Rather than just refreshing the design of their website, Butler was seeking a strategic approach to attracting top prospective students, increasing enrollment, engaging with current students, and streamlining the donation process.
We took an end-to-end approach starting with identifying all of the target audience groups and creating user personas. This information let us evaluate the current content on the website and help the Butler marketing and IT teams understand what content was compelling, missing, or confusing. The personas became the foundation of our targeted digital strategy and informed UX, design, and development choices.
- 94% increase in the number of non-branded keywords in the top 10 rankings on Google
- Referral Traffic increased by 25.98%
- Bounce Rate decreased by 31.72%
- Average Page Load Time decreased by 3.01%
Large Quantities of Stagnant Content: We quickly learned that www.butler.edu had a lot of content that was hidden, out of date, and wasn’t visually attractive. Users, especially prospective students or faculty members, would have to click through several pages to find information needed if it was included on the website at all. A full content audit was conducted in order to better understand what pages were working well and which would need significant improvements during the redesign.
Multiple Personas: Like many higher education websites, most of Butler’s website needed to appeal to more than one audience. Instead of generalizing the content, we focused our recommendations on building very specific pathways that users could take to be able to find the information they were looking for quickly. This provided a roadmap to use when working on the wireframe and information architecture for the website.
Dated User Experience: Butler needed a new navigation that made it easier for users to find the content they were looking for and a visual design that spoke to their new, modern brand. Our team referenced their new branding guidelines to create a fresh, mobile-responsive user interface design that focused on quick navigation and robust search.
Inflexible CMS: Before the redesign, Butler.edu used a .NET-based open-source content management system that was difficult to customize and made new feature deployment time consuming and restrictive. Moreover, because of the CMS technology’s limited feature set, Butler was forced to build other websites using divergent CMS technologies, creating the undesirable scenario of having to manage multiple technologies at once. Our technical team analyzed content and data across multiple websites with the goal of consolidating all of them into one Drupal installation. We created a plan for migrating content from each website into Drupal which significantly improved the maintainability of online content and allowed for a streamlined editorial process moving forward.
Mediacurrent began the process by hosting an on-site meeting with stakeholders from all areas of the university: admissions, sports, alumni, giving, and administration, in order to get a holistic understanding of the primary users of the website. Together, we narrowed down the list of primary personas to prospective students, current students, prospective faculty, parents (of both prospective and current students), and members of the community/fans of the university. These personas became the foundation for every other deliverable and decision made for the website.
To flesh each persona out, we identified their demographic information, goals, and marketing channels, and took a deep dive into conversion related information such as:
- Questions the personas would want answered on the website.
- Things they might find negative about Butler or that would make them not want to apply/contribute/donate/participate, so we could proactively address them.
- Things that are appealing about Butler that can be better highlighted.
From those user groups, we identified the top 10 pages that each user type would most likely visit, evaluated whether each of those pages successfully accomplished its primary goals and if it answered the personas’ questions, spoke to their fears, or highlighted points of interest.
Three different universities’ websites were compared against www.butler.edu in order to better understand where Butler’s website excelled and fell short in regards to its closest regional, academic, and athletic competition.
Mediacurrent evaluated their online reputation, social media presence, information accessibility, and inquiry response rate. This allowed our team to better understand what a prospective student or faculty member would see if he or she evaluated Butler against their competition based solely on what is available online.
For universities like Butler, who get many requests for general information every day, we recommend using a marketing automation system. Marketing automation frees up administrators to do other work while routine inquiries are handled swiftly and fully by an automated system.
When we started our analysis we quickly discovered that Butler was ranking very well for their branded keywords. There was a lot of room for growth for search queries that were more general and targeted the prospective student who hadn’t decided on a specific university yet.
We prioritized the keyword suggestions based on the competition for the keyword, number of searches it received, the personas’ goals, and the estimated likelihood that those keywords would result in an action, such as a prospective student filling out an application. We also empowered Butler by giving them the tools they needed to try different variations on the keyword themes we provided.
Mediacurrent’s content analysis included making suggestions to the existing Butler marketing style guide. We condensed the guide to make it more friendly to read and added web-specific guidelines to help future content writers.
We also set them up with an editorial calendar so each department could track and release content consistently. Our reusable template outlined how to write for each persona, the potential overlap in content between personas (current students and parents of current students, for example, might want to read similar topics), how many writers will be needed, and who on Butler’s team will review the content before publishing it. This flexible structure allows Butler to be more deliberate with content release schedule.
The final part of the content strategy was to document all of the goals for the website redesign and set key performance indicators (KPI) based on the benchmarks www.butler.edu met this past year and what they can expect to achieve in the future if the redesign takes place as planned.
Butler’s editorial team needed to publish content, such as events and program information, in a timely fashion. Because the editorial team had to duplicate content across multiple websites, the first critical decision was to architect the CMS to share content between each website it would support.
Not only was it critical to create efficiencies for content publishing, editors needed the ability to create custom landing pages on-demand for multiple university departments. Our technical team configured the Panels and Panelizer modules to make it easy for content editors, without needing a web developer, to create a graphically engaging landing page that uses common site wide styles.
Furthermore, content needed to be easy to find. The previous Butler.edu did not make it easy for users to search for content. We integrated Google’s Search Appliance using the Google Search Appliance (GSA) module to increase search capability and performance. Because the module offers the ability to customize the display of GSA’s results page, integrating GSA with the custom theme our team created was seamless.
One of the most critical features lacking in Butler’s previous website was a mobile-compatible interface. We addressed this concern by creating a custom designed mobile-responsive theme that displays accurately on desktop, smartphone and tablet devices. The Omega theme gave our team the capability to create a unique, innovative user experience design that wasn’t hampered by functional constraints within the CMS. Omega’s flexible configuration options allowed our creative team to push the limits on responsive design.
Content strategy is a vital precursor to a website’s visual and interaction redesign. Now that the Butler team has a global understanding of the current content on their website and where it should go in the future, that knowledge can be combined with information from the branding team to form a holistic picture of who Butler University is to users and who the users are to Butler University.