Behind-the-Scene: Redesigned #highered Academic Program Pages at @wagnercollege

December 16th, 2013 Karine Joly No Comments

While prospective students have always seen the college experience as much more than the degree they get when they graduate, majors and academic areas of interest are an important part of the decision process for students — and their parents.

That’s the reason why I tried to raise awareness around academic program pages earlier this year, as they have become such a big part of what prospective students look at on your website.

Anna MuléSo, when Anna Mulé, Director of Digital and Social Media at Wagner College, told me last summer at eduWeb that she was working on a big project to redesign academic program pages, I asked her to keep me in the loop.

The redesigned academic program pages – or majors pages – have been launched only 4 weeks ago. And, Anna kept on her promise and told me about it.

This is a very interesting project – which is why I asked Anna to answer a few questions about it, so we can all learn more about it.

1) Why did you decide to re-work your academic program pages?

Wagner College Academic Program Pages

We decided to embark on this project for several reasons.

We saw the importance of majors to prospective students, thanks partially to the summit on academic program pages. One of the first things students want to know is, Does this school offer what I’m interested in? We also knew that a lot of our students come in undecided, so we wanted a site that had exploratory elements, such as the selection tags and rotating featured programs on the homepage, “related areas” on individual program pages, and an easy way to get between the different programs with the dropdown menu.

Before we redesigned, we had one page that listed all the majors as links that then took the user to the individual department websites. Some departments market their programs really well, while other sites are pretty bare or very formal. We wanted a space where consistent information about each major could be explored by prospective students, where the tone was more casual and personal, and where the Office of Communications & Marketing had 100% control of the content and branding. We also had a lot of great copy (profiles, stories, alumni successes, etc) from past issues of the alumni magazine, annual report, etc, that we wanted to incorporate into the site. We wanted to improve our calls to action, so that each page had a request info form and easy access to apply & visit info.

2) How long did it take to complete this project?

Here’s a rough timeline of this project:

  • April 2013: Started conceptualizing project with the core team: Office of Communications & Marketing, Office of Admissions, Information Technology, freelance web designer.
  • Summer 2013: Gathered content from existing stories, worked on re-writing copy from official sources (bulletin, program descriptions, etc). and started work with web designer.
  • Mid Sep 2013: Finalized design and moved to development, shot and produced “1 minute, 1 major” videos, presented mock-up to faculty body.
  • Mid Oct 2013: Started adding real content and worked like mad for a month.
  • Early Nov 2013: Review by faculty, final revisions and a few design changes.
  • Nov 13, 2013: Launched, in time for a new admissions email campaign that pulled design elements and content from the site.

So, all in all, just shy of eight months!

3) Your academic program pages also include some great videos “1 minute, 1 major”. Tell us more about these!

I have a “1 minute, 1 major” video for most of the majors. There are 27 of them.

Computer-Science---Wagner

I shot and produced the videos, with help from a student to move the project along. The hardest thing was to convince faculty to get in front of bright lights, but I loved hearing their answers to my questions — Why should someone study this major, and why study it at Wagner College? From beginning to end, it took about a month.

4) What kind of feedback did you receive so far?

In the first three weeks, more than 7,000 unique page views and about 30 “request info” forms submitted. Many of these came from students outside of our normal application pool. It is now one of our top 10 sites on wagner.edu.

I’ve also heard very good feedback from faculty. They had some corrections, but overall it has been extremely positive.

5) Any lessons learned on this type of project you can share with the larger community?

Steal ideas from outside the higher ed community! We took some ideas from airbnb.com, and other concepts like the “related areas” from commercial sites (Do you like music? Then you might also like arts administration!). I had no issues with faculty buy-in, because I have a good working relationship with people on campus already, and we are doing great marketing for them.