Amplifying Remote Resources

Overview

Role: UX Designer
Organization: University of Michigan Information & Technology Services
Team: UX Designer, UX Writer, Engineers, and Marketing
Duration: 4 Months

The University of Michigan Information & Technology Service(ITS) Campus Computing provides software to students. With the 2020-2021 being the University's first virtual school year, Campus Computing needed a way to effectively communicate their remote software services. The team collaborated to provide a streamlined website that allowed University affiliates to find and utilize remote software provided by the University of Michigan.
"We are excited about the results. Once we really got into it we realized we could use a broader overhaul of the Campus Computing Software web presence so that everything is more cohesive, BYO options are more clear in context of the rest of our offerings, and we address some points of confusion we've received feedback on in the past." - Project Supervisor

The Problem

With 2020-2021 being the University of Michigan's (U-M) first virtual school year, Campus Computing needed a way to effectively communicate remote software service offerings to U-M affiliates.

The Process

Discovery

Campus Computing offers four remote software service options to University of Michigan affiliates.

Campus Computing is responsible for Printing, Software, Computer Labs, and Support Services at the University of Michigan (U-M)
What is Campus Computing Service?
Campus Computing Software Services
U-M uses the AppsAnywhere application to provide software to affiliates. However, the software service options were branded and defined around how users accessed the AppsAnywhere platform. Each option was limited to a certain operating system and offered a different user experience.

AppsAnywhere
Accessing the AppsAnywhere platform from computer labs - Mac & PC

Virtual Sites
A remote desktop environment used to access AppsAnywhere - Mac & PC

SitesAnywhere
Connecting to AppsAnywhere from a personal device - PC only

Sites @ Home
A computer loaner program with AppsAnywhere pre-loaded on the device - PC only

Ahead of the new school year, Campus Computing made improvements to the backend of Virtual Sites but the web presence of the Virtual Sites service was described internally as sparse and in need of TLC.
New & Improved
The initial goal of the project was to improve the web presence of Virtual Sites.
Initial Project Goal

Research: Virtual Sites

Important information about Virtual Sites was sprinkled throughout different pages across the Campus Computing website.

At the beginning of this project, I made a site map to explore how users learned about and accessed Virtual Sites. From the home page, there were two ways in which users could learn of Virtual Sites.
Diving Into Virtual Sites
1. The Virtual Sites Landing Page explanation of the service was confusing because it required users to know about other software services and did not highlight benefits of the service.
Issues With Virtual Sites Web Presence
Virtual sites landing page
2. Virtual Sites Documentation Page was a long, external page that buried important service requirements (use of VPN).
3. The benefits of Virtual Sites was limited to the Using Your Own Device Page which was used to highlight personal device-related software service options.
USing your own device page
After understanding the web presence of Software Services, the goal of the project was to improve the entire web presence of Software Services across the Campus Computing website.
New Project Goal

Brainstorm, Sketches, & Initial Concepts: Virtual Sites

Initial concepts focused on adding clarity and context to the Virtual Sites landing page.

Improvements to the virtual sites landing  page included: using plain language to define the service and highlighting the improvements and benefits.
Improving the Virtual Sites Landing and Documentation Pages
Virtual Sites Iteration
With Virtual Sites being one of four software service options, I conducted additional research on the greater Software Service web presence to learn about the context surrounding Virtual Sites.
Exploring the Context Around Virtual Sites

Research

Through exploring the Software Service web presence I discovered that issues identified during initial Virtual Sites research were also present across other software service options.

External and outdated documentation pages, little clarity between software services options, and ___ contributed to an overall poor UX for understanding the software service lineup.
Audit and Sitemap of Software Services Website
Site Map of Software Services
Users needed to know if the software they required was available, what software service option was right for them, and how to access the software. While the existing software list page provided a table view for users to see a list of available software, other user needs were either non-existent or buried in the web architecture.
Analysis and Revealing Areas of Opportunity
From the navigation, Software was the only Campus Computing service pillar without an overview page. Without a central location, users needed to find and review four separate pages to get a full picture of all software service options.
1. No central location for all things software
Campus Computing Home page
The content of the information used to describe the service options was hard to follow. Use of historical naming conventions also made it hard to decipher between seemingly similar service options.
2. Lack of clarity
SitesAnywhere Landing PAge

Brainstorm, Sketches, & Initial Concepts

Initial concepts attempted to tackle the issues of clarity by adding more context, but resulted in dense pages

Initial attempts to provide clarity through context resulted in lengthy pages subjecting users to non-relevant information. Feedback sessions indicated that providing everything about a service option on a single documentation page was overwhelming.
The Cost of Clarity
Virtual Sites Iteration
The design of the software service overview page began with a comparison table. This allowed the team to have a shared understanding about the different software service options and served as a jumping off point for how to best communicate  service offerings to users
Creating a Software Service page
Comparison Table of Software Services

Iteration & Refinement

Iterations focused on designing the software service website architecture around user tasks.

Working through the comparison table revealed historical issues in communicating services from the past. AppsAnywhere is the name of the application used to access software and the name of one of the four Software Service Option. Branding the use of the AppsAnywhere application based on how it was accessed lacked transparency and created additional confusion for users when trying to identify which software option would be ideal.
Removing Legacy Conventions
Diagram of Service Options
In collaboration with ITS UX team, later iterations focused on designing around relevant user tasks. Having an organized structure created parallelism between each software service option and made it easier to understand and navigate the wealth of information.  Overview, Features & Benefits, Getting Started, and Common Tasks pages existed within each service option: Virtual Sites, Sites@Home, and AppsAnywhere (accessible via Virtual Sites, personal PC, and computer labs)
Sitemap of Service Page Structure & ITS Branding
Sitemap of Software Services Redesign

Prototyping

Google Docs was a low-cost method to solicit feedback and mimic task based navigation.

ITS uses Drupal to develop their websites. With most of sketching taking place in Google docs, we continued to use Google Docs to prototype. This allowed the team to focus on the content and mimicked what it what it would feel like to navigate pages. The ITS style guide could also be easily recreated using heading styles in Google Docs.
Lo-Fi Prototype
ITS Style Guide
Virtual Sites Prototype
AppsAnywhere Prototype
With the new design retiring the SitesAnywhere brand, we had conversations early on with marketing to align our communication plan.
Marketing

Development

This initiative started after the semester had begun, which required a rapid cadence of iterative developments

Using an agile methodology we worked with ITS Engineering teams to develop the website in Drupal. In addition to the new service pages and based on user feedback we also updated  the software list page by adding more information about the software service options and access groups
ITS Engineering
APPSANywhere Redesign
Software List Redesign

Solution

A broader overhaul of the Campus Computing Software Service website made everything more cohesive, software service options more clear, and addressed some historical points of confusion.

The website architecture had more parallelism between the software services provided by Campus Computing. Each software service website had the same structure: Overview, Getting Started, Features & Benefits, and Common Tasks. The new design featured transparent access methods, users could access AppsAnywhere via Virtual Sites, Personal PCs, and at Computer Labs. Through bitesized documentation oranized by task, users could quickly navigate to pertinent information.

A  Cohesive Experience
Virtual Sites: Software Service Page
AppsAnywhere: Software Service Page
Clarity was achieved through shorter documentation organized by user tasks.
Clarity
Virtual Sites: Getting Started
Virtual Sites: Features & benefits
Virtual Sites: Common Tasks
Virtual Sites: Documentation
Establishing a Software Service landing created parallelism between Software services and other Campus Computing service areas (ie. Printing, Computer Labs, Support) and added 34% of missing or buried content to the main navigation. It also provided an overview of all things software at Campus Computing including: types of software offered, access groups, and access methods 
Provided Context Needed for Users to Make Informed Decisions
Before: CAmpus Computing LAnding PAge
after: CAmpus Computing LAnding PAge