I'm starting to learn the art of iteration. Just because something is done today doesn't mean that it's finished.
When we launched five brand new marketing sites in the College of Education & Human Development in September 2013 (my first big project at this job), we completed a lot of very crucial tasks, including getting the websites on responsive templates, creating a consistent organization and design for all the top-level sites, and moving all the sites to the content management system Drupal away from some ancient system I'd never heard of before & haven't heard of since. The sites sat "as launched" for six months, before we began three months of evaluations, which included focus groups, analyzing data from Google Analytics and talking with our site users. Based on our evaluation findings, we then began three months of implementing changes.
One of the beauties of this process is that it brought to light good & bad ideas. Initially, we decided to publish news from all five top-level sites. The news was then combined in different feeds based on tags. The result was a tangled mess of duplicate posts, low interaction from users, good news being overlooked and bad news sticking around too long. While trying to find a solution for this problem, our communications team met to discuss a plan for launching a new campaign for the college. The timing was perfect & we decided to build a new site to corespond with the campaign launch & start of a new semester. We decided to create one site fully dedicated to the stories of our college. This site - Transform - is our solution.
Here's a run down of the project...
Create a news & events focused site to increase user engagement for timely articles & magazines published by the college & its departments.
Make the site more visual.
Solution: Include more images. Include video functionality on the site. We also removed all slideshows & instead opted for a more user (and accessible) friendly static image hierarchy.
Make it easier to navigate through stories.
Solution: Use masonry library layout for landing/taxonomy pages (ex: Features). Adding next/previous and "related stories" to the end of articles.
Highlight the new "Impacts" from the new campaign.
Solution: Organize & color code the site by the impacts & include them next to each article title throughout the site.
Allow Department news to stand on its own.
Solution: Create four department landing pages (ex: HLKN) that mimic the home page, but display only news & events related to that department.
Replicate our printed magazine on the web.
Solution: Create an online, interactive magazine, organized by Issue & article (ex: Fall 2014 - STEM Education). Additional styling for easy reading, image captions & call outs were also included.
Increase user interaction on the site.
Solution: Add previous/next navigation & related story links on articles. Add in-line "Tweet This" options for block quotes and call outs.
Include news from the whole college, but as a centralized voice and brand.
Solution: Create levels of site users to allow for moderation of content before it's published. We also included a "Submit a Story" feature for anyone who wishes to contribute.
The site launched on September 18, 2014, at our annual Student Welcome Back Bash. On that day the article "A New Way to Tell Our Story" was published - along with a promotional video - to introduce the new campaign & website to our college. Immediate feedback was extremely positive.
After only three weeks, we've already seen a positive change for site interactions, including increased page views and decreased bounce rates. For example: when "News" was just a page on the main site, the landing page bounce rate over the course of a month was 60%. The Transform home page bounce rate is now only 26%. That changed suprised even me!
So go check out Transform. Our college is doing some great things & I'm really proud to be a part of it.
Client: College of Education & Human Development (my full time employer)
Theme: Custom template using Zen base theme
Time to Complete: Four weeks total, while completing other projects & daily duties of work
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