Carta is Stanford’s popular course exploration and planning platform. It has been a prominent resource for 95% of Stanford undergraduates, helping students plan their academic journey and evolve their education with data-driven decisions.

The feature I worked on was the Sidebar. In Carta V1, the Sidebar served as a touchpoint for students to view their quarter’s weekly schedule, regardless of what stage they were in the course browsing process. In addition to a time-block schedule, it also included a checklist of pinned courses, an estimated weekly time commitment, and the number of units.
Decide whether or not the Sidebar should be included in V2 based on how much it’s relied on in students’ course-planning experiences
  • Research and understand students’ course planning processes to determine if Sidebar should stay
  • If kept, redesign Sidebar to best address current shortcomings and pain points
UX Designer
6 weeks (April - May 2021)
Figma, Miro


I interviewed four Stanford undergraduate students across all grades to learn what processes work for them when formulating their academic schedules.

The students were asked to walk me through their planning process for Spring quarter and answer questions such as
  • How did you develop your planning process and how has it changed over the years?
  • What aspects about your current planning process work for you?
  • What was your experience with Carta’s sidebar like?
To see how widely-used the Sidebar is, I sent out a survey through various university mailing lists. 68 respondents gave insight into the percentage of students that use the Sidebar, the importance of keeping the feature, and other resources used when course planning.
Current Sidebar State
  • A good portion of students use the tool to some extent
  • There are mixed views on how important the Sidebar is
  • Students use Carta more for course reviews and intensity
  • Students like ability to hide classes from course overview
Student Actions During Enrollment
  • Identify and lock in classes they need to take and then choose filler classes
  • Select filler classes by “spitballing” all potential courses they might be interested in
  • Undergo rounds of narrowing  based on logistical constraints, conflicts, goals, etc
Non-Sidebar Users
  • Enjoy using own personal planner b/c of flexibility and customization
  • Like ability to create multiple versions of quarter
  • Like color coding (by must-have vs shopping classes, degree requirements, etc)
I concluded that the Sidebar feature should be kept. There was a clear majority of students that used the Sidebar to some extent, and keeping the tool would at least give students the option to use it if they so desired. From the user research, it was evident that the functionality provided by the Sidebar is highly valued when short-term planning. Thus, my next goal was to redesign the Sidebar to best meet students’ ideal planning process.
In order to pursue my redesign, I first needed to research the current interfaces that students use to plan their quarter schedules.
A feature within Stanford’s official course enrollment platform. Students “Plan” classes they want to take and SimpleEnroll saves it so students can officially “Enroll” in them when enrollment opens.
  • Enrolled classes show up as time blocks = intuitive way to visualize
  • Classes that students plan to take but are not enrolled in are hidden from weekly schedule by default = reduces clutter/visual overload
  • Logistical info for class shows up when hovering over time block
Carta V1 Sidebar
A feature that assists with short-term planning. It persists throughout all stages of a user’s course-browsing process and enables students to view/construct their quarter course schedule.
  • Pinning a class automatically adds it to Sidebar and Planner
  • Pinned classes are displayed at top, so Quarter Overview is pushed below the fold when a lot of classes are pinned
  • All course sections are automatically added = visually overwhelming


From the competitive analysis and user research, I designed the following mid-fi wireframes to address current student concerns, as well as cater toward the most effective planning habits for students.
Displaying the Quarter Overview at the top of Sidebar
Research showed that having a readily accessible time block schedule is quintessential to figuring out how to build upon students’ plan. The V1 Quarter Overview, however, is hidden below the fold when many classes are pinned since it the pinned classes are listed above.
Categorizing pinned classes into “Must-takes” & “Undecided”
Students categorized courses into classes they NEEDED to take and classes they COULD take. Since many students choose their filler classes via a spitballing/listing method, explicitly outlining these categories on the Sidebar would help students identify which classes to keep and eliminate.
Hiding “Undecided” courses from Quarter Overview by default
Currently, pinned classes are displayed by default. Because students tend to "spitball" potential classes, this could become clutter. Hiding undecided classes would clean up the UI while still making them accessible. This would mirror SimpleEnroll, where “Must-takes” = “Enrolled” and “Undecided” = “Planned”.
Color-tagging “Undecided” courses by scheduling conflicts
Many students liked SimpleEnroll’s display of time conflicts between classes, so color-tagging the “Undecided” courses by scheduling conflicts could provide students an easier way to narrow down their courses and decide which should be moved up to the “Must-takes” section.


  • Incorporates all key changes listed above and uses drag and drop method to move around classes
  • Users can drag course card from course page onto appropriate drop-zone in Sidebar
  • Users can quickly reorganize classes into “Must-takes” and “Undecided” = flexible and efficient planning experience


  • Rather than drop zones, course cards have drag handles that indicate to users they can move them around
  • When dragged, position bar is displayed to indicate to users where card will go if they release mouse cursor
  • User testing needed to determine which UI display is more preferred


  • Takes into consideration the Saved feature, which currently does not exist but will be in future iterations
  • “View Saved” button would provide students quick access to classes they could be considering adding to their quarter


I was able to gain so much valuable experience and insight into each stage of the design process. As a fellow Stanford student and user of Carta, this project felt especially relevant to me, and it was incredibly rewarding to hear from my peers about their experiences with the Sidebar. I drew a lot of inspiration from students’ personal planning processes when ideating solutions, and it was surreal being able to witness human experiences helping to improve other human experiences.

Next Steps

If not for time constraints, I would have...