In 2018, leaders at UT Dallas’ School of Economic, Political and Policy Sciences came to our office for help with a redesign. The existing site was dated and not responsive, making it difficult to read on mobile devices. A quick look at Google Analytics showed around 40 percent of users were coming on mobile, so that was a problem.
I began the redesign process by developing three primary personas — a high school student interesting in coming to UT Dallas and possibly majoring in economics, an existing student looking for information on a degree plan and an alumnus who wanted to see what opportunities there to give back and get involved. The personas also guided the navigation for the site, with the top headings of Future Students, Current Students and Alumni in the top navigation.
Meetings with faculty and staff also helped guide the content strategy for the site. Leadership wanted the site to be admissions-driven, so prospective students would be the primary target audience. I recommended using a storytelling approach, highlighting successful students with pull quotes on “My EPPS Success.” Academic advisors in the school wanted current students to be able to easily access relevant degree-planning worksheets, internships and a list of student organizations.
The leaders also wanted to stimulate alumni engagement and giving. I worked with the school’s development staff to create an alumni area on the site, with profiles of notable graduates, photo galleries from recent events and a calendar promoting upcoming events. Mirroring the future student pages, we also would have alumni photos and quotes on what the school meant to them.
Data from Google Analytics and Google Data Studio reports showed traffic and keyword searches guiding users to the program pages. They were searching for say, economics degrees and Dallas, and coming to the Economics page. I made the program pages very admissions-focused, incorporating a new video promoting the University with links to apply, get more information and meet fellow students.
I developed the information architecture for the site using Slickplan. To help test the architecture, I used Optimal Workshop’s Treejack and OptimalSort user experience research tools to test the site with current students.
Through this process, I worked with the school’s marketing team to better develop branding points and began incorporating them into a Style Guide that also detailed the personas. The guide also includes details for photo sizing and tips on headline lengths to fit in the templates. It also explained the strategies behind the content so that future writers and editors could carry out the site’s vision.
The site was moving into a WordPress environment, so I worked closely with developers to develop templates for pages and post within our WordPress 4.0 content management system.
I also helped with the content migration, working with the school’s communication officer to develop content, including the all-important program pages. I worked with the school’s assistant dean of outreach and engagement to integrate the student profiles her team had created, interspersing them within the pages based, sorting for major.
The site launched in late February, drawing rave reviews from faculty, staff and administrators. The results are beginning to come in on analytics as well, with the number of new users up 16 percent and the number of sessions up 13 percent in the month after launch. I’m hopeful the site will achieve its mission with a rise in applications and commitments from admitted students this fall.