FuquaWorld Case Study

FuquaWorld is the Duke Fuqua business school’s intranet portal used by students, faculty and staff. It is a mission-critical site for many functions performed across all populations. 


Systems and content within the business school are managed by many, varied departments, all of which tend to follow their own workflows. Over the years, each team would figure out some method or third-party application to get their job done, leading to a tangle of sites and applications that users–especially students–needed to navigate to get their work done. FuquaWorld was intended to be the one-stop-shop for users to solve this problem.

Prior to my joining the internal and academic development team, Fuquaworld was a 15-year-old table-based design that had been maintained by the same developer. There were no requirements. Instead, when faculty or staff within the school needed functionality, they would contact this developer, who would create a few pages that would cover the workflow, then add another 10-point font link to the FuquaWorld homepage. This made the home page very difficult to parse, but also highly-critical.


These problems were instantly clear upon joining the software development team. My first exercise was to conduct user interviews with staff to find out how they used FuquaWorld to help them run the operations of the school. This revealed a high-degree of diversity among staff roles and the features they used. It also revealed that useful features were being under-utilized due to an overwhelming interface.

Based on these interviews along with student feedback, I created a prototype and conducted remote usability testing with students.

Using these results, a beta release was developed from a framework based on the prototype HTML/CSS for students. Following students, interviews and testing were conducted with faculty, staff and PhD students to provide role-based functionality and information structure. This provided a standard UI framework that was used on top of Java using the tiles framework. The project was stored in Git.

The visual redesign focused on a minimal design and used negative space and larger font-sizes. The redesign used color only for links and images, in anticipation of a marketing-driven rebranding. Once rebranding is complete, a SCSS file will be included to enable branding to change without affecting layout.

Rollout of the new interface took years, requiring that a high-level of communication be maintained with audiences. As well, fallback options to use old FuquaWorld were kept in place until audiences had everything they needed and were comfortable with the new interface.


User testing revealed that high-risk workflows received high ratings from students and increased organization and visibility of features made them much more findable. The new site also uses search via the content management system Alfresco, which gives users an alternate method of finding resources and enables staff to keep content up-to-date and centralized. Adoption has been slow but steady, and support emails have been relatively low.

Thumbnail of FuquaWorld intranet portal
New FuquaWorld Homepage