With more than 39,000 students and 300+ academic degree programs, Philadelphia-based Temple University is one of the nation’s most robust and diverse universities.
Laying a New Digital Foundation: Web Infrastructure
Our long-standing relationship with Temple began when they made the decision to adopt Drupal as their university-wide content management platform. They were in need of a team with the technical chops to support them through the planning, redevelopment, and migration of more than 100 websites scattered throughout the university.
The pilot projects for the Drupal migration were the flagship sites: temple.edu and admissions.temple.edu, both of which were built by our team in close coordination with Temple’s in-house design resources. After successful, on-time launches for both of those projects, we continued to support Temple through the consolidation process, ultimately helping to support, build, or coordinate the launch of more than 80 websites. We continue to collaborate with their in-house marketing and technology resources, along with their external vendors and partners, to keep their web infrastructure running smoothly.
Taking the Next Step With Next Stop: The Digital Viewbook Experience
Having established a relationship with university stakeholders as a trusted Drupal partner, and armed with a thorough understanding of their evolving brand initiatives, we next teamed with Temple’s Admissions Department to convert their college viewbook — the comprehensive marketing “bible” for prospective and incoming students and their parents — from a traditional print brochure to a high-energy, all-digital interactive format that was teeming with “wow factor.” Despite the web being new territory for viewbooks, Temple was confident in our abilities as a full-service agency to bring together the necessary technology, design, and strategy elements to make the project work.
Working closely with an innovative group of strategists, creatives, and technologists on Temple’s Strategic Communications team, we created Next Stop, a cutting-edge, immersive online experience for prospective young students. This new information-rich engagement tool offers prospective students details on academics, tuition and financial aid, athletics, campus and city living, and study abroad opportunities, as well as access to an online application form — all of which is supplemented with intricate animated imagery, infographics, embedded video, student case studies, and more. It also serves as a valuable recruiting device when presented by university staff via smartphones, tablets, or laptops at college fairs, orientation days, and other university-related events.
To ensure the viewbook could be experienced appropriately on any device, including older smartphones and low-capability devices, we added a variety of clever solutions and performance enhancements that assisted with image-loading requirements and bandwidth demands. After its inaugural year, we implemented a layout redesign based on feedback from user testing and usage patterns — providing meaningful new pathways to relevant, sought-after information based on the analytics and behavior.
The site has earned multiple awards and accolades, including being named an official Webby honoree for Best Website - School/University for the pilot site in 2016 and an official Webby nomination in the same category for the expanded and revised release of the site in 2018. Hailed as the “Internet’s highest honor” by The New York Times, The Webby Awards are presented by the International Academy of Digital Arts and Sciences, the leading organization honoring excellence on the Internet.
Building a Scalable Website Framework: Data Intelligence Meets Atomic Design
After consolidating Temple’s website platform from a technology perspective, the university found itself facing a new challenge: the need for a large-scale initiative to standardize its visual and content approach across its various departments and schools. Due, in part, to our established history in working with Temple and our broad experience in related projects, university stakeholders engaged us to begin this aggressive task.
We began by creating a website framework that could be applied to meet their diverse objectives, with the first iteration being a site focused exclusively on attracting and engaging prospective incoming students at the university’s Klein College of Media and Communication. The site’s content strategy was informed by data intelligence gathered through extensive behavioral and search pattern analyses in three key areas:
Sitemap User Testing — We confirmed our assumptions about navigation labels by tracking test subjects as they moved through a sample sitemap one level at a time. This gave us insight into decision points based on questions such as, "Will someone know X refers to Y?" or "Will someone know to find X under Y?" The results revealed that traditional nomenclature was not as effective as it was assumed to be, and tweaking it allowed us to align labels with real-world terminology usage as opposed to the traditional “functional structure” that was previously in place.
Search Behavior Analysis — Employing a combination of web crawlers and other proprietary technology, we identified which search terms and content categories are most commonly used by prospective students throughout various stages of the college-selection process. This answered questions like, "What content moves a prospective student closer to making the decision to apply?"
Competitor Analysis — An audit of peer universities illustrated the various types of content they present for prospective students, how they organize it, and, most important, how we could improve upon areas in which they were falling short.
Working closely with a select group of Temple’s communication specialists and department team members, we conducted a deep inventory, quality analysis, and consolidation of existing content in three categories: information that is relevant for prospective students; information that should be moved to an existing Temple intranet for currently enrolled students; and information that should be omitted from the new site altogether.
Where necessary, we worked with faculty to rewrite and refine existing content for the new site, while prioritizing keyword optimization based on proven SEO principles. A key new feature called Find Your Major was created allowing prospective students to identify their passion for a particular job or field of interest without requiring them to know the specific names of majors commonly associated with it. In the end, we ran the new collection of site content through a natural language processor to ensure that search engines were recognizing and understanding the terminology it in the way it was intended.
The completed website, designed with a focus on flexibility throughout, presents content in a digitally engaging way while being viewed on any device. And because our approach is based on objective ongoing research, it is intended to be modified over time in response to insight we gain from user testing.
Going forward, Temple is generating plans to roll out this framework on a larger scale, and departments that adopt this scalable solution will realize significant cost savings because of this flexible and functional proven solution that is now in place.
Global Perspective: Creating a Microsite for Chinese Students Studying Abroad
With Chinese students making up the largest percentage of international students studying in the United States — and thousands of universities vying for their enrollment — Temple wanted to make a bold move to compete more effectively in this vertical. In this case, we were able to adapt and apply the existing framework to the creation of a new Drupal-based microsite tailored specifically to the needs of Chinese students.
Beginning with intensive research and a current student survey, we examined the decision journey of typical Chinese students to find out what qualities they value in a university, how they use the web to make higher education decisions, and how Temple could better respond to their needs. We looked closely at the qualities that make the United States the top study abroad destination and how Temple can apply these insights to their own new microsite, especially when viewed within the context of how other top universities around the world currently market to these students — and what current students value about their international experience. We also studied the expectations of international parents and China-based employers, both of which factored heavily into the students’ decisions.
We leveraged those findings to create a site that positions Temple as a vibrant and diverse top academic and research institution in the fifth-largest city in the United States, but which also provides a welcoming experience; a broad array of traditional and non-traditional majors; a staff that understands the unique needs of international students; and a host of special services that not only eases their transition to American life, but also supports them throughout their time as a student, both on and off campus.
Starting with the design process for the homepage, we noticed that headlines were originally relegated to only Chinese- or English-language versions. After consideration, we made the decision to incorporate headlines mirrored in both languages to be more inclusive and to visually convey to students that it is a mixture of both cultures and influences that will inform their overall experience at Temple.
We also created original copy for secondary pages with a focus on plainly understood and easily digestible language, which we then converted to Chinese through an independent translation service. Because social media is limited in China, we worked with the Temple team to identify media that could be integrated through Youku, a Beijing-based video-hosting service. In addition to calls to action to explore all that the university has to offer, including viewing success stories and testimonials from other Chinese students, the site leads viewers through a clear and easy path for applying and starting their international journey at Temple.