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Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Portal Team Holds Usability Evaluations on Pages for Faculty, Staff and Students

A critical aspect of building any new tool is to make sure people have a good experience using it. Small variations in designs can mean the difference between a user finding what they need or failing to do so. The University of Minnesota’s Usability Services recently helped the new myU portal team test how well users are navigating their page designs. They recruited evaluators from across the U to assess the designs’ usability. The team spent three days observing students, staff, and faculty as they were led through designs tailored to their role at the U.

Some staff evaluators were surprised to find so much employee information in the designs. “I thought [myU] was for students, but this is for staff,” more than one participant said. The design team was happy to hear it. “One of the goals we’re trying to accomplish here is having a personalized experience in the new myU,” said William Dana, portal project director. “The purpose of the new myU portal is to help people be successful in getting their business done at the U. To do that, they need tools and information based on who they are and what they need to accomplish. We want to present those to the user in an easy-to-use format.”

There are often insights uncovered in usability testing that designers wouldn’t think of, especially when tailoring each experience to different audiences. When one faculty member took a look at the list of courses she taught, something was off. The list was sorted by title, but “faculty look at the course designator, not the title,” she explained. An easy fix, but one the designer might not have noticed. Getting these small details right can mean the difference between a good experience and a frustrating one.

Over all, the designs tested well with all three groups. “User friendly,” “more specific information than I thought there would be,” and “clean and well-organized,” were heard multiple times over the three days.

The next step is for the team to integrate this feedback and move into deep development on the designs. Stay tuned for a sneak peek of the current designs for myU navigation in the next few weeks!


  1. Looking forward to seeing the new design. Is there a login option on every page? Thank you!

  2. Hi Jenny, thanks for your comment! When the portal goes live, you'll log in by visiting myu.umn.edu. Stay tuned for a sneak peek at the new design soon.