College website

Objective:

Take 200+ pages of content from an existing website and design an intuitive, accessible website for marketing American College of Education as the best place to get an online Master of Education degree and serving the needs of the existing student population.

Key challenges:

  1. Organize a wide variety of types of information into an intuitive, easily-navigable website
  2. Capture leads from prospective students while simultaneously catering to existing students' needs
  3. Manage the entire project, from planning to design to testing to launch

The process:

  1. Project scope and agency selection
  2. Information architecture and sketching
  3. Wireframing
  4. Design and build desktop and mobile sites

My role: design & development lead

I hired and managed an in-house creative team of four (2 designers, 1 writer, 1 developer) and an external web development agency.


1. Project scope and agency selection

American College of Education needed to rebrand the college and create a new website to serve three main audiences:

  1. Current students: provide access to student services, the online learning system and other resources
  2. Faculty: allow faculty to maintain their department and degree program pages for current and future students
  3. Prospective students: the website should market degree programs to prospective students and gather leads

I was hired to lead the creative services department through this process. I hired two designers, a writer, and a developer to join the team in-house, and interviewed local agencies to determine the best fit.

Choosing the right partner

We chose an agency that was built around lead generation optimization, which was important for our business as an online college recruiting students and gathering leads on our website.

My in-house team and I worked hand-in-hand with the agency team to rebrand the college as well as completely redesign our website front and back end.

Information gathering and planning

  • Content planning
    - Assessment of user pathways from Google Analytics
    - Interviews with academic department chairs
    - Utilization of alumni partners as focus group

  • Technology considerations
    - APIs with student application software, e-learning platform, student accounts, and more
    - Selection of CMS that allows for multiple users to update site
    - Necessity of separate mobile site for email landing pages

  • Competitor assessment
    - Evaluation of interactive tools that help prospective
    students understand their options


 

 

2. Information architecture and sketching

I worked with the agency's information architect to determine the most user-friendly way to organize our hundreds of pages of content.

We developed a taxonomy of pages based on our Google Analytics highest-visited pages by students and prospective students.

This phase was helpful in getting our creative and development teams on board with a shared vision.


3. Wireframes and stakeholder buy-in

With the wireframing phase, we added more detail and were able to illustrate the interactive elements of the website, including:

  • drop-down menu navigation
  • lead form functionality
  • hero image slider
  • radio buttons on special feature highlights
  • video player

Once wireframes were complete, the task was to get stakeholder buy-in across the college, including:

  • academic department chairs
  • finance and bursar's office
  • call center and field marketing team
  • student services
  • president of the college
  • owner of the company and investors

4. Design and build desktop and mobile sites