Exam and data insight user interfaces

This year has seen significant progress on digital assessment initiatives within AQA, and the global assessment space. I'm proud to be involved in defining AQA's exams interface and its accompanying insight reporting system, so that AQA can adapt to shifting customer expectations.

Exam and data insight user interfaces


Driven by the pandemic's surge in digital learning, my organisation is embracing digital assessments. Traditional methods have left educators with limited student performance data. Students, familiar with online tools, are already comfortable with remote learning ont their devices. A successful publuc adoption of on-screen exams hinges on a positive student experience with the assessment interface.


Our vision is to revolutionize on-screen assessment by streamlining the testing experience and empowering educators. We'll achieve this by tackling usability issues for test-takers, providing data-driven insights for informed interventions, and seamlessly integrating our tools into the broader educational ecosystem, allowing educators to work more efficiently and effectively.

Check out the announcement↗


User experience and User Interface design consultant

Building a Shared Vision

I joined a fantastically diverse team, and together we dove into the core principles that would guide our design. User research played a starring role, informing our north star goal — to provide schools and colleges with an end-to-end assessment platform that generates actionable insights which improve student learning outcomes. I shared UX principles and collated existing research to inform an abstract concept for the product. By discussing the negative customer experience of our current service, and comparing that against our competitor's offer, we established learnings that would guide our design thinking later in the project.

Discovery phase

The discovery phase was a whirlwind of learning and collaboration! I helped create detailed personas, which we then categorized into six distinct user segments – from teachers measuring their students performance to exams officers handling administration. It felt like getting to know the inner workings of the entire education network.

We brainstormed, piecing together a comprehensive customer experience map. This map tracked our users' journeys throughout the academic year, highlighting key milestones and pain points.

Working with architects, we delved into the current data models, a maze of information with complex hierarchies and niche qualification jargon. We compared this across the qualification portfolio and open-source databases, figuring out opportunities to simplify and clean the data.

The highlight for me was definitely the stakeholder interviews. We sat down with system users, hearing firsthand about their daily struggles. It was eye-opening to hear about the clunky interfaces and cumbersome workflows they were battling. 

This discovery phase was like assembling a puzzle – each piece revealing a new facet of the user experience. Now, with a clear picture in mind, we're ready to tackle the design challenge head-on!

Design phase

The design phase was all about taking ideas and turning them into reality. We started with rapid prototyping, which means we used a digital whiteboard to quickly sketch out our initial concepts. It wasn't fancy, but it helped us explore a bunch of different ideas fast.

Once we had some favorites, we turned them into interactive prototypes. These were more polished versions with clickable elements and user flows. This allowed us to test how well our ideas actually worked and get feedback from real users.

Speaking of feedback, user sessions were key! We showed real people our interactive prototypes and watched how they navigated the dashboard. Their insights were gold. We learned which ways of showing data worked best and which ones just confused people. We also used their feedback to improve how clear and easy to use the dashboard was.

Based on this feedback, we refined how we presented the data. We tried different charts, colors, and layouts. The goal? To make the data informative, but also visually interesting and easy to understand at a glance.

Finally, we tackled how users would find the information they needed. We designed a clear and simple navigation system with filters, a search function, and a well-organized layout.

By the end of the design phase, we had transformed our initial sketches into a beautiful, functional, and user-friendly insights dashboard. It was a team effort, fueled by rapid prototyping, user feedback, and a passion for creating a great user experience. Now, it's on to the next exciting stage – development!

UX inclusions

As the designer with the closest realtionship to our external communication channels, I aimed to influence:

  • Plain Language and contextual support — jargon-free explanations with on-hover tooltips so users can confidently explore data.
  • Responsive design — to ensure usable report views on any device, teachers across the UK use varied devices, ipads, chromebooks, digital whiteboards etc.
  • Visual design and accessibility —  making sure data visualisations are on-brand whilst easy to interpret and adhering to modern accessibility standards.
  • Usability heuristics — avoid common issues by aligning designs to familar UX patterns backed by research.


The on-screen assessment software with its comprehensive insights dashboard should empower educators to make data-driven interventions to the way they prepare for and administer exams. I am excited for the delivery of the service, we'll have to wait and see how it impacts the users once digital exams have been piloted and approved of in the next few years. Follow the story on AQA's website.

Lessons learned

#1 The Power of Collaboration and Shared Vision — This project thrived on a team approach. By bringing together diverse perspectives (user research, competitor analysis, UX principles), the team was able to establish a clear north star goal and design principles that guided the entire project.

#2 Deep User Understanding Through Discovery — The discovery phase was crucial in understanding user needs. Creating detailed user personas, mapping the customer journey, and conducting stakeholder interviews all provided valuable insights into user pain points and opportunities for improvement.

#3 Rapid Prototyping and User Feedback Drive Effective Design — The design phase utilized rapid prototyping to quickly explore ideas and gather user feedback early and often. This iterative process ensured the final product addressed user needs and offered a clear, intuitive, and user-friendly experience.

Similar posts you might like