To gain an understanding of the contexts and motivations of users when accessing their financial information on CalCentral, we interviewed a total of 13 students with 5 being graduate students and 8 undergraduate students. Roughly half of the students had financial aid. My contribution is to interview with 6 undergraduate students who had financial aid.
To understand the user’s mental models and to evaluate the information architecture of the site, we conducted card sorting exercises with the same individuals as the qualitative interview. We wrote down each “item” that was on the financial section that we were evaluating and had participants rank the cards from least to most important while thinking aloud. We also had the participants tell us if they thought that the card should belong in the financial resources section.
During this activity, we ・Asked participants to rank cards from least to most important ・Told them they could decide that the card wasn’t relevant to financial resources
Many of our interviewees expressed that they very rarely even looked at the Financial Resources card and didn’t even know what items were there.
The relevancy of resources indeed depended on specific student scenarios. This validated our assumption that there were varying needs between students with and without financial aid, and between undergraduate and graduate students.
There were also links in the Financial Resources card that were considered universally important to all user groups such as direct deposit, payment options, tuition and fees.
・Non-financial resource items
The users expressed confusion over how to organize certain items. They did not understand why it would belong in the financial resources card. This validated our second assumption that there were items that did not belong in the financial resources section.
The labels on some of the links were confusing to the user. They were confused as to what the link meant and where it would direct them.
We conducted a cognitive walkthrough to find the pain points of the current system and gain empathy for the users. For each “item” on the financial resources card, we identified a task we were trying to accomplish. We then asked ourselves the following four questions for each task:
・What do you expect to see?
・Is this what you expected?
・Are you making progress towards your goal?
・What would your next action be?
There were 21 out of 35 links where we did not expect to see what we saw when we clicked on the link. This high number could be due to the task we created for each link. Several insights that we found were:
We found that most links point to external websites not within CalCentral. There were 17 external websites in total. In fact, some links just pointed to different sections of the same external website.
There were also links that went to different external web pages, but for similar content. For example, “Tuition and Fees” and “Cost of Attendance.”
There were some links that went to non-working or relevant pages for the user. For example, there was a link called “Activate Plan,” but when you clicked on the link it brought the user to a page that says “This payment option is not available.”
Reduction and Reorganization of Links
・The first recommendation is to reduce the number of links from 35 to 22 and reorganize the links into 5 main categories: Account Management, Billing and Payment, Financial Aid, Loans, and Taxes.
Visually present less information all at once, and remove redundancies
・Many users mentioned that there were too many link provided and thus, they wouldn’t even look through the list. We suggest to visually present less information by making each section collapsible and expandable so the user can view the information as needed.
・We found that each student has varying needs based on their specific circumstances such as whether they have financial aid, loans, or housing. We would suggest to allow students to customize their experience to a certain degree. For example, they would be able to hide and show certain information or drag and drop to reorganize categories.
After delivering all the key findings and recommendations to Calcentral UX design team, they actually reduced the number of links from 35 to 30.