MySwat, our dear friend. The one who holds our hand, guiding us through our Swat experience. The first entity in this college to know our names, our pronouns, and our home address. Sometimes MySwat can be the bearer of difficult news, like the grade from that class we missed the deadline to pass/fail. But MySwat is also what helps us make it rain after working our asses off in our campus jobs … only for the well to quickly dry up again regardless. That’s not its fault, though — that is a separate story. At the beginning of my college experience, MySwat had that unique smell of an early two-thousands website. But it has changed recently, and we need to have a talk about that. So this week, it is MySwat’s turn to be grilled.
Let’s peel this banana bit by bit, starting with the colors. Before, the site background had that unique hue of a crême brulée that had been over-bruléed by at least two decades. This layout was topped with a navigation bar the color of an oxidized cherry attempting to look garnet. Now, the new MySwat background is white with a caffeine effect. While white backgrounds tend to be more digestible and are more recommended in general for website design, sometimes it can feel like your eyes are being overfed.
Next, we have to talk about the font. I remember the times on the old MySwat when the velvety red letters would turn purple when our cursor grazed them. A gray subheading would let you know what you were getting into. The size of the font allowed the information to be easily ingested. In the updated version, the blue-black colors seem pretty cookie-cutter, nothing particularly garnetty — which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Each webpage’s subcategory with its corresponding description is packaged neatly in its own box — we’ll unpack that later. But the size of the letters on the current website feel like crumbs, and my eyes are hungry. If the intention behind this was to avoid scrolling as much as possible, trust me, making the font size too small is a bad idea.
Let’s talk about the display. As I’ve said, each webpage has subcategories arranged into boxes in the middle of the screen. This design choice left me with a mixed flavor in my mouth. On one hand, a little bit of visual separation between categories was necessary, since in the previous version they were crammed together like a crowd at Essie’s on a bad Sharples day. However, on the other hand, the order and arrangement of these boxes are not necessarily intuitive, especially in the “Student” section. In this part of the website, the boxes are arranged in alphabetical order with the exception of “Student profile,” which appears at the top. The problem with this arrangement is that the boxes that are most important for students to see, like “Degree Audit” or “Shadow Grades,” are not the ones that immediately catch your eye. Instead, one has to search for them for a solid second, like that one grape in a fruit cup. Instead, the display should prioritize the most-used boxes to match user intent, which is usually the most recommended layout.
There are definitely some major improvements in this new version of MySwat. For instance, the degree audit webpage has dramatically changed for the better. Not only is it easier to metabolize, but useful information such as the exact missing course requirements for your degree are also clearly listed. The new MySwat also gives you a percentage of how on-track you are, credit and requirement-wise, which is extremely helpful.
Moreover, timesheets are easier to use and have a nicer display and preview as you log your hours. But there is a flaw in this new system. As a student who works multiple jobs, I’ve juggled research work while handing off packages at the post office, and I’ve been able to seamlessly log my hours in before the update. However, in this new system you get an exclamation mark when you log your hours for both jobs during the same time frame. Swatties are multitaskers by nature, so this addition leaves me with a bitter taste in my mouth.
An update to MySwat was necessary. As humans evolve, the tools they use must evolve with them. Overgarnettizing is not necessarily the best idea for website design, and Swat seems to have acknowledged this with the new update. However, the fact remains that the new site design is still modeled after the course registration website we always use, so the drum rolling in anticipation was disproportionate to what we got in the end. And even with all the fanfare around this event, many pages — with their many flaws — remained unchanged. By clicking on items such as “Grades at a Glance,” “Final Exam Schedule,” or “Majors and Minors,” one feels teleported back in time to the early days of Myspace. This mismatched mix of the old and the new, in addition to the many improvements and errors of the new MySwat, leaves us with the feeling that this update is cooked medium rare.