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myUMBC gets fresh coat of paint

myUMBC’s interface has been revamped and streamlined for modern devices. The student portal, which was first introduced in 2009, began the updating process earlier in August.  The previous iteration of myUMBC preceded the influx of smartphone technology, leading to a less-than-stellar mobile experience.

Portal architect Collier Jones noted the age of the previous platform. “[myUMBC’s previous interface] was pretty old. I think about three or four years after we launched that … we started getting ideas about how things needed to evolve moving forward.”

The Department of Information Technology wanted to modernize the user experience for modern platforms and to accommodate the needs of modern students. Much of the user interface has been streamlined, with an emphasis on fewer and more meaningful clicks.

This included tailoring the experience of mobile platforms. “30 percent of our traffic was on mobile last week for the first week of classes. Which is pretty high, normally we’ve been sitting around 10 percent for the past few years, but it’s been going up steadily and that’s a huge thing.”

Jones said, “We started making changes last January. We made an updated profile, showing degree requirement visualizations. This fall we replaced the starter page, the guide, and [made] a new events section.”

One of the biggest features implemented is what Jones referred to as the “profile donut.” This uses a donut graph to display the number of completed and current credits and a “student at a glance” overview. Additionally, links to other pages such as financial aid, billing, registration and grades are displayed below respective information such as payments owed and GPA.

An additional revision came to the events function of the site. Jones said, “The old myUMBC had a feed model. For some people it was really, really busy; for others, it was really, really dead. So it was really inconsistent as to the experience that people got when they logged in.”

But there are further updates planned. In the proceeding years, updates to sections such as student organizations are planned. Jones said, “Next fall we’ll be launching the [interface of the] new groups and bring everything from old myUMBC into the new myUMBC. There’s been a lot of planning, a lot of conversation about what to do to move forward.”

The process has, however, had its fair share of difficulties. “Changing everything at once was just a monumental development task because of how big the old system had gotten.”  Additionally, the unified experience of managing both mobile and desktop platforms was one of their main challenges.

But Jones is optimistic about the future of the platform. He said, “We’re not done making changes and we’re really interested in feedback, both good and bad. We’re always happy to hear what people like about the stuff that we’re doing, and hearing what they don’t like.”