Kent State Registration System: Redesign

This short but sweet project involved reinventing Kent State University’s class registration system.  In order to find what user’s want and need in a site paired with what KSU was willing to offer, I was given a scenario to build off of…

The Kent State University Registrar’s office has approached you with a problem. It has received feedback that its registration system that students use to register for courses each semester is not easy to use, and doesn’t have what they desire: a “modern face.” Currently, the registration system’s user interface has a sort of “mainframe” feel to it. They would like for you to explore some design alternatives that would make the user interface for the registration system one that is not only easy to use, but also perhaps even “fun to use,” and one that resembles what students and others encounter in modern web sites.

Research Plan


Key Issues:

  • The “mainframe” feel is lackluster for users
  • Feedback claims that registration system is not easy to use
  • Not aesthetically pleasing

Objectives/Goals of Research:

  • Are classes easy to register for?
  • What issues are there with having a mainframe? Does this mean that the site only needs a new look?
  • What could be considered outdated about the site aside from aesthetics


When surveys are answered and returned it will be apparent what type of user is using the site. Questions that will be on the survey include:

  1. On a scale of 1-5 (5 being best, 1 being worst) how easy is it to register for classes?
  2. What year are you in school?
  3. What features would make this system easier to use?
  4. On a scale of 1-5 (5 being the best, 1 being the worst), rate your computer skills.

The participants will be students from all grade levels at KSU with an even population from each grade. A month will be needed for surveys to be taken and data to be analyzed. The surveys will be handed out before a participant is directly observed which will allow for a more eefficient timetable and high survey return rate.[/tw-column]

Direct Observation

The goals of observation will be to how users are reaching their goal (whether that be to a certain professor or class) and where they are having issues completing their tasks. All grade levels should participate, as with the survey.

A sample size of 15 students from each level would give a population of 60 to study, though more will need to be contacted in order to achieve this sample size. In order to collect names, gather individuals for this research, and organize notes taken, a month will be needed for this phase of the project.

Competitive Analysis

Registration systems on websites such as Skillshare and will be examined.  This analysis will be helpful in finding out how successful registration systems are built. It will help develop new ideas for the KSU registration system and discover shortcuts to cut down time spent designing the new system.

The biggest questions that should be asked and answered during this phase include how are other registration systems operate, what their interface looks like, and what works/does not work about the site. This phase should be given a few weeks to complete and done after or during the surveys and observations.


After the collection of data, it will need to be organized appropriately. Survey results will be to be placed into graphs and observational data can coincide to see where there is overlap. Once that data is analyzed it should be judged against the competitive analysis data to examine for further overlaps. Any differences should not be disregarded. With the analysis of all the data collected, key issues with the site should be able to be properly addressed with solutions.

Persona & Design Tenets


Design Tenets

Watching the Clock

People are always running to the next appointment, make their time matter This will guide the project because the typical student is busy and has a life to attend to, registering is another stressor added to their schedule. The user need to know exactly what needs to be done and when in order to get started in their registration process.


It functions well and looks good too. Design should always draw in the user. This will guide the project because beautiful visual design is important for first impressions and lasting user engagement. This will give the site the modern feel users are looking for.

Servant’s Heart

The system works for the user, the user should not work for the system This will guide the project by reminding the team that the user should not have to guess at what they need to do in order to register. The redesigned site should have limited confusion and really serve the user.

Point of Convergence

Focus creates clear pathways and ultimately guides towards user goals This will guide the project because ultimately, each student has the goal of graduating in a timely matter in the eld of their choice. When the future of what classes the student needs to take is predicted, stress is alleviated from the student and they will be able to participate in a worry free process.

Got Your Back

Always trustworthy and won’t give up This will guide the project because the registration system needs to be reliable in order to cut down on user frustrations and gain user trust. For example, errors, such as class permissions, need to be taken care of within the site rather than having to contact an advisor. The site should be organized and constructed in a way that the user can get to their end goal without many or any errors.

Interface Sketches

Kent State Review

Download Kent State Review PDF

Heuristic Evaluation


Registration is an integral part of the college experience. The Kent State University registration system is an online system students use to register for classes. This heuristic evaluation provides insight of the usability of such a system. The target audience is all users that need to register for classes which can involve both students and advisors.

Usability Testing

Usability testing focuses on learnability, efficiency, memorability, errors, and satisfaction. By completing usability testing, results will show if the Kent State University registration system is functioning to the benefit of its users. In addition, completing a heuristic evaluation provides a tool to evaluate the usability of the system. It is quick and inexpensive while giving valuable results. It disregards the need to collect subject data since the evaluators are also able to provide the data. They are able to judge against a set of rules that will guide them throughout the evaluation process and convene with other evaluators.


Jessica Kainu – Kathryn Hawkes – Jeffrey Krebs

Usability Heuristics

Jakob Nielson’s principles of usability were utilized in this evaluation. Seven of them include:

  • Visibility of System Status
  • User Control & Freedom
  • Consistency & Standards
  • Recognition Rather than Recall
  • Aesthetic & Minimalist Design
  • Help, Documentation, Recovery from Errors
  • Language



Seven of Nielson’s principles were used for the evaluation. Inside each principle were related items that each evaluator graded from a scale of

  • 0-2. 0 = Poor
  • 1 = Good
  • 2 = Excellent

The median of each category/principle was found by combining each evaluator’s results which provided an overall median that could be compared and contrasted against.

Visibility of System Status

Median: 1 – Good

Evaluators thought the visibility of system status was good overall. It was not difficult to figure out which page was being viewed. However, evaluator’s had difficulty locating what they were looking for because the pages were very cluttered with text. There was not much that visually differentiated one section from another leaving the user in a sea of text. Even though the user could click on class CRNs, that was not enough information to tell them what page they would be visiting from that action.

User Control & Freedom

Median: 0.5 – Not bad but not good either

Evaluators though user control and freedom was not bad but not good either overall. All evaluators agreed it was difficult to access the homepage once the user navigated away from it. This is detrimental especially when a user feels lost. When they ares lost, a suggestion was to have a thorough technology help guide available.

Consistency & Standards

Median: 1.5 – Better than good but not great

Evaluators thought that the consistency and standards were better than good but not great overall. Links where not easily differentiated yet that appeared to be the only issue among evaluators. Utilizing different browsers did not appear to effect experience. Though the site had some confusion it was able to hold its integrity and not appear disjointed.

Recognition Rather than Recall

Median: 1.5 – Better than good but not great

Evaluators agreed that recognition rather than recall was better than good but not great overall. Available actions were clearly presented most of the time. The site does an excellent job of describing their labels and links.

Aesthetic & Minimalist Design

Median: 1 – Good

Evaluators agreed that the aesthetic and minimalist design was good overall. Errors were clearly labeled in red and information was placed correctly. There are great things about the design but also some heavy flaws. The site is unappealing to look at and though information is placed correctly, there is too much of it that does not pertain to the specific user.

Help, Documentation & Recovery from Errors

Median: 2 – Excellent

Overall, evaluators agreed that help, documentation, and recovering from errors was excellent. It was easy to exit or cancel operations, what the user did not need to complete. There was help available for technical issues with the site but not for registration and account assistance.


Median: 2 – Excellent

Evaluators agreed that overall, the language of the site was excellent. The language was simple and easy to understand.


Median: 1.5 – Better than good but not great

The Kent State University registration system scored well overall. It complies with Nielsen’s usability principles. Below is a list of strengths and weaknesses from the evaluators and a few recommendations for improvements.


Scored above 1

  • It is easy to access all major portions of the site from the Home Page.
  • The site supports all major browsers.
  • Link labels match destination page titles or headers.
  • Overall, the site behaves like one would expect a web site to behave. • Labels and links are described clearly.
  • If needed, an FAQ is available.
  • No errors occur unnecessarily.
  • If necessary, error messages are clear and in plain language.
  • It is easy to cancel or exit from operations.
  • The content language is clear and simple.


Scored below 1

  • It is not always clear where you can go from the current location.
  • It is not always clear what is happening from each action you perform.
  • It is not always easy to return to the Home Page.
  • Graphic links are not always available as text links.
  • Links are not used and appear in standard web style.
  • Menus are not used and appear in standard web style.
  • The site structure is not simple and clear without any unnecessary complications.
  • The site is not aesthetically pleasing.
  • It is difficult to contact support through email or a web form.
  • A search function is not readily available.


The registration site is not perfect. It could benefit from the following recommendations. There is a sea of text that floods the homepage and other pages there after. There needs to be less text, more white space, and perhaps graphics to guide the user to what they need. Links could be color-coded and/or underlined. They need text stylization to make it obvious that they are clickable. Not all links are clear when they are clicked. There should be a button in the navigation to always return to the home screen. Though errors received were relevant to the task, they would not give a suggestion of what user should do instead. There is no visual engagement for the user. Information on the page is not organized well. Both of these issues could be solved by introducing shapes and color instead of a white background with black text. Though there is access to technical help, there should also be access to help with registration and user accounts. There needs to be an accessible back button since using the browser’s may result in loss of information and/ or errors. There is an ability to search by CRN but it is not simple to use and not easily accessible. A contextual search option should also be available with the navigation. This will aid in a speedier registration process and help the user that feels lost.

Download Heuristic Evaluation PDF