When an organization experiences a period of substantial growth and evolution, its digital experience can easily fall out of step with its overall brand strategy.
That was one of the challenges facing Concordia University, St. Paul (CSP), a leading private liberal arts university located in Minnesota’s bustling capital city that serves 5,000+ students. In their case, a complete website redesign was in order to reflect not only their evolving brand, but also their goals as a forward-thinking institution and their desire to provide an accessible and welcoming experience for a diverse and growing audience.
A comprehensive discovery helped us understand the legacy site’s challenges and objectives, in terms of architecture, layout, design, and overall user experience. This process included a series of interviews with 12 members of the CSP team across different departments; a user survey completed by 170 current students; a deep analytics assessment; and a high-level website audit.
Through our research, we found that users and their families value easy access to information about programs, class sizes, skill development, professional growth opportunities, and easy-to-digest statistics about CSP’s reputation and achievements, as well as the opportunity to connect more with their community in the future.
The new website needed to be scalable so it could keep pace with CSP’s growth over time and reflect the university’s evolving brand identity, defined by its stakeholders as bold, welcoming, and innovative. The primary focus of the new digital experience was to inform, engage, and inspire prospective undergrad and grad students and their families with the goal of increasing overall enrollment, and a specific focus on transfer and online students. Their team wanted to highlight the “Concordia Value,” the personality of the university, the commitment of staff and faculty, and the wide array of offerings for different types of students.
The new WordPress site we created is based upon a system of flexible building blocks that provide a consistent aesthetic and layout across all pages, but can be rearranged as needed to highlight the content that is most valuable to each program or department to allow for program-specific storytelling with the tools provided.
Programs and professional growth opportunities are given top priority, with clearly differentiated information that highlights the value of each program while appropriately conveying CSP’s innovative identity. A program filter allows users to search by program name, degree type, area of study, program location or program group, as well as to access related programs of study. Across the site, compelling messaging focuses on the practical value of CSP’s offerings, while promoting the impact of new work and achievements of students and faculty.
It’s now easier for prospective students to imagine themselves at CSP through the narrative journeys of existing students, faculty, and alumni, providing a more personalized experience that encourages users to explore how to be more involved in the CSP community and develop valuable skills in class that will translate to their life after graduation. These stories are enhanced by a hero montage video, a collection of visuals and quotes, and a vivid color palette that all represent life at CSP — not only the on-campus experience as viewed through the lens of a diverse selection of students, but also the online experience for virtual learning, as well.
The content provides clear pathways with appropriately placed calls to action that help users complete their intended actions on the site. It optimizes navigation through the use of a collapsible sidebar menu that clearly communicates the full breadth of content available in each section, as well as a sticky menu featuring “Visit,” “Apply,” and “Give” calls to action that follows viewers on their journey through the site.
Finally, viewers have quick access to related sites and relevant content, such as the Academic Catalog and Academic Calendar, Online Programs, Tuition and Financial Aid, Faith and Ministry opportunities, and a host of Student Services and campus life resources. Users can also browse News and Events listings that can be filtered based on their preferences, take a virtual tour, and learn about the most current COVID-19 updates.
In short, the site now provides a flexible toolkit for program promotion and provides pathways that invite viewers to dig deeper. It powerfully communicates the university’s value proposition and encourages students to make an investment in their future by enrolling at Concordia University, St. Paul — all of which increases the likelihood of conversion for prospective students.
Our team looks forward to the next phase of this project: providing ongoing technical support for this site as it moves forward into the future.