I recently wrote an essay about my College’s processes for attracting transfer students, and some changes we made to make the process easier on them. Essentially, we observed that we were asking a lot of these students before we would commit to telling them the answer to the question most important to them: which of the courses that I took at other institutions will I get credit for, and what will they be counted as? So we changed our process to keep the user’s (transfer student’s) experience in mind, and I wrote it up for a publication called College and University. I’ve seen the final edited version, and it should appear soon.
While writing the essay I used OmniGraffle to create “before” and “after” data flow diagrams to visualize the overall process, how it touches many departments and divisions of the College, and how we changed things to make it easier on students. You can see my Omnigraffle version at left below, and next to it, the version created by C&U‘s graphic designer. Click the images to see a large version of each.
I really like some aspects of the graphic designer’s version. The lighter grays in the shaded areas work better, mainly because of the ingenious space built between each section. I had toyed with lighter grays, but they blended together too much, and i had not thought to put a few pixels of white space between them. The entities (boxes) are simplified in the new version, and while they might not convey as much information about what *kind* of entity each is, it is probably good enough for the audience of C&U. The much larger (and backgrounded) BEFORE text is great–a luxury they had because they knew they were giving a whole half page to the graphic, where I was economizing on space as much as possible. My one criticism is that the explanatory text is a bit less readable because of the overlap with the background text.
In my classes I like to talk about things that make simple documents more “usable.” I appreciate this graphic designer’s efforts to make my essay more usable to the readers of C&U.