Reimagining Carleton.eduJaye LawrenceWeb Services GroupOctober 19, 2007
Why does it matter?
For many, its the first (sometimes only) point of contact>75% research colleges online>50% of applicants at four-year institutions use online applicationsFor >20% of applicants, first point of contact is the admissions application
First impressions matter(but youd better make it fast) The average prospects visit to a college website lasts only 60 secondsIn comparison, their average session on MySpace.com is nearly 2 hours
Sowhere are we now?
Carleton.edu at a Glance300+ live sites9,000 pages30,000 images86,000 visits/month (77,000 external)1.6 million page views/month (724,000 external)
Carleton.edu at a GlanceTop pages* for external audiences (per month): Admissions Home9,946Athletics Home9,458Alumni Home6,021Information for New Students (seasonal)4,492Employment4,240Reunion (seasonal)3,527Information for Visitors3,490Alumni Directory3,426A to Z Guide2,829Admissions: Applying2,700 Registrars Office: Schedule of Classes 2,509*In average number of page views in a typical month.
Where are we heading?
Redesign GoalsImprove design, organization, and navigationStrengthen Carletons identity and personality on the webBring focus to our web communications strategy by:Understanding our primary audiencesDelivering key messages in an unmistakably Carleton voicePlacing new emphasis on research and measurability
Recent StepsCreative BriefResearch with high school groups1st round of rough creative conceptsResearch with prospective students and their parents2nd round of creative concepts
The Creative BriefA deceptively simple document that defines: Audience(s)GoalsPersonalityGuides all subsequent creative development
The Creative BriefAudiencesPrimary: Prospective StudentsSecondary: Other off-campus audiences (families, alumni, community, etc.)Tertiary: On-campus audiences
The Creative Brief(Home page example) GoalsMake a positive first impression that captures Carletons unique qualitiesMake it obvious for all audiences where they should go from the home pageEstablish a visual identity that will extend throughout Carleton.edu
The Creative Brief
Personality (Thats the tricky part.) (And probably the most important.)
PersonalityDriven and informed by the Carleton Intellect statement: The Carleton intellect is in perpetual motion, challenging conventional ways of thinking, asking the tough questions, and pushing for creative solutions to complex problems. It is an intellect of passionate curiosity and an ability to collaborate on issues with fresh and well-grounded perspective. It laughs, it engages, it embraces the task of learning with humility, conviction and a wink. The Carleton intellect is open to possibility, and focused on making a difference.
(Which is all wonderful.)
(But how do you turn it into a web site?)
PersonalityWe brainstormed hundreds of words describing CarletonUsing the Carleton Intellect Statement as our guide, we distilled them down to 5:DynamicGenuineCuriousOpenWhimsical
PersonalityThis personality will manifest itself everywhere on the redesigned web site:LanguageToneColor palettePhotography/graphic choicesDegree of (in)formalityContent decisions
ButCreative direction wasnt enough. We also needed to better understand what our major audiences want from our web site.
High School Focus Groups2 classes of juniors who were actively researching collegesSeveral exercises:Terminology testingPreferred method of contactMost-wanted contentFirst reactions to college home pages (not our own)
TerminologyTested what terms they would use for what wed call Prospective Students, Admissions, Application, etc.No big surprises (except that many cant spell prospective)
Preferred Contact Method(When ready to get more information about a college) Send an email to the collegeSubmit an Ask A Student form onlinePhone the Admissions officeInstant message a current studentInstant message Admissions officeGoing to a chat room hosted by an Admissions counselorPosting on a college Myspace/Facebook page
Most Wanted ContentPictures, pictures, and more picturesOf the place, NOT the studentsBuildings, classrooms, dorm rooms, gathering places, town/city or surrounding areaBasic factsWhere is itStudent populationRatio of faculty to studentsInformation on the town/areaClimatePricetuition, fees, costs (often hard to find)Majors and minorsRequirements to get inFoodJobs on campusWhat daily life is like
Biggest GripesBig paragraphs of text; hard to readThings are hard to findPosed looking student picturessmiling posed people, students studying outside, crowds in football stands, etc.They hide what they dont want you to seeHard to find the majors & fast factsThey all sound the same
Reactions to College Home PagesHappy student photos inevitably regarded as fake and posed (dont show me somebody studying under a tree)Strong response to campus photos, especially those that gave sense of surrounding areaNegative response to too many (or too confusing) navigation optionsPreferred limited number of obvious buttons to larger number of text linksHuge interest in getting sense of placeLittle interest in specific student storiesGreat interest in everyday student life
Putting it all together(and putting it to the test)
Creative Concept Testing3 imaginary colleges:AldineBlackstockCannon3 creative approaches:Student profileCampus placesMind mapTested with prospective students and parents visiting Carleton
Blackstock: Evans: None
Blackstock: Evans: None
Blackstock: Turbine: None
Blackstock: Turbine: None
Students saidVery quirkywould follow up.Doesnt show much about college as a whole.Seems like a diverse school.Pretty much every guide book has something like this. Not sure I want to read his storyI want to know about the school.Ive seen four variations on this one before.Doesnt give any sense of the school.I like this one. Its funny. Could see myself looking into this college--no cliques.
Parents saidWarm and fuzzy [but I] want to see campus, sense of safety.Alludes to a cross-cultural experience.Similar to a large number of sites. Doesnt stand out. Trying to be unique, but actually common.Probably wouldnt pursue.Sense of humorI like that. Would encourage my daughter to look at.Looks like the emphasis is on diversity.
Students saidKind of person Id want to be around.Student is appealing, want to find out what school is like first hand.Not interested in the profileI find it a little boring.Im looking for general info (admissions info). Campus events dont have a bearing on my life.Something Ive seen before, but good.
Parents saidWould like to see a picture of the school instead of students. I know that student pictures are intentionally diverse.Friendly. I want to read Jaymes story.Very understated. Wouldnt pursue.Not impressed. Sort of flaky. Doesnt come across as a top rated college.Its fun. Doesnt give me as much of an impression of the school right away.
Students saidTrying too hard to seem edgy.Overwhelming, too much to look at.Ooh, fun. Interesting. You jump right into campus.Its kind of disorienting. Dont know where to start.More creative, more original.I like the ideayou can see the social gathering spots in addition to the main buildings.More arts focused. Personal map is interesting. Would pursue.Quirky school, not as focused on athletics and more on academics and the arts. Definitely would be interested.
Parents saidFun school. Would explore this one.Too light, informal. Kinda dumb.I like this. Its not what you expect.Its confusing to me. So much going on that I didnt notice the words.Looks like its fun. Looks smart.Cute. I think it would be more attractive to students than adults.
Students saidI like it. Colorful, not intimidating, lots of activities.Really creative. Fun, not too serious. Would pursue. Would be worried that the school wasnt up to speed technologically. Wouldnt pursue.Its so busy I have to take a second look.Would click through on a lot of these.Gives a good impression, would pursue further.Gives a feel for the school. Knows how to have fun but work hard.
Parents saidPlayful. Humor plus academics.Says liberal (politically) to me. Too edgy for me. Like seeing some ethnicity.No, this is kindergarten. It might appeal to students, but not to parents.As a parent, I understand it, but it doesnt hit the essential purpose.Not a fan of student pictures. The advantage of showing diversity is outweighed by the stress thats put on it.A little full. Cute, though. Students would like it.A little informal. Too busy.
Students saidLike it. Conveys a fun sense, international, environmental.Natural, rural, environmentally friendly. Would consider.Rural. Funny. Bookworms go here. Appealing to someone who wants to get away from the city and focus on education.Gives the impression of where it isI like that. I like the windmill and how it points out the student connection. Humor is attractive.Slightly boringish, but really informational.Kind of boring. Shows environmentally conscious, into the sciences more than the arts.
Parents saidFarming and agriculture. Lost interest.Good sense of humor. Emphasizing green thingsappealing.See some whimsy, but thats all.Like the balloons. Its more grabby. Stands out as different. Woul