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Project overview

As one of the Go8 univeristies in Australia, research students are the supporting pillars to UQ's continued growth and success as a leading research institution.

The aim of this project was to improve the user experience for research students by providing enhanced user flows and targeted content, which helps the business to attract and retain top talent to its research programs.


UX discovery, UX design

Understanding the problem

I commenced my design process by conducting an initial UX discovery to understand the current user journey of a prospective research student and identify problems that inflicted pain points.

Method: UX discovery + Competitor analysis

Pain points

Critical information scattered across different UQ websites (Graduate School, Study, Scholarship), lack of a single source of truth. Users had an inconsistent experience depending on their entry point.​ 


Admission page for research students was different to other admission pages. Content on page not relevant to the admission process, users needed more actionable information.

Looking at four of our biggest local and domestic competitors, I quickly realised the stronger players were offering a one-stop experience for prospective research students that UQ had failed to provide.

Users on competitor sites were able to gain a high-level overview of research degrees from ONE designated landing page, which provided pathways to other important and relevant information.


UQ users on the other hand had to juggle between MULTIPLE sites to see the whole picture of its research degree offerings. There was always a missing puzzle piece/information on each site, user experience suffered badly as a consequence.

What do our stakeholders say

After gathering meaningful secondary data from key competitors, it was time to hear from the business. I worked closely with our UX lead to conduct interviews with Graduate School's liaison officers, communication coordinator and senior development manager - a key stakeholder for this project.

Method: Stakeholder interviews + Affinity map

I then created an affinity map by grouping findings under common themes and features. I thoroughly enjoyed this process of chuncking information and synthesising qualitative data to extract insights.

Business needs

Improve the current experience by offering one source of truth, information scattered across multiple pages was not ideal.

Stakeholders would like the redesign to highlight what sets UQ apart from its key competitors.

New website needs to be easy to navigate for users and also relatively low maintenance for website owners.

User interviews and usability testing

I created and debriefed testing methodologies and objectives at a high level to the UXR team. Through collaboration, we were able to uncover user's first-hand impression of our sites and extract qualitative insights to inform design decisions.

Method: Discovery questions + Task Probing questions

User needs

Graduate School landing page performed poorly during testing. Prospective students felt like this page was catered for current students only.

Higher Degree by Research page in 'UQ Study' was well received by users as it provided useful and relevant information.

Users would like to know what differentiates UQ from other universities, what are the benefits of pursuing their research degree with UQ.

Proposing feasible UX solutions

I then workshopped with our UX lead, information architect and content writer to discuss initial UX proposals for this project. We studied the existing pages on our website and quickly pin-pointed features and contents that we thought was either valuable or detrimental to the user experience.

Method: Brainstorming + Sketches

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Problem solving

Redesign current HDR study page which tested well with users. Migrate any relevant content from other sites, introduce a new page name and URL as part of the redesign.


Create new pages to fill in content gaps identified from user research and competitor analysis. Emphasise on UQ advantages, highlight reasons why users should research with UQ.

Uplift admission page to better communicate the process to users. By providing better guidance online, it will help to reduce the volume of student enquiries coming through, which in turn alleviate the workload of the liaison officers.

The one stop landing page

It was apparent from research that users struggled to orient themselves digitally due to the difficulty of navigating various UQ websites. There was no better way to solve this pain point than by creating a one-stop landing page that presents all the information users need.

While wireframing, I was extremely mindful and deliberate about what content we should show on this page. Providing irrelevant or insufficient information would have a huge impact on the already jeopardised user experience.

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Prioritisation of content

Program related information at the top of the page. It is paramount for both the business and user to understand what are the research options they can choose from.


UQ advantages - A reoccurring theme on this page. Showcasing UQ's competitive advantages as a world famous university with strong research capability is a key business need.

Support for students - Let user know that UQ offers a wide variety of financial and non-financial support to help them accomplish their research goals.

Filling the gaps

In addition to a new landing page, we also introduced two other pages to bridge the content gaps with competitors and surface the information that we know will be critical to user's discovery and decision-making process.

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Why we need these pages

Why do your graduate research with us - Stakeholders have expressed the desire to highlight what sets UQ apart from other Go8 competitors.From user research, we also learnt that international students have more things to consider when selecting an university and where they would like to spend the next four years.


How to find a supervisor - Not providing instructional information on our website has costed supervisors receiving meaningless emails from prospective students on a weekly basis. Whilst this is frustrating for the supervisors, we cannot blame the users if the information was simply not there.

Admission process in a flow

A major pain point we have identified from UX discovery and user research was that the admission page for research degrees did not align with other admission pages, steps were not outlined clearly and important links were missing.

In light of this problem, the new design must streamline the process and break it down into steps like other admission pages to meet the expectations of both domestic and international applicants.

Everything users need to know and beyond

I liaised with content writers and Graduate School officers to marry the user experience with content and making sure these pages are supporting users to understand the admission process holistically.


Together, we challenged ourselves to deliver complex information to users in the most intuitive way and construct informative content that fulfils user needs from pre-admission to post-admission.

Validating the designs

I laid out the designs in Miro and drafted questions in preparation for a handover to our UXR team. My primary role here was to debrief the researchers on the design changes made and what we would like to validate. A prototype was put together to allow users to explore the new designs in a sequential way.

Method: Prototyping


Overall, the designs were very well received by users. The new pages are effective at helping users to gather information, understand information and absorb information.


Clear layout "This page covers exactly what I need, layout is also great!"

Clear instructions and guidance "All the required documents are nicely listed here. Very clear

Wrapping up the project

As this redesign consisted of using existing templates and components, there was no additional development work needed. I provided QA support from a UX perspective to our content designers to assist them with final content tweaks before launching.


Navigating the problem space was the biggest challenge for this project. It was clear to all of us that the experience offered was nowhere near user-friendly; however, pinpointing the issues undermining the experience was rather difficult.


While conducting UX discovery and research, I found myself emphasising with the users on a deeper level. The frustration of navigating multiple sites not only made it tricky for users to orient themselves, but as a designer, I was also burdened by this complexity and struggled to get a hold of the problem at first.

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