Self-Service Case Study: Problem & Process

Streamline online application process

University of Phoenix requires students to apply for financial aid services online. It is a lengthy process and mistakes are common. In turn, students call their counselors for help, at times—a lengthy, "hand-holding" process. Also, because of student confusion and mistakes, a potential for financial aid delay arose. This could affect their signing up for classes. The Self-Service Project arose from these and other application design flaws, accessibility, and technical issues. The goal was to minimize all these aspects of the student's application process.


Senior Interaction Designer


  • brainstorming & ideation
  • client presentation
  • user & task flows
  • wireframes
  • usability evaluation and testing


  • desktop & handset

Early usability study

During this phase and reassessment per a usability study the prior week before, Ux lead (K.R.) and I, iterated on student's mental model on the financial aid process, how students get and manage these funds per Ideation A & B (See below). The Manage My Funds section contains two main sections: UoP managed funds (Pell, other grants) and Funds managed by the student (School, Private, if applicable Military). Per the usability study, the Manage My Funds section indicated students perceived from a "macro view," i.e., how students would pay not just their loans back, but how that money related to their life expenses. "A calculator or something that would help me figure all my expenses," paraphrased by a student. This mental model, among other findings, guided our designs.

Financial Aid Ideation A

Financial Aid Brainstorming

Financial Aid Ideation B

Financial Aid Brainstorming

Manage my funds

Manage My Funds

First payment period

First Payment Period

Below are more detailed main Financial Plan Management areas (Overview & My Funds) incorporating whiteboard concepts and iteration. Another consideration, UoP is unlike other universities with quarter or semester based systems. UoP students take classes on 10 week increments at any time. How students manage their finances is more critical for their academic success. The Overview area explains what monies are used to cover school costs, what costs remain, and when the monies are due.

The FPM Final wires (Axure) reflect our usability findings with integration of the student's Classroom (current and future classes). This macro view helped students view their classes and how their financial picture applied to current and future classes.

Classroom & Financial Aid

Manage My Funds

My Funds

First Payment Period

Application Center encompasses FPM and a wider goal of student self-directed application process and submission.

For example (below), Application Fee (Jira req.#5152) was a thorny, re-evaluated requirement due to several combined factors including unforeseen less web development resources. Concepts and detailed wireframes below.

Application Fee Flow

Application Fee Flow

Pay Application Fee

Application Fee Flow

Visual Comps

During early team meetings, Chris T., a visual designer and I worked through wireframe iterations and product requirements to create several comps. App Center Final Wires (Axure) encompassed a selection of low to high level modifications of requirements. I worked closely with Product, Engineering, and QA leads to streamline requirements.

App Center–Post Submit Visuals

Post Submit Comps

App Center–Post Submit Visuals

Post Submit–Edit Comps

Lessons Learned

I strongly believe clear, concise communication is a key for successful completion of projects. Forming genial work relationship bonds adds to further professional, cohesion. Friendship not required, but trust, daily communication and concerns, and timely updates lessen the tension arch of any project. I appreciated the hardworking, collaborative team leads and colleagues.

Lately, I've noticed more focus on user experience people skills seminars and courses. I attended a virtual conference while at Apollo called People Skills for UX in May 2015.

In short and for lack of a better analogy, the "hand" of Ux fits effortlessly into the "glove" of Ux people skills. Ideal, I know. Another skill set—I feel—is mandatory.

Students only

The Application Center app was launched earlier this year. I tried getting access, but a former Apollo product manager stated students who register get access.

“An invaluable partner, Henry is perceptive to the needs of non-designers, using his analytical and creative mind to provide multiple designs to solve a single problem. The quality of his work is high, his turnaround time is exceptional, and he is very positive and pleasant to work with.”
— Kate Klingensmith, former Sr. Product Manager at Apollo Tech–University of Phoenix