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DalOnline - Student portal redesign

Improving overall usability

Cover picture


DalOnline is an online portal for students and employees of Dalhousie University. It is used for various activities like registering for classes, tracking student account information, tuition payments, miscellaneous costs, employment related forms and various other major and minor tasks. During the last 6 months, I had observed my friends (even myself) complaining about the portal's old design and no feeling of belonging.

As a part of this case study, I redesigned DalOnline portal to tackle various problems as identified by initial user research. I conducted initial surveys, interviews, design analysis and then moved on to defining the problem and proposing a potential redesign solution of the web portal.


-UX Designer
( responsible for end-to-end design process )
-UX Researcher


April 2022 - June 2022




initial research details
I conducted initial interviews with 15 students (who already use the platform) to understand about their experience with DalOnline portal and I was shocked to see that one question was enough to bring out everything they had to say about their experience. The question was:

"How has you experience been with DalOnline so far?"

graphical interview responses
The second question was also an open ended question to understand the reason behind their visits to the website. The question was:

"Why do you visit DalOnline?"

major reasons for visiting the website


Since I had already used the application for various tasks, I decided to do an in-depth design analysis of the application. I wanted to understand the overall architecture, functionalities, and navigation.

Through the analysis, I was able to identify some clear usability issues and pain points. I noted them down to do validation against user research.
Dal 1 picture
Dal 2 picture
Dal 3 picture
Dal 4 picture


I wanted to test the platform's usability with people who have not used it before to check how new users respond to the design. So I asked them to perform a few tasks on the platform.

Some of these tasks were:

1. Navigate to the student day-to-day schedule
2. Open your account information and check your remaining balance for the term
3. Check your grades and view your transcript.


Even after being an important platform for students, it is not liked by them. Moreover, using the platform adds to the frustration of the students. After carefully analysing and evaluating the results from the initial research, I was able to define major pain points of the user.


All the users complained that they could not find what they were looking for easily. They had to spend a lot of time to navigate to the correct page. They felt that the interface was full of textual information which was very confusing at times. After using the website for a while, they felt frustrated and logged off if the task at hand was not important.
"As soon as I opened the website, I felt confused. This feeling was true as I could not complete the assigned task of finding the student schedule for 5 minutes."


The students felt like they are visiting some external website as it did not give them the feeling of browsing an internal website. They pointed out that some links are bold, while some are regular and that they could not identify what it actually meant.
"The website has grim and dark colors. It does not feel like the university owns the website. I don't feel at home while using this website."


Most of the students (current and new) misinterpreted the meaning of options and what they would find inside the links. Student accounts did not have account information and day-to-day schedule was inside the registration option. They use the platform because it is mandatory and spend some time to discover all the options. They also believe that a simpler user interface with important options on the landing page would be helpful
"I was lost. I tried searching for accounts and had to navigate through multiple links. What were they thinking while making this website? Finally found it but such as small table."


1. Provide a better landing page with important links and quick navigation to most used features.


  • Main Menu is nothing but a reciprocated navigation bar in list form
  • No important options or quick navigation options
  • Boring UI not in sync with University's brand
Dal 1 picture copy
New Dal home


  • Meaningful navigation bar with a site map for quickly knowing where to find an option
  • Most visited links front and centre as cards
  • Modern UI with brand colors and fonts
  • Meaningful link names with expected navigation (eg. Student accounts have account information)

2. Redesign the web for students page with a proper visual hierarchy and breathing space


  • No visual hierarchy
  • Cluttered user interface with no breathing space
  • Boring UI not in sync with University's brand
Dal 2 picture copy
New dal web for students


  • Proper visual hierarchy in form of unordered list below the actual links
  • Still in list form but with some breathing space now
  • Modern UI with brand colors and fonts

3. Registration page redesigned to ease students' anxiousness while registering for classes


  • Comfusing registration process
  • Repetitive options on this page and the linked page
  • Unrelevant options on this page
Old registration page
New registration page


  • Simplified step wise process for registration
  • Options like day-to-day schedule moved to homepage for quick access


To validate the new design, I surveyed 6 people with the prototype. I asked the people to perform the same tasks as before to check the new design's usability.

All of the users were using the application for the first time.
83% of the users could relate the application as being a part of the university and could easily navigate through the platform without any major difficulty.
17% of the people I surveyed found it difficult to navigate through the 'Web for Students' page due to the information displayed as a list.


From day one, I knew that this is going to be a huge redesign process but someone had to do it. So, I took this up as a sole initiative and started my UX process. There are a few things that I could have done more if I had some more time and resources: