Brief description of SMUMods
SMUMods is a platform for SMU students to review their professors and modules, with more features coming soon. This idea was born from the needs of students and it serves as a guide for them to know more about the professors and modules they might be bidding for in their next semester. The SMUMods team operate with a team of two, with our roles split between a front-end and a backend developer, and our main aim is to benefit the SMU community.
My role: Full-stack UI/UX Designer
From user research, observations, user testings to designs and front-end development, I took part in all the stages of the design process.
Special note: SMUMods has since been taken over by my juniors under a different name, "AfterClass". Gabriel and I are now mentors for their project.
This idea is not to be confused with NUSMods which served as a timetable planner for students; The current extranet used by SMU students already has a built-in timetable planner and there is no need for the SMUMods team to tackle this.
Currently, SMUMods (taken over by my juniors and renamed to AfterClass) serves as a one-stop site to find essential information about modules, as well as user reviews for both the professors and modules. We had two upcoming features that passed the usability testing phase and we hoped to develop them.
Part 1. Preliminary Research and Survey
My first approach to any problem begins with studying existing solutions, writing notes on its strengths and weaknesses, and asking users what they think about these solutions (if they have used them).
From what I know, current and future SMU students are using ReviewMyProf to get some information about the professors they might be bidding for. It is a simple site and below are some of my findings.
Problems about ReviewMyProf
- No list of modules (difficult to discover)
- List of search results has an unnecessary button press for feedback when the result is 1
- List of search results does not show the field names
- List of search results cannot be sorted
- Seems difficult to add a review (dk exact name of module)
The good points
- Autocomplete in the search field and submit review page (although it is not fast enough)
- Ability to filter search results by subject area (is it useful though?)
Questions to ask or observe
- Do people use the subject area filter?
- How do people search for modules/professors? Were they able to think of one module on the spot?
- Observe how they add a review - problem with finding professor/module name
- What do they look out for when finding for professors? (more than just rating, maybe other 5-star fields)
- What do they want to write when reviewing a professor?
To be honest, NUSMods is the main inspiration for SMUMods. NUSMods is used by every NUS student I know and that is no easy feat. Naturally, I visited the site to write some notes about it, as well as ask some NUS students why they use NUSMods.
The good points about NUSMods
- Ability to add modules easily to the timetable for the current semester.
- The Timetable Planner itself
Points to note
- The timetable feature is essential to its users because NUS doesn’t provide a visual representation of the students’ timetable. By targeting the one feature that users need the most, NUSMods is able to succeed. SMU, on the other hand, already has the timetabling feature built right into to our student portal and there is no inherent need for this.
SMUMods (Pre-alpha; deprecated)
Before I joined the team, Gabriel Chuan has already begun working on the front-end. I saw him working on this site and I found it interesting that someone from SMU was willing to do something like this. I asked if he needed any help and he roped me in to handle the entire design stack as well as the front-end development.
Naturally, I looked at the pre-alpha version of SMUMods and noted down some key points (did not manage to screenshot the pre-alpha version; you would have to use your imagination from here!)
Problems about SMUMods Pre-Alpha
- Unable to read full reviews due to the deliberate requirement for users to at least post a single review (feels truncated, unnatural and pushy)
- Reviews that mentioned Professors are not categorised.
- The voting of the reviews-system right from the front/home page will probably be irrelevant to the users’ needs although it might be more useful in the individual modules/Professor pages.
- Missing list of Professors in the module page.
- Provide more ‘relaxed’ search-ability instead of searching strictly by the text of the module.
- User flow for registering, although very interesting, was confusing and difficult to grasp.
- Empty fields in a module page should be hidden.
- When the session expires in Telegram, users should be prompted to do something to renew the session.
Questions to ask or observe
- What is the first thing users want to do when they arrive at this website?
- Are they able to search for the information they want?
- Do they want to add comments to an existing review?
With all these notes and questions I’ve written after visiting the various sites, I went ahead to compile a list of questions and send them out as surveys to SMU students. This is needed for some basic requirements gathering because I might have assumed some things wrongly, or if certain ideas I have might not be the right solution. Once I get the results, I could then move on to do some initial UI design.
Below are the questions (the bolded text represents the most voted answer).
- Have you used websites such as ReviewMyProf?
*Yes 83.3%/No 16.7%*
- What will your goal be if you visit websites such as ReviewMyProf with Rank 1 being the most desirable goal?
Finding information about module, Finding information about a specific Professor, Reviewing a module, Reviewing a Professor
- How would you search information about Professor or modules?
*Search bar with autocomplete feature, Browse from a list that can be filted such as by subject/course area, Discover from a list of recent reviews by other users, Discover from a list of the most popular Professors or modules, Others*
- At which page would you prefer to add/submit a review?
*Module/Professor’s individual page, Chat with a Telegram bot, From anywhere in the website, Others*
- Rank the importance of the below factors when reviewing a Professor with Rank 1 being the most important.
*Overall rating of Professor, Leniency in marking, Amount of homework, Fun - level of class engagement, Fairness*
- What would you include when writing a review about a Professor?
Open-ended: Teaching style and compatibility
- What additional information would you like to see on a module/Professor review website?
Open-ended: Bell curve, bias
- Your email address (Optional)