Course Scheduling: A Simpler Approach

Revised Prototype

After the first iteration of our wireframes for a hypothetical course scheduler, I felt the results were fairly complete. Unfortunately, the “information density” was extremely high. (See the previous iteration here.) Fair criticism.

So on for this second iteration, rather than finish out the functionality, I decided to start with a new concept. I tried to ruthlessly cut as much functionality as possible. But as a result, I had to use techniques like progressive disclosure, wherein the interface shows a low level of detail at first, but as you interact with it, details are revealed only when relevant. For this to work, the user needs to have extra clues to interact with areas of the interface. In this case, these affordances take the form of gradients and shadows which help communicate which areas are clickable by giving them the look of buttons.

Tools like Keynote, Omnigraffle, and InDesign didn’t quite have the functionality I needed to demonstrate or test the interface. My options were HTML/Javascript or Flash. HTML/Javascript would have taken too long, so I chose Flash. Only one hitch: I didn’t know Flash. So thanks to a few helpful classmates and faculty, I learned Flash as best I could in a week. That experience is a whole other story, but for now, check out the interactive prototype I built with it.

It’s not perfect; think-aloud testing revealed some obvious gaps where users weren’t quite connecting which areas they should explore. The question is do I need to create more detailed visuals to communicate the affordances, try different techniques, or scrap the idea altogether. I haven’t decided yet, but the time allotted for our remaining iterations will be less than it has been, so it won’t be long for you to see the results!