NYU Web Publishing Portal: UX Research

After 4 years, the NYU Web Publishing (NYU WP) home page was showing its age. We believed the home page was acting both as an introduction to the service and as a portal for many of our users to log in. The NYU WP team needed to both modernize the design and address recurring user pain points. In addition, recent digital accessibility programs at NYU made a new and accessible portal a top priority for the product.

The original landing page and portal. It was well designed and recognizable, but the prevalence of sliders required a redesign for digital accessibility.

Unfortunately, there wasn’t funding for new development beyond a WordPress theme, which had already been designed and approved for development. User research would help us validate the assumptions made in the design and use our limited resources effectively.


I led user interviews with wireframes to validate the visual design, functionality, and information architecture. We were also hoping to better understand the user journey to and from the home page, as well as their expectations for the site and product as a whole.


I created a user interview procedure that took about 30 minutes to complete. After some general background questions, users completed two basic tasks. As we were working with a single wireframe mockup at that point, many of our questions were designed to elicit what users would expect to find at certain locations. In addition, we asked some summarizing questions and provided multiple choice answers. This has allowed us to quantify some of our findings in an otherwise qualitative study.


Overall, the participants we worked with were positive about the changes we were planning to make and approved of the new design. For example, when we asked participants about ease of use, we received the following responses:

4 participants5 participants0 participants

When we asked participants to compare the look and feel of the site to other sites and apps, they were also positive:

BetterAbout the sameWorse

The data we collected helped us focus our efforts on three different areas.

Quick fixes

Insights from the interviews pointed to several content changes which could be made before the launch date, which was fast approaching as development was already in progress. Specifically, we addressed the following:

  • Finding a splash image which would be minimally distracting
  • Reworking content to ensure it was more inclusive of all eligible users within the NYU community, including students and administrators.
  • Labeling the login functionality at the top of the page “Login” as opposed to “My Sites”. “My Sites” had been selected because we were not able to change the state from “Login” to “Logout” based on the user status.

The importance of themes

Another major finding, which has less relevance for this project and more for future projects, was the importance of themes to the community. Themes define the look and feel of user created sites, and they were top of mind for our user base, although the team tries to downplay their importance in comparison to content and information architecture.

Support expectations

The interviews were also helpful in giving us a better idea of what users expected from our support resources. We found that users expected more comprehensive information on our support pages, including a FAQ and search functionality. In addition, users hoped to avoid the university’s centralized documentation, as they perceived it to be out of date and difficult to use.