The challenges for this university web design project were many: First, was built in an old CMS that was tough to administer, the site lived in four different servers, the branding was old, and — most importantly — students couldn’t figure out how to apply. Our challenge was to re-imagine the site not only to remedy the technical aspects of the website, but incorporate UIC’s new branding online, and then streamline and simplify the admissions process for a very diverse set of students.
What are students looking for in a university web design? How do they use the site to make decisions?
Our approach was based on using first-hand interviews and research conducted with students looking for a school like UIC. We interviewed all of their target student profiles, and got their impressions not only of the university, but of the website as well. We also brought Admissions people from all levels together to make sure that the site worked for everyone’s daily experience and professional life. We intentionally built flexibility into the site to encourage the greatest number of people to institute their own changes from year to year.
We are especially proud of our efforts translating the new brand online, as accessibility standards removed many of our color combinations from use as they didn’t comply. Since we started this project while UIC’s branding was being created, we had to guess at the final outcome and then incorporate it on the fly. This site was the first site to launch with the new direction. We worked as a whole team to accomplish this, making some changes to improve accessibility and usability. We also worked as a team to wireframe the major sections, getting everyone’s input on the final product was key.
Students can smell a stock photo from a mile away in a university web design and when making a decision on where to go to college, they need to be able to see themselves there. We helped define the photo direction and shot list and worked closely with their expert photographer to direct the photo shoot so the images would work well both online and in print.
We built this site in stages, in order of priority. Obstacles and changes can come up, as well as tech debt, that will require some planned pieces to either decrease in scope or get eliminated altogether. Throughout the build process, we trained the Admissions staff so they would feel comfortable updating it after we handed over the keys.