ACES Program Explorer


close up of cards in the program explorer


Address the rapidly expanding list of majors, degrees, and certificates that have outgrown a simple list format, causing user navigation challenges.

Problem Highlights:

  • Decision paralysis due to numerous choices.
  • Absence of filtering and sorting capabilities.
  • Over-dependence on “Learn more” buttons, leading off the main site.
screengrab of previous layout and design for aces section of majors with a long list

The previous solution used accordion-style categories by degree, complicating navigation.

The Solution

Developed a responsive Drupal content type, allowing users to filter and sort through the available ACES offerings, prioritizing mobile navigation and optimal accessibility.

ACES Program Explorer show on 4 screens of various sizes of devices

My Roles

  • Project Management
  • UI Design
  • WCAG Compliance
  • User Experience Design and Research
  • Testing


  • Adobe XD
  • Slack
  • Drupal
  • Optimal Workshops Testing


  • Drupal Developer
  • Content Strategist
  • UX Lunch Club Members
Multiple screens on phones showing parts and pieces of the program explorer

Accessibility Strategy

Approaching this project with an accessibility-first mindset.

A deep focus on accessibility ensured:

  • Limited animations for ease of interaction.
  • Disabling autoplay for videos, with subtitles provided.
  • WCAG 2.1 AA standard compliance in color contrast, including hover and focus states.
  • Font styles that were scalable and legible.
  • Thoughtfully chosen images with precise alt-text descriptions.
  • Keyboard-friendly designs, ensuring a logical reading order and functional focus states.
  • Inclusivity-driven content and layout for an optimal user experience.


Our tests unveiled areas of enhancement. By treating each card as a singular link, we reduced the reading time for screen readers. Recognizing and communicating the number of results to users optimized their browsing experience.

UX Research

Optimal Workshop user testing

Extensive user testing with Treejack testing honed our program naming strategies, academic department categorizations, and search term definitions.

Screenshot of workshop tasks
LinkedIn post inviting parents and students to take our survey
Screenshot of Optimal Workshops popular placements matrix

Initial List of Topical Categories

  • Animals
  • Plants & Crops
  • Food Systems & Nutrition
  • Health & Nutrition
  • Natural Resources & Conservation
  • People, Communities, & Families
  • Policy, Law, Economics
  • Sustainability & Environmental Stewardship
  • Technology

Final List of Topical Categories:

  • Agriculture
  • *Animals
  • Business, Economics, Policy and Law
  • Data and Technology
  • Food Systems
  • *Health and Nutrition
  • Leadership, Communication and Education
  • *People, Communities, and Families
  • *Plants and Crops
  • Sustainability and Environmental Sciences

*Topics stayed the same throughout testing.

Feedback Loop

Engaged staff and department heads in card sorting exercises, gleaning insights into information architecture and encouraging a collective stake in the project’s success.

Printed single agronomy card and handwritten notes on a desk
Printed single agronomy card and handwritten notes and a postit note on a desk
Printed version of major cards laid out on conference table ready to be edited

Content Strategy

Employed a multi-view system using the same data set, minimizing redundancy, ensuring consistency, and streamlining updates.

Bulleted list mockup
Table design mockup
Design mockup with tags for departments and icons for format

Prototyping with Figma

The user journey was mapped, ensuring a fluid, intuitive experience right from exploring programs to diving deep into specifics.

Figma Prototype

Design Process Overview

Starting with the fundamental 5Ws, the design strategy revolved around user-centric solutions. Research engaged college recruiters and advisors, harnessing insights from front-line experiences.

Program Explorer User Journey

Final Result:

The revamped ACES Program Explorer is a blend of aesthetics and functionality, fostering a seamless user experience, aiding students in navigating the expanding world of ACES.


As with all digital platforms, the journey doesn’t end. Testing, refining, and continuous updates ensure the ACES Program Explorer remains a pivotal tool for students.

Here’s a screenshot of sample analytics taken after the product was built to see if users are going back to the explorer or clicking the similar major cards.