OSU Mobile: building an app around the user
Interactive Communications Director Jim Burgoon writes about how Ohio State's mobile app represents the culture we aspire to.
"Simple can be harder than complex…'—Steve Jobs, 1999
The newest version of OSU Mobile launched recently with some notable new features designed to make the lives of current students even easier. And by making our users' lives easier we may just be changing the way Ohio State operates.
OSU Mobile launched in 2012 and its usage has grown right along with increasing smart phone usage. Now, just about every student with a smartphone is using OSU Mobile for looking up schedules or tracking down a nearby bus.
From day one, a key tenet has been a user-centric approach: Students informed the very first version of the app and continue guiding. The "Feedback" button, right on the home screen, is used heavily. Since launch, the No. 1 requested feature has been Carmen integration; the latest version of OSU Mobile now incorporates Carmen Grades.
In effect, the app is a mini-catalyst, changing the way Ohio State organizes around the needs of its audiences. OSU Mobile takes the "One University" phrase we hear so often and makes it real.
While a request to have Carmen Grades appear on OSU Mobile may seem fairly straightforward, the new processes and work required to make this happen is hard to overstate. The idea for Carmen grades to not solely reside on the Carmen website reflects a new way of thinking. In effect, the app is a mini-catalyst, changing the way Ohio State organizes around the needs of its audiences. OSU Mobile takes the "One University" phrase we hear so often and makes it real.
"Users don't care about our org-chart."
Like other large and complex institutions, the products and services we offer tend to be organized around our internal bureaucratic structure. And each product reflects its own corner of the OSU world—with its own language, user interface/experience, even color schemes. As a result, we ask users to familiarize themselves with a multitude of different websites, with a potentially confusing and a steep learning curve.
With OSU Mobile, the approach is organizing content around user needs not the org chart. In the newest version of the app there's a section "My OSU", a central place to aggregate content specific to the user. For content owners and producers this concept is fairly new, their website is no longer the only destination for a user. It requires more openness and coordination across university teams.
It's a challenge, but it achieves a worthy end goal: making our users' lives easier, allowing for a better user experience and hiding the complexities of such a big place.
How can we, as university staff, help make a big place smaller, more welcoming, more inviting? It's what Ohio State has sought to do for its students for decades—and now, through OSU Mobile, we have a smartphone-based answer.
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