Feature Story

Bringing user experience to life

By Mount Mary University

Posted on November 27, 2023

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Two UX design students unleashed their skills to re-envision the university website.

This summer, user experience design (UX) students Winla Vang and Galilea Garnica got the chance to put their classroom skills to use in a real-world project: a redesign of the Mount Mary website. User experience is a field that combines psychology with design, considering ways to make products more accessible and usable. Frequently, the term refers to designing for the digital realm, such as apps and websites. Working with the university marketing and communication team, the two students examined ways to improve the Mount Mary website for visitors, particularly current and prospective students.

Vang and Garnica worked together to find solutions using the design thinking process learned during their UX design courses. They focused their effort  on the most frequently visited pages of the site and how they could function more efficiently for users.

They conducted a comprehensive study of similar university websites using a SWOT analysis, which involved identifying strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. This allowed the students to compare and contrast how other schools displayed their information. In addition to the SWOT analysis, the students also collected extensive user data utilizing a campus-wide survey, user interviews and usability tests. This research provided the students with insights into how they can rebuild the website with a user-centered approach enhancing the experience through empathy.

“Being able to empathize with users was one of my favorite aspects of research,” said Vang. “Listening to 

personal anecdotes from current students and having a chance to engage with high school students about how they navigate the website was extremely insightful in our research process.”

Over the course of the project Vang and Garnica discovered several important findings, including areas potentially losing traffic due to issues with navigation. The team also proposed ways to update graphics, photos and icons to create a more visually engaging experience. 

Both students shared their surprise at learning that diverse groups of users had similar feedback.

“We discovered remarkable similarities in their needs and concerns,” said Vang.

Based upon their findings, the students created working prototypes and test pages to demonstrate their proposed redesign. The Mount Mary marketing team plans to put many of the suggested changes into practice. 

“In UX, we seek to understand the needs of users, through research and empathy. We strive to make experiences friendly, inclusive and memorable.”

Both interns left with not only projects to pad their professional resumes, but also the experience of working with a client in a real-world setting.

“As a Latina woman in tech, I’ve come to appreciate that we bring a unique perspective and approach that can make a significant impact in the industry,” said Garnica, who appreciated the chance to put her classroom skills into practice. “Looking ahead, I intend to use the knowledge I’ve honed, and have no doubt they will serve me well in any field I choose to pursue.”