analysis would have been a great addition to the project, given more time or resources. It is in the best interest of the school to make sure their system is familiar to users and where possible surpasses their expectations.
  5. Ideally a few informal paper prototyping sessions could have been conducted between the sketching and wireframing stages, as well as additional usability testing after creating a basic prototype.

*This project was done as a part of the KSU Master’s program in User Experience Design