Website Redesign

May 2021

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The Problem

When I joined the Academic Tutoring team, the visual presence of the department fit the persona of a staid academic office—sedate, respectable, and unadventurous. To align the department’s appearance with its forward-thinking mission, a new brand identity and an updated website were in order.

My role in this project was responsible for all UX/UI aspects; I was a UX team of one.


The Solution


The research phase of this project progressed quickly. The director provided me with a set of low-fidelity wireframes to give me an idea of what he would like to see on the new site. I was also given body copy which determined what content would go on each page.

Before I was hired, I met with a tutor from Academic Tutoring multiple times during an academically-challenging semester. This helped me become familiar with the user experience of a UVU student, our primary audience. I compiled and prioritized a list of requirements for each of our user groups: students, UVU faculty and staff, and the Academic Tutoring staff.

One of the key requirements was that the style of our website be consistent with both Academic Tutoring’s and UVU’s brand identity. As one of 60+ departments within UVU, our new identity needed to represent the department in a way that was both recognizable and unique, but stayed true to UVU’s design standard.


Since the website was my first assignment as an intern, I hadn’t had time to develop a new brand identity for Academic Tutoring. It was decided by the team that I would mock up a landing page in several different styles to determine which style best communicates our mission. To get the ideas flowing, the director and I scoured the internet for examples. Websites with an open, creative feel that featured hand drawn elements stood out to us.

Academic Tutoring’s mission statement:

Academic Tutoring embraces the power of students helping students and supports all individuals—regardless of identity, culture, point of view, or background—as they navigate the challenges associated with their educational goals. With a focus on gateway major courses, certified student employees work alongside each student to foster serious academic exploration and inspire lifelong learning.

When I presented mock ups of the landing page in both a hand drawn and a vector-based style, the team unanimously agreed that the hand drawn style represents who we are. Academic Tutoring is meant to be an inclusive, creative space where students can make mistakes without negative consequences. Using a hand-drawn style communicates that we have an atmosphere where students have space to grow.

These design decisions should have been verified with user testing but—more on that later.

Ui Design

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Academic Tutoring's new landing page

Each semester, Academic Tutoring hosts an event called Studypalooza. The signage for this event, which was created before I joined the team, features a background texture made of school-related icons. Since this event garnered campus-wide attention in the past, the director requested that I incorporate the icon motif in our new website.

A casual script font was used in combination with hand-drawn icons and accents. The Jaeggers typeface was selected over other script fonts because, as the font’s creator, Inspiratype, said, “It’s made to resemble hand scratches, so it looks like a natural style—like your own hand scratches.” The use of this typeface along with hand-drawn accents, like an asterisk, resembles hand-drawn notes that a student might make as they are exploring new concepts. Clear hierarchy and clean design add professionalism to this whimsical style.

The “base” of each icon was outsourced to save time. Each icon was then edited to maintain consistency between the icons throughout the site. Sparkles were added to reflect our creative, fun atmosphere.

UVU’s primary color palette is forest green, black, white and metallic silver. Per UVU’s style guide, a complimentary color palette of lighter greens can be used with discretion in addition to the primary palette.

Since UVU uses pre-coded elements, we were somewhat constrained by what we could include in the UI. Custom elements mean more work for the developer and are not always approved. As this was the case, we edited these pre-coded elements to match our style by adding hand drawn accents and using a lighter UVU-approved green. We also had to modify some of our font selections at our developer's request and use UVU-approved fonts, like Raleway, that were similar to the fonts we used in our brand identity.

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Customized pre-configured elements on the Peer Tutoring page
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We used an original image to customize content on the Supplemental Instruction page

Problem Solving

It can be difficult for a designer to view their own designs objectively. I proposed user testing as a means of evaluating our designs to the director, but he wanted to postpone testing until the website and other upcoming projects were completed. After getting feedback from a few friends and family members, it was clear that the amount of content on the subpages (Peer Tutoring and Online Tutoring) made the site feel cluttered. Important information was harder to find. Some content was repeated on each page to maintain consistency, which resulted in more clutter.

Since this was my first assignment of my first design position, I was hesitant to push the issue. The director has a great eye for design and subscribes to high-quality design content. Since he didn’t think user testing was necessary, I decided to leave the issue alone.

A few months later, I still felt strongly that we needed to get feedback from our users. I drafted a usability test plan and researched several testing platforms we could use. I pitched my plan to the director and this time, he was on board. I contacted our developer about adding the code. The developer informed us that UVU already had user testing protocols in place, but their web team was not able to create a test for us at that time due to a high workload. When I checked with my director again after a couple of months, he said that he liked the website how it was and didn’t want to complete testing at that time.

After another month or so, several team members provided feedback about the website which was in line with feedback I had received previously: the site felt cluttered and some of the content was geared toward mid-management level positions such as faculty or staff, rather than students. I communicated their feedback to the director. By that time, I’d had some successes as an intern with other projects and felt more confidence in my evaluation of our website. User testing was not approved, but a second iteration of the website was given a green light.


The second iteration is a streamlined version of the first iteration. Repetitive content was removed. Content that was geared toward faculty or staff was moved from the student pages to the Faculty Resources page or deleted from the site.

Any content which was placed above essential information about our services, such as hours and locations, was removed or placed lower on the page so that the most important information was the first content to be seen by the user.

I would have chosen to remove some of the heavier green elements, such as the drop-down tiles featured on the Supplemental Instruction page, to make the UI feel cleaner. The team preferred to keep these elements in the second iteration.

I was able to gather some user feedback by external means. A project for one of my classes required us to perform three rounds of user testing on an app or a website. I submitted a mockup similar to Academic Tutoring’s website—one with a combination of images and icons, and one with only icons. Feedback from 10 UVU students between the ages of 18 - 35 indicated that the icons-only mockup was easier to navigate and felt more on-trend with current designs. Based on that feedback, we removed all of the images from the website.

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Icons on the landing page

Lessons Learned

I learned so many valuable lessons as an intern at Academic Tutoring that it is difficult to pick only a few. The most important lessons I learned were these:

If I’m stuck on a particular aspect of a design, it’s time for me to talk to the users—or review what they’ve already told me. User feedback illuminates the problems with the greatest negative impact on the user experience. If the fix for these problems is not readily apparent, which it rarely is, feedback from users provides clues to the solution.

The last high-fidelity prototype I sent to the web developer was completed in June 2021. View the live website for Academic Tutoring.