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Why design matters in curriculum and catalog management

June 10, 2020

In today’s modern world, nearly everyone on campus walks around with a computer in their pocket. The Internet of Things is so incorporated in our daily lives, we see computing in simple household appliances like refrigerators, doorbells and even lightbulbs. 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.

Computers, and the average person’s ability to use them, has changed drastically since they were created. In the late 1970’s, 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 an Apple device or a software tool 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 our Curriculum and Catalog Management products, there is a lot more to it than just giving it a pretty face.

Presentation matters

Who out there remembers these:

  • cd : Change directory or display current directory path.
  • cls : Clear the window.
  • dir : Display list of contents of current directory.
  • help : Display list of commands or help about a command.
  • notepad : Run the Windows Notepad text editor.
  • type : Displays the contents of a text file.

DOS commands allowed for navigation in and out of computer programs, files, and displays. And it works just fine.

But it's quick and dirty. It’s nothing to look at. And if you don’t know the command, you can’t get where you need to go. That blank screen with the blinking cursor isn’t going to be any help.

Presentation is key.

Take the fad of cooking shows the past several years. 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 always expected that software created to handle hundreds of workflows relating to higher education curriculum will also be easy to use. Among all the “must-have” features of a curriculum management tool, ease of use can become a “nice-to-have.” But Kuali believes it can be simple to use, and powerful and efficient. It can be beautiful, and include the essential “must-haves.”

Kuali operates on the theory that the best software is 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 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 Curriculum Management allows administrators to collect and share thousands of pieces of data in whichever way they choose, with a workflow attached. It brings data in from and delivers data to the student information system. Some users spend thousands of hours within the system, while other occasional users spend no more than 1 hour per semester within the system, all with the same ease of use.

All of those functions are powered beneath a clean and clear interface. Just because something looks complicated, that 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.

Photo by Ali Pazani from Pexels
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