Business CASE

An online university required the development of a suite of online admissions tools for web and mobile to improve overall market conversions by enhancing the prospective student registration process. These tools aimed to assist students with determining a course of study, assess the cost of tuition, and provide real-time transfer credit evaluations.

The Problem

Selecting the right program is critical to helping students start or continue on the right career path. The university's wide range of programs provides myriad options, yet due to the breath of program information and lack of decision-making tools, selecting the best course of study can be very difficult for prospective students. Of additional importance is understanding the transfer value of previous study credits and finally, a clear understanding of the financial burden to the student.

How do we create a tool that would allow students to compare potential avenues of study that would hold into consideration past work experience and studies (if applicable), and offer comparative information on program requirements, time to completion, and the financial costs of the program? Additionally, how do we improve conversion funnel performance and cycle time?


  • Create a way for prospective students to compare up to three programs at a time

  • Present program outlines with abbreviated information that offers the most important information for decision-making

  • Create a way to save/email comparison results

  • Create a way to request contact by an advisor

  • Enhanced search capabilities that allow drill-down criteria


  • Organized degree levels

  • Clear and concise program labels

  • Simple search and filter capabilities

  • Simplified views and decluttering of information

  • Highlight the most important info in a high-level format for easy scanning

The Solution

A Program Comparison tool that enables the side-by-side comparison of key information on multiple academic programs that will aid students in selecting the best fit for their background and career aspirations. 

Additional tools apart of this project not featured in this case study: Time and Tuition Estimator and College Transfer Credit Evaluation Tool.


These enhancements improved online student experiences allowing prospective students to choose programs that were more closely matched to their career paths, as well as providing transparency from the beginning for time-to-completion of a program and transfer credits. There was an overall decrease in customer service calls in the areas of transfer credit inquiries, program requirements and prerequisites, and an overall increase in market conversions by over 30%. 


UX Design, Requirements Development, User Stories, User Research



Requirements Analysis,  Persona Development, Task Analysis, User Journeys and Flows, Sketching, Wireframes, contextual research and analysis, A/B testing, Web Analytics, Rapid Prototyping and Usability Testing, Low and High-Fidelity Mockups



Sketch, Balsamiq, Axure,, Excel




Initial usability testing occurred between December 2 and December 7, 2016. Testing was unmoderated and conducted remotely by UserZoom with audio/video/screen recording. Participants were given three or more tasks and asked to think aloud while completing them. Each task included follow-up questions. Participants were asked to score tasks after completion on a scale of 1-7, with 1 being negative and 7 being positive.

Purpose: Determine design inconsistencies and usability problem areas.

Comparison Tools Tested: Capella University, American Military University, Discover Card Degree Comparison

Findings Summary

  • The online comparison concept is familiar

  • A degree comparison tool will help with the decision-making process

  • There were no military-specific issues or suggestions

  • Degree levels and program titles must be clear and concise

  • Search and Filter features are important. The immersive approach should also be intuitive


  • Use a side-by-side page layout. This is the most simple and effective way to visually compare

  • Include Search functionality

  • Recommended categories for comparison: (a.) Program Description, (b.) Core Courses, (c.) Total Tuition and (d.) Total Program Credits

  • Use succinct and descriptive titles and descriptions

  • Use consistent rates for program costs (ie. Tuition per credit, Tuition per quarter, etc.)




Key Performance Indicators

Based on our competitive analysis and initial user research, we defined our key performance indicators for which we would base our designs and measure success for the business and prospective students.


The university college has two main student types, new students with transferring credits who work a full or part-time job, and new students without transferring credits who work a full or part-time job.


USER Process FLOWs

Version 1

Prospective students enter the tool through three entry points: browsing academic programs, internal link from other program pages, and links from pre-selected program comparisons combinations. They are able to filter and compare up to three programs at a time. 


Version 2

After a first round of feedback, students identified a need to be able to save their results as well as submit a form to have an advisor contact them to further discuss their results and program options. This option also supported marketing interests by increasing conversions from prospective student to enrolled student, as we could see a direct effect on enrollment rates between prospective students who requested help vs those who did not.


Version 3

In the third version, prospective students are now able to add and change programs within the screen to make a variety of comparisons. We also added the capability to email results so that they may be reviewed again without having to revisit the program comparison tool and go through the entire process again. 



In developing the solution, I began with very low-fidelity sketches in Balsamiq. After three feedback sessions, the final wires successfully incorporated the main pain points users identified in our interviews. A major pain point was the need to be able to compare programs simultaneously. Competitive research also revealed to us that other academic institutions provided this very helpful feature to prospective students.


Program Selection and Comparison

Understanding the student journey, we identified that the first step in the process of the student journey was to browse programs.


When browsing programs, students are able to filter various parameters to narrow down the selection to more relevant paths.

Now they are able to make selections based on the chosen parameters and compare up to three of them.


The selected programs in a side-by-side comparison for easy comparative review. If less than three were selected initially, the student is able to add an additional third program for comparison.

Comparison Results Wires.jpg

And finally, they are able to submit a request to have an advisor contact them for more information on any of the selected programs.


Wireframes - Tablet

Comparison Wires Tablet2.jpg
Comparison Wires Tablet3.jpg
Comparison Wires Tablet4.jpg


We designed a web prototype in order to begin usability testing of the site with low-fidelity wireframes. Testing was moderated and conducted in-person with audio/video/screen recording.

Ten participants were given three or more tasks and asked to think aloud while completing them. Each task included follow-up questions. Participants were then asked to score tasks after completion on a scale of 1-7 with 1 being negative and 7 being positive. They were given branded swag for their time.

Findings Summary

Round 1: Findings Summary

  • All participants were successful in finding programs in the Project Management field of study.

  • Most participants thought the All Programs page was too long.

  • One participant didn’t use the filter. This participant scrolled down the list of programs instead.

  • Confusing long list of degrees.

Round 2: Findings Summary

  • Alphabetized list of degrees and filtering options were great.

  • A lot of scrolling.

  • Most participants were able to compare programs.

  • One participant missed the Compare button and did not compare programs. This participant clicked on the program title instead.


  • The system should keep original comparison results if the user has to navigate back to “All Programs” to add more programs to the comparison.

  • Include the option to remove a program from the comparison results page.

  • Provide content-specific inquiry forms.

  • Provide options to Save and/or Email comparisons and/or individual programs.

high fidelity mockups

Comparison Tool - Filter Page - Desktop

Comparison Tool - Filter Page - Tablet

Comparison Tool - Results Page - Desktop

Comparison Tool - Results Page - Tablet

Comparison Tool - Results Page - Mobile

Degree Comparison-Results MOBILE_Screen 1a.jpg

Error Messaging

Program Comparison Tool Is Temporarily Unavailable

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Maximum Number of Programs Selected

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Filters Not Available

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Filter Selection Did Not Match Any Academic Programs

Error Messaging copy10.jpg

Program Info Not Available

Error Messaging copy14.jpg