Associated Students UCLA had a Microsoft SharePoint server hosting various funding applications for students to apply for funding for their student groups (student groups are like clubs). The SharePoint 2003 server became dated over the years since its creation and was no longer able to handle the volume of applications hitting the server.
We looked at many solutions and determined developing in-house would provide the best and economical solution for our needs. Reasons includes Microsoft discontinuing development for InfoPath forms on SharePoint and our department's operating budget. We developed USAC Funding in a LAMP over 1.5 years.
We have 5 core types of users; students, advisors, funding directors, accounting and system adminstrators.
We wanted to design the web application so any student can submit a funding application on the behalf of their student group. Students are free to make their own personal account or an organizational account if they want to share access other members. But how do we check if the student submitting the application is permitted to submit for that student group? In the back end, we contact the UCLA SOLE database and query who are the signatories. If the person submitting the application is not a signatory, we will still allow the application to be submitted, but the signatories will be notified by email and are allowed to revoke the application. Sometimes the student group will have their own funding directors but are not signatories.
Advisors are assigned by UCLA SOLE. Advisor accounts can be automatically generated or manually generated on a as needed basis with the correct permissions. The advisor is responsible for advising the student groups, making sure they have provided sufficient evidence for their funding request and enforcing the funding rules. Some funding applications does not need the approval of the advisor.
Funding directors and accountants can run reports on the amount requested, approved, denied or pending. Some funding applications goes directly to the funding director bypassing the advisors. Also, some students are also funding directors.
System administrators can intervene at any point of the application process. The application can change any parts of the application when needed.
First, the student submits a funding application. Depending on the funding application rules, an advisor reviews the application or a funding director reviews the application. Then the funding director can prepare the data for hearings and/or allocation and pass the data to accounting. Accounting can audit these funding request. Not pictured; students can then visit usac.ucla.edu to check their available funds. Then the student can submit a General Requisition to access the funds for payment to vendors, purchase order, cash advance etc.
We receive funding applications from students and initially store them locally on our server. The system will contact the appropriate people by querying various databases to review the application and handle supplemental changes and comments made by the reviewer. After a set amount of time, during a CRON job, the server will attempt to move the funding applications to Box as our long term storage solution and free up server storage.
The flowchart is publicly viewable but draw.io requires you, the user, to sign-in with your Google account. But if your organization blocks Google services or if the thing does not load, here's a link to the flow chart.
There was not a lot of traditional actual design work since we were just using the UCLA Gateway template created by UCLA marketing. Most of the design work was just done during front end coding and the occasional paper sketch with colleagues and managers. So instead of creating wireframes, static HTML pages were generated and shared internally because it was a lot easier to work within our predefined design limitations. See the screenshots above for how the site was designed.
In terms of the photos chosen, UCLA LOVES to use pictures of Royce Hall for just about everything. For a previous project on updating usac.ucla.edu website, I choose pictures that related to the undergraduate student government. For this project, I wanted to break away from the traditional Royce Hall pictures and I choose pictures that represents Los Angeles. On the website you will find pictures taken at Little Tokyo, the Hollywood sign but from behind and Downtown Los Angeles. Two of these pictures comes from the creative common. Pictures of Royce Hall unfortunally resurfaces for some pages because that was how the funding director wanted the page to look.
We did do some light UX research. Some of the static HTML and some developmental live pages were shown to close friends, colleagues who are going to be using the web application, select advisors and my manager. In summary, people liked that the website matches the UCLA branding, looks user friendly, was enthusiastic about the automation performed in the back end, ability to add more different funding sources and the improved workflow compared to the previous SharePoint system. Concerns were security of system, ability of system to handle 300+ applications in ~5 minutes and possible unknown bugs.
USAC Funding was launched in the summer of 2015 with first application submitted August 29, 2015. Launch went generally well. There was a bug where approximately 10% of the applications will fail to submit because their student organization's name contained a special character. This issue has been addressed. Other issues were advisors no able to see applications that were assigned to them. It turned out to be a MySQL query issue. As of December 7, 2016, the system has processed over 1,793 funding applications, 4,383 files, 909 student users and $3,183,987.09 of approved funding.