Coleman: CIS Redesign: Oversimplification Gone Awry

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By Nicholas Coleman

Similar to boiling water that is so hot it actually feels cold, the University of Utah’s CIS portal redesign oversimplified the layout beyond the comprehensible limit. Instead of orderly links that could easily be minimized, students are presented with “intuitive” images. Administrative officials overseeing the project insist that rigorous Google analytics tracking was conducted prior to the changes. In reality, it seems like the University hired an unemployed cartoonist to illustrate every conceivable link with a corresponding, ambiguous image.

Do we really need a tab to see our demographic data?

For those who are fortunate enough to actually work for the University, CIS is even worse than the base model. There are now eight distinct pages with little crossover, meaning that employees are forced to wade through the cartoonist’s gallery until the right image seems familiar. Although the scrolling latency will likely be addressed in a future update, at the present moment, watching the shadow move on a sun dial would be faster and more entertaining.

The changes were inspired by the University’s push to modernize all online and marketing content. “Campus Information Services (CIS) hasn’t been redesigned since 2003, and thus hasn’t aligned with today’s design standards for many years. It can be difficult to use, is non-responsive for mobile devices, and is visually cluttered…” read the University’s statement regarding the update. Understandably, our school is in the PAC-12 now, which means that there is more funding for high priority initiatives (i.e. football subsidies). Alongside that notable distinction is the necessity for contemporary designs.

Considering that CIS was just updated, it would be unfair to say that the University will never address the considerable mistakes made during the update. Perhaps, if students are allowed to upload their own emoticons to represent the tabs, the system would be even more streamlined. Either way, there are various components that should be addressed immediately, beginning first with clusters of ambiguous forms raising their hands. Amongst those who value cleanliness or organization, the new CIS is a hellish reality—especially when presented with eight pages of tiles that take several minutes to respond.

Technology companies face a remarkably similar issue when designing user interface (UI), as striking a balance between modernization and false simplicity is difficult to achieve. The development team in charge of the project did seek guidance from the “…Academic Senate, and campus IT governance committees in the months leading up to the release.” However, it is rather apparent that an echo chamber of enthusiasm ultimately led to the current state of affairs. Removing some of the tiles using the customization feature does help alleviate the issues with latency, but this naturally begs the question: why redesign CIS before consolidating the links?

The University of Utah seemingly believes that us tech-savvy Millennials will eventually figure out the convoluted system. Until that point, I look forward to clicking the “help” tile, and viewing my demographic data as well. For questions regarding the CIS redesign, contact the UIT Help Desk at 801-581-4000, option 1.