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Personalized Data Aggregator: CalCentral
CalCentral card for higher degree committees

Problem Statement

Under UC Berkeley's aging legacy IT systems, it was difficult to manage all of the important details of university life, especially for young undergraduate students who may be living on their own for the first time.


A "one stop shop" (personalized data aggregator).

My Roles

  • Co-initiator
  • UX researcher
  • UX designer
  • Feature lead
  • Visual designer
  • Interaction designer
Process: Through a variety of user engagement activities — in consultation with stakeholders for scope and direction, data stewards for policy concerns and developers for feasibility — I assessed user needs, specified content, designed interaction frameworks, defined features, wrote specs, created wireframes, developed test plans, etc.
UX engagement ranged in size from 1:1 interviews and usability studies to community "town halls". Participants included teen-aged undergraduate students, ambitious graduate students, concerned parents, administrative stakeholders, dedicated staff and world-class faculty. As a community, Berkeley asks many questions, and does not accept any variation of "that's the way it is done". That, combined with easy access to system users, has made the UX role exceptionally challenging and rewarding.
Details: UC Berkeley’s Student Information Systems project is the university's largest, most complex, and most comprehensive student technology effort in the past 30 years. CalCentral is the custom-developed front end that gives each of UC Berkeley's 50,000 community members a personalized experience. CalCentral integrates data and functions from over 25 legacy systems, informing users of what they need to know and what they need to do, in order to conduct their daily lives at the world's #1 ranked public university.
Critical student and faculty tasks include enrolling in classes, accepting financial aid, monitoring expenses, assessing waitlists, and posting grades. With the legacy systems, tasks such as student enrollment, required students to simultaneously use multiple web applications while under significant time pressures.
Disparate systems: This is a map of the legacy systems that preceded CalCentral and the SIS:
map of legacy databases
map of new databases

New architecture

The new architecture is greatly simplified.

At A Glance: Here is the default CalCentral UI:
CalCentral at a glance
User Engagement: Community input session, and a student sketch
workshop on enrollment tools student sketch of campus life and concerns
Feature examples: Billing, debit card and GPA integration
CalCentral cards for billing and student debit card CalCentral card for GPA calculation
CalCentral on mobile device

Responsive, mobile- and touch-friendly UI

Even with data-rich, transactional systems, many users prefer mobile access.

Grading, Phase 2: Not yet implemented
CalCentral sketch for grading phase 2, not yet inplemented
  • Organization: University of California, Berkeley
  • Stack: AngularJS, Ruby on Rails, Node.js
  • Projects: CalCentral and SIS
  • Domain: Higher education
  • Project Type: Dashboard
  • Content: Student, staff and faculty information
  • Prototyping: OmniGraffle, HTML, Keynote
  • Methodologies: Contextual inquiry, interviews, surveys, focus groups, participatory design, users as designers, users as developers
  • UX Artifacts: Hand-drawn sketches, journey maps, swimlanes, video recordings