Axess, Stanford’s primary administrative portal for students, faculty and staff, is in the first phase of a comprehensive redesign that will take several years to complete, according to Associate Vice President for Administrative Systems Ganesh Karkala.
Initial improvements will include installing the infrastructure for a new portal technology, updating the web design style and consolidating content.
According to Sameer Marella, senior director of PeopleSoft Systems, Axess is currently managed almost entirely with PeopleSoft software, though the new infrastructure will permit the future integration of other technologies.
Karkala said that the decision to upgrade Axess was made by the PeopleSoft Steering Committee — composed of 11 representatives from business offices across campus — after members spent several years soliciting Axess users’ feedback. She expressed optimism about the potential for recently developed technologies to upgrade user experience.
“The technology has improved a lot, so we want to utilize those things at Stanford and give that experience to our community,” he said.
According to Marella, Stanford has used the branded version of Axess since 2004, with the portal’s most recent update — which included the consolidation of Student Center options and the adoption of a new style guide — taking place in 2009. A simpler version of a similar system has been in use since the 1990s.
Members of the steering committee have been investigating Axess user experience for several years, and additional feedback for the redesign was recently collected through a survey on the main page of Axess.
According to Marella, the recent survey posted on the Axess main page collected over 2,000 responses in a week, with students constituting the majority of respondents.
“[Users] have overwhelmingly said that they like the fact that Axess consolidates information from a variety of different academic and financial interactions with the Stanford administration,” Marella said. “They like that it is all in one place so they can just go there and find what they need to do in order to get their needs met.”
Marella said that students also offered feedback on how the redesign could improve functionality. Popular requests included a more responsive system, improved accessibility on mobile devices, support for a wider variety of browsers and a more intuitive user interface.
Ruben Pierre-Antoine ’14, a Resident Computer Consultant (RCC) in Larkin, offered several suggestions for potential improvements to Axess.
“It’s kind of confusing to get around, but I think the design is fine,” Pierre-Antoine said. “I just think some of the links on the homepage could be better.”
Pierre-Antoine recommended the addition of a search function, citing student complaints about the difficulty of navigating Axess, and the integration of Axess with related sites such as Courserank and ExploreCourses within the course enrollment process.
Ryan Globus ’14, Florence Moore West’s RCC, expressed general satisfaction with Axess but also suggested changes in the course enrollment process. Globus said that he has found SimpleEnroll to be “flaky and unreliable” and said that he has instead taught some freshmen to use the regular enroll process instead.
As a result, Globus suggested consolidating the two enrollment systems and simplifying the site’s navigation.
“There is just some little design stuff, like all those drop-down menus that aren’t very user friendly,” Globus said. “Everything seems to be cluttered or tucked away.”
While Marella emphasized the value placed on student feedback during the redesign process, she acknowledged that a prominent existing issue — long delays when course enrollment opens for each quarter — will go unresolved even as the University explores “a variety of options” to address the matter.
“It’s not directly the server problem,” Marella said. “There are a lot of components interacting in the enrollment process at the same time.”