MyUW

MyUW is a personalized University of Washington web application that serves all members of the UW community across three campuses and the UW Medical Centers. In 2016, we set out to retire the legacy service launched in 2000 and design a new, more relevant MyUW.

2016–2018

My Role

  • UX lead for the instructor/staff team.
    Jul 2016 – Dec 2016
  • Product Owner and UX designer for instructor/staff team.
    Jan 2017 – Present

Activities

Survey of course admin assistants, Interviews with faculty, usability testing, analytics review, information architecture, sketching and wireframing, pageflow diagrams, prototyping, front-end development, backlog prioritization, Jira administration and release management, and client support.

Design Problem

How might we best support faculty and staff on a new MyUW platform so that all 130k users of the legacy MyUW could seamlessly migrate to it? How could we do it in such a way that we would not degrade the experience for students? These were the design problems we faced as the warranty on our aging hardware expired.

Approach

Understanding Faculty

We conducted both interviews and surveys with UW instructors to better understand their workflows and needs with respect to teaching.

Key findings:

  • Life as an instructor is dynamic and fast paced. Tasks and information needs change throughout the quarter, but are cyclical and predictable.
  • Instructors in different circumstances, such as teaching a course for the first time or using a new technology, face different challenges that require different support.
  • Instructors frequently used MyUW, UW Libraries, Google searches, and various courseware tools and found them to be valuable to their teaching. The UW homepage and some department sites were not seen as that useful.
  • Many of the resources on the legacy MyUW were not used often, while others were used during specific times in the quarter.
analyzing interviews with sticky notes Annotating and organizing interview highlights with sticky notes

Instructor preparation workflow Instructor pre-quarter preparation workflow

Defining a Vision and Strategy

Based on our research and previous research done with students, we knew that for MyUW to be most useful it needed to be timely, personal, and relevant. This was in stark contrast to the legacy MyUW, which provided the same set of hundreds of links to all users.


MyUW is timely, personal, and relevant


Given our strict deadline and limited development resources, we devised a three-staged strategy. This was important because it aligned the team around where we were going and how we planned to get there. While we are still only in stage one, this framework helped clarify the opportunity space ahead of us.

Diagram of three-stage strategy

Prototyping and Evaluation

Adding instructor content to the simple, one-page MyUW app being used by students meant the app would get significantly larger. We needed to reorganize the application to accommodate for this, as well as review labels and prioritize content for users with both student and instructor content. Our next step was to develop three different concepts for how users could experience our information architecture. We then built three mobile prototypes in Invision and conducted usability tests with both instructors and teaching assistants to evaluate the effectiveness of each design.

Three MyUW prototypes in Invision Prototypes used to test three different concepts.

Next, we developed recommendations based on observations from the study. Our new design should continue to have a “Teaching” page because this was familiar to users. We should avoid putting management features behind disclosures because that hid them from users. At-a-glance information for balances, tuition, etc. should be available from the homepage. Most importantly, we learned that no single navigation scheme was the obvious best path forward; each had pros and cons.

Our final decision was to move the main navigation to the left column so that it would be in a familiar location to our users. For mobile, the navigation menu was placed in the top left. While not as reachable as the menus at the bottom, this was easier to find for participants and was a pattern people were familiar with.

MyUW's final, responsive design The final design kept the navigation menu on the left for desktops and moved it to the top left, next to the page title, for tablet and mobile-sized screens.

Core Content for Instructors

We designed the core content needed of instructors in parallel with the efforts to redesign our navigation scheme. To prepare for their courses instructors needed their teaching schedule, links to relevant tools and resources, access to course evaluations and their student lists, and easy access to the UW’s academic calendar.

After the course is going, instructors need less detailed data. Primarily they use MyUW to see their daily schedule and access course-related tools such as Canvas.

To accommodate these needs we created detailed cards for each course they were teaching. These cards provided institutional data such as the meeting time, enrollments, etc. in a clear, organized list. Actions instructors can take are linked right from the card to make them easy to find. Future quarters were listed above as tabs and provided single-click access for preparation tasks, which typically occurred halfway through the quarter. Related resources were added based on historical usage data from the legacy MyUW, paring down over 50 links to just 13.

Screenshot of Teaching Page Final design for the Teaching Page.

On the homepage we added a streamlined version of instructors’ schedules and links to the most commonly used tools. Users could also add their own bookmarks in the Quick Links. We added an Academic Calendar widget to the homepage so that instructors could passively stay abreast of upcoming vacations and registration schedules.

Screenshot of homepage for instructors Final design for the homepage as seen by an instructor.

Visual Design

Much of the core branding and visual design direction were already set with the initial release of MyUW, before I joined the project. That being the case, I continue to advocate for small refinements to spacing and typography, which I believe make MyUW feel more balanced and organized. There is still much I would like to accomplish, but MyUW is moving in the right direction.

One such change is a move to an 8 pixel grid system. This has helped standardize the spacing between items which adds to the feeling of refinement.

Another change I’m currently working on is a simplified scheme for typography. MyUW currently uses many typefaces for a variety of purposes. This contributes to confusion and distraction more than necessary.

Typography study with Open Sans In-progress work to simplify MyUW's typography.

Next Steps

The new MyUW was made available to instructors and staff July 2017. Since then we have solicited and received a lot of feedback from early adopters about what they would like to see next. Instructors who teach many courses and secondary sections want the ability to hide, show, and collapse courses as they see fit. Researchers and staff want specific links to the websites and tools they use the most. Staff would also like to see more UW personality added, such as background photos and live camera feeds from campus.

As a team, we are excited to move into stage two of our strategy. I personally believe this is where there is the most opportunity to help instructors and staff get work done via well-timed messaging and more integrated campus services.


Learn more about MyUW at:
https://itconnect.uw.edu/learn/tools/myuw-help-center/