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Centennial Student Hub Case Study

January 2021 - April 2021

A Case Study and Implementation Strategy done for the redesign of Centennial College's Student Hub site. 

MY ROLE

UX / UI Designer & Researcher

COLLABORATORS

Juhi Chakraverty, Shantia Cross, Pateel Bedoyan, Tee Kundu

TOOLS

InVision, Adobe XD, Photoshop, Illustrator

Current Context

The Student Hub was a section of Centennial College’s main website aimed to help current students access all the resources the college had to offer. It was intended to be the one-stop-shop for all students. Our project goal was to increase reach to its target audience (students), improve the overall experience of the Student Hub, and make it a crucial online resource for students to utilize during their academic year. In doing so, we hoped that the Hub would become a valuable tool that enhanced the on-campus experience of students.

Content Audit

Centennial College's Student Hub contained a vast amount of information and content touching all aspects of student life from first day to graduation and beyond. In addition to its content, the site had a large user base that included domestic students, international students, and students coming from many different backgrounds and stories. Lastly, the content on the Student Hub touched subjects that were beyond school (jobs permits, residency in Canada, etc.) which could be complex to deal with. It was with these findings (content variety, user base, and subject complexity) that we presented its strengths and weaknesses.

Strengths

  • Amount and variety of content

  • Voice and tone 

  • Preview copy

Weaknesses

  • Structure and architecture

  • Standardize page structure

  • Incomplete information

  • Images, video, and diagrams could be better used

Competitive Analysis

A competitive analysis of other colleges and universities across Ontario was conducted in order to understand what strategies other schools had implemented. We looked at what works, what doesn't work, and what needs to be considered. Here were the results.

  • Centennial College’s Student Hub did well against their competitors when it came to the time it took to complete tasks.

  • Centennial College did lack in the Ease of Navigation category compared to its direct competitors Seneca College, and Humber College’s Student Life section. The lack of page and content standardization is what made it lose in this category compared to its competitors.

  • Seneca does have a live chat agent that can help students find specifically what they were looking for or answer any questions they may have. This feature is a great way for the student page to connect with students and leave them satisfied after visiting and finding what they need.

  • The flow of the Student Hub’s content compared to other colleges were good, but could be improved if it was better organized to suit user specific needs when searching on the site.

  • University of Toronto and Centennial College have the least information for Indigenous students.

  • Centennial's Student Hub had a great tone and voice, the site read as friendly, engaging and almost conversational, with important topics being more serious.

Problem Definition

The problem with the Student Hub was its difficulty in navigation and unclear content architecture. This resulted in a lack of meaningful engagement from its users - the students. Therefore the Student Hub became an obstacle for students rather than a helping hand.

Target Audience

Five Users to Empower

We recognized that the Student Hub was first and foremost for students and therefore in our user research, we wanted to cover a broad spectrum of students. In speaking with our clients, it became clear that three user groups in particular needed a voice in the project - International students, Indigenous students, and students with disabilities.

With these users kept in the forefront of our research, we also understood the importance of including Domestic students in our research as they made up a significant portion of the student body. Lastly, we recognized the difficulties that Mature students had in finding information relevant to them, so we wanted to ensure that they were also a part of our research. 

Surveys and Interviews

Our goal for surveying and interviewing students was to understand their everyday and macro needs. We wanted to have an understanding of what it is they do on a daily basis on campus and then see how the Student Hub could aid them in doing their tasks. Some of these tasks may be going to the gym or attending their classes.

On a macro level, we wanted to understand if there were any broader issues that the Hub was not answering. For example, stress and anxiety can be difficult to deal with for many students but how did the Student Hub aid in overcoming this? 

In summary, we knew our goal for the Student Hub was for it to effectively provide resources to its students. But our question was: what are the resources that students need? Our survey helped to answer this by giving us a better understanding of each user group. In addition to surveying, we conducted individual interviews with other students. 

Personas

Although our personas focused on International and Indigenous students, students with disabilities, domestic students, and mature students, we did not want only those traits to define them. Each of our personas had habits and stories that may be shaped by their background, but they were all unique individuals inspired by our user research

In each persona, we used a “Day in the Life” to understand the tasks they carry out. Based on those tasks, they had certain feelings and desires about the Student Hub as outlined in the “Emotions” and “Goals for the Student Hub” sections.

Persona_Aiyana
Persona_Aiyana

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Persona_Kevin
Persona_Kevin

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Persona_Anika
Persona_Anika

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Persona_Aiyana
Persona_Aiyana

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Implementation and Design Strategy

Voice and Tone

Since the Student Hub is likely on of the first pages a student will visit, the voice and tone needs to be welcoming. Additionally, content needs to have a clear voice that guides the user to the correct information. This is because many students will be using it to find out what is happening on campus. Therefore the voice and tone of the Student Hub should be welcoming, helpful, and informative. It should be sensitive to the students, adapting to appropriate language when addressing certain subjects.

Content Guidelines

Headings

All pages should have appropriate headings, relevant to the information being presented and contain key words for SEO optimization.

Videos

All videos should have relevant titles and be captioned for accessibility.​

Body Content

All content must be up-to-date. Large bodies of text should be broken up by subheadings. Lastly, be mindful of using confusing / ambiguous language.

Images

Images should be up-to-date, high-quality, and relevant. Images should represent diversity and represent student life on campus. All images must contain ALT text.

Links

Links should be accompanied by meaningful and intuitive CTA. Ensure that there are no dead links.​

Information Architecture

The organization of the Student Hub should:

  • Designate a specific page for International and Indigenous students. 

  • Categorize and define the resources that are available to students.

  • Give students easy access to the clubs and communities at Centennial.

  • Promote main events that are happening on campus.

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Moving Forward

The goal of Centennial's Student Hub was to be a one-stop shop for its students. However many were not aware of its existence and found it much easier to do a generic internet search to find the resources they were looking for. In our research we found that the scope of the Hub could be better defined - more specific to tackle the pain points of its user. 

As we handed over the project to the client, we gave the following final recommendations.

  • Create meaningful content for marginalized communities like the Indigenous and LGBTQ+ students.

  • Provide the Indigenous community a stronger virtual / online presence.

  • Separate SaGE and International Student services (maintain SaGE for student exchange programs only).

  • Improve accessibility for student with disabilities (web and mobile).

  • Merge Student Life content with Student Hub content as there was content overlap and redundancies.

  • Maintain consistency and standards across entire site.

  • Focus on providing useful and actionable content for students.

My Takeaways

This project was a challenge of content strategy and design - what content is important to the user? how can we provide them this content through intuitive means? how do we organize a site that is so rich in information and resources? The following skills and method were used in order to deliver an Implementation Strategy for this project.

  • UX Research - content audit, competitive analysis, SWOT analysis

  • Problem Definition

  • Empathy - user interviews, surveying, persona creation

  • Content Strategy - voice and tone, content guidelines / standardization, designing an information architecture

  • Communication - working with internal design team and external clients, presenting ideas to stakeholders

This Implementation Strategy was handed over to the client and the project is currently being developed and tested by Centennial College. If you would like to chat with me about this project, please shoot me an email and I will be delighted to get back to you!