Engaging StudentsSaint Joseph's University (SJU)
A re-envisioned University website engages students with game-like functionality. The dramatically positive results and intuitive nature with which students were able to navigate the site solidified stakeholder approval.
Winner of the Interactive Media Award's 2012 Best in Class University Website
2012 Webby Award Honoree for Best Education Site
“We believe the user experience created by NavigationArts will be a game-changer for Saint Joseph’s University and a breakthrough for higher education sites in general.”
Joseph Lunardi, Assistant Vice President of Marketing Communications of Saint Joseph’s University.
Saint Joseph’s University, a prominent Philadelphia based school, recognized the need to differentiate themselves in the online space. Their existing site’s outdated visual design was indistinguishable from that of any other university. The lack of clear calls to action left users wondering what they could actually do on the site, and valuable content was buried too many layers deep.
Saint Joseph’s partnered with NavigationArts to completely re-envision the .EDU site, not only improving the structure and usability but engaging and attracting prospective students in a new way.
The project began with a user research phase, revealing significant frustration with the online experience from stakeholders and students of all degree levels. Feedback revealed:
- Website attempted to be everything to everybody, resulting in overall ineffectiveness to all: Each sub-group of prospective students (undergrad, grad, adult, and online learners) felt that the SJU website focused on groups other than their own.
- Lack of mobile experience: Accessing information via a mobile device was generally expected by the undergraduate population.
- No clear calls to action: Students desired more direction on the site, like the ability to access financial aid documents as well as file applications electronically.
NavArts created a new user experience design to marry user goals with the overarching strategic goal of surpassing the competition and giving prospective students a sense of campus life. The new site:
- Eliminated organizational silos that had been used to categorize information
- Re-defined the purpose, and therefore the volume of content and allowed for better targeting based on role such as “prospective student”
- Elevated important content through non-traditional navigation schemas
- Engaged visitors with dramatic imagery where prospective students could self-identify
Drupal Content Management System
Saint Joseph’s needed a robust and scalable Content Management System (CMS) platform to handle the new requirements and allow the site to continue to evolve. Together, Saint Joseph’s and NavigationArts decided on Drupal, the increasingly popular, open-source CMS supported by a passionate community of users and developers.
- Scalability: The ability evolve as additional departments within the university require new functionality
- Content Flexibility: Give the web team a platform that lets them easily swap out content, highlight time-sensitive information (admissions deadlines, graduation date, etc.), and better control the overall messaging of the SJU site
- Personalization: Use content tagging/taxonomy as a means for delivering a personalized experience based on audience type and program of interest
- Taxonomy: Support a robust taxonomy that enables cross-linking, content promotion at lower level pages, and improved search results
- Social Integration: Increase level of integration with social media channels
- Content Migration: Provide a scalable and manageable platform to migrate content from SJU’s other colleges and departments over time
- Operating Costs: Be cost-effective and technically supported by reducing the redundancy of SJU resources
One of the pivotal moments in the project that allowed NavigationArts to push the envelope so far and build this outside-the-box solution, was the idea of a prototype. NavArts developed a proof-of-concept prototype to be tested with prospective students (high school seniors). Students thought the visual design was unique and differentiated Saint Joseph’s from its competitors. They felt the interactive design was interesting and “game-like” – which made wayfinding fun.
The dramatically positive results and intuitive nature with which students were able to navigate the site solidified stakeholder approval.
Located in Philadelphia, Saint Joseph's University is home to 4,200 full-time undergraduates and 3,100 graduate, part-time, and doctoral students. Following the Jesuit tradition of cura personalia – care of the person – SJU promotes rigorous academia along with an energetic, compassionate, and spiritual campus experience. In 2012, U.S. News and World Report ranked SJU #8 on the list of best Masters Universities.