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Why design matters for higher ed tech users

June 18, 2020

In today’s modern world, virtually everyone walks around with a computer in their pocket. The Internet of Things has incorporated computing into household appliances, from refrigerators to doorbells. Compare that to the first computers that took up entire rooms, and the team of people it took to operate them, and we’ve come a long way.

The Apple Macintosh computer introduced the public to point and click graphics, and advertised as “the computer for the rest of us.”

Apple’s calling card has always been ease of use: You won’t need to read through stacks of user manuals, because it will be obvious how to use it. And if a software solution is easy to use, it has the potential to instantly gain the favor of the user.

So what is it that makes it truly easy to use? It all comes because of UX Design.

What is UX Design?

UX designers look at not just the product’s use, but the entire process of acquiring, owning, troubleshooting, as well as the efficiency and pleasure of interacting with the product.

Don Norman, inventor of the term “User Experience,” said, “No product is an island. A product is more than the product. It is a cohesive, integrated set of experiences. Think through all of the stages of a product or service – from initial intentions through final reflections, from first usage to help, service, and maintenance. Make them all work together seamlessly.”

So when Kuali’s designers sit down to design for our Sponsored Programs and Compliance products, we are looking at more than just giving it a pretty face.

Presentation matters

From reality shows like the Food Network’s “Chopped” to Bravo’s “Top Chef” to Britain’s “The Great British Bake Off”, a contestant could have the absolute best tasting food, but in the end, how they present their food still counts for a large portion of their score. If it’s sloppy, it’s just not as appealing.

And so it goes with computer software.

“No matter how many petabytes of data you’ve streamed in real-time and how sophisticated your analytics stack, if it doesn’t give the right people the right information at the right time, you’re wasting your time. And probably a whole lot of money and other resources, too,” said Bernard Marr, best-selling author and strategic business & technology advisor.

It’s not expected that software that handles millions of dollars in grant money would be easy to use. But Kuali believes that the best software is also designed to make sense to the user and feel familiar. Our goal is for the software to be a natural extension of technology you’re already using every day, from phone apps to email.

Kuali’s UX Designers work directly with customers—those who use our product directly in their work—to develop, improve, and adjust our research tools so it makes sense for the user: that steps are clear and it feels natural to go from one screen to the next.

Simple, not simplistic

Developing software that is simple to use doesn’t mean that it’s simplistic in what it can accomplish.

Kuali Research collects and processes thousands of pieces of data, documentation, and man hours, as proposals are developed, awards are managed, and conflict disclosures and protocols are tracked.

But all of that is powered underneath a clean and clear interface. Just because something looks complicated, doesn’t mean it’s more powerful, or better equipped to handle complexities.

Kalid Azad of wrote, “Pitting simplicity against complexity in a virtual cage match creates a false dichotomy, or the belief that you must choose one or the other. Both are possible.”

UX Design is the bridge between simplicity and complexity. Our designers are able to take powerful, complex software processes, and present them in a simple, easy-to-use, intuitive interface. For a look at our software, request a demo, and you’ll see what we’re talking about.

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