August 31, 2015
LMU.edu 10: Transformative Change Doesn’t Happen Overnight
LMU.edu is not extraordinary because of what you see but because of what it represents. Quite simply, it’s us — all of us. LMU’s web presence has been totally reimagined and the university community has been at the center of the conversation from day one. Most redesign projects focus on just that — the design. But, we sought to rethink the way we approach content, design, and functionality and we hope that’s what we’ve accomplished. Launching the university home page is actually the beginning of the journey, not the end.
About 18 months ago, a Marketing Committee was convened and the status quo was in our crosshairs. With leadership support we set out to do something bold, creative and compelling. After a competitive bidding process, mStoner, Inc. was retained as our partners and digital strategists. In the summer of 2014, a thorough research and discovery phase was kicked off. User surveys, publications and data was analyzed. Shortly after, a week of intensive intake interviews was conducted with over 105 student, faculty, staff, parent, alumni and religious stakeholders. This project phase concluded with an extensive strategy report which recommended five key concepts: (1) LMU must demonstrate value; (2) we must make more use of large visual media (photography and video); (3) we must place mobile devices and speed at the center of our decisions; (4) we must improve our social media; (5) we must make our websites more accessible. What quickly emerged was that everything in this effort would be framed through the lens of: the mobile experience and visually compelling content.
We then began rethinking content in the context of academic excellence and the results were: academic excellence, Jesuit and Los Angeles. As we closely examined our web visitor data, user behaviors and best practices a few other trends emerged:
- The primary purpose of the university home page is to support compelling narratives about the university, not to communicate news and events. Users are not repeat visitors and can be linked to more useful news-driven websites for that content. At the college level, home pages serve as more of a hybrid: marketing content and news/events content.
- As has always been the case, our target audiences are: prospective undergraduate students and their influencers (parents) and prospective graduate students. All content must be weighed against the needs of those users.
- Most users do not navigate websites by clicking links in menus and navigation bars. They simply search for what they’re looking for.
- More of our visitors are using mobile and touch devices. They prefer to flick a page and scroll to tapping and going deeper into the site. So not only must our designs be fully responsive to the devices people are using, the design and delivery of the content must change to make the user experience more compelling.
- The number one content priority for prospective students are academic programs, so shopping among them, regardless of college/school, is critical.
So how did we respond to these findings? By reinventing the way our content is written, the way our designs are drawn and displayed, and by reengineering the functionality:
- Our stories reflect a deeper analysis of what makes LMU such an extraordinary place: the faculty and students who accomplish extraordinary things.
- The new design emphasizes large format photography and video.
- The new information architecture focuses on our efforts in research, in outcomes, and showcases the beauty of our campus and the resources of our area: Los Angeles.
We developed entirely new approaches:
- We adopted a mobile-first approach. All of our designs were evaluated on mobile devices and implemented with a responsive methodology which accounts for mobile and touch.
- We developed a new video library which highlights the best video content from around campus, such as LMU Magazine. We will work with departments around campus to continue featuring the best work.
- We created our first-ever interactive maps, featuring custom illustrations integrated with Google Maps, so users experience the best of both worlds.
- We designed a visual method for finding all of our academic programs. This allows visitors to have a friendly “shopping” experience as they imagine themselves pursuing various disciplines and degree options.
- We reengineered our search engine. Not only will it return more useful results, it now searches for people and web pages in the same place.
- We created our first social media directory. Our campus is having many conversations every day and this allows visitors and our own constituents to better understand where this dialogue is taking place.
- We moved LMU.edu to the cloud to better capitalize on the redundancy and reliability that architecture provides. Our mission-critical website will remain accessible in the event of a campus crisis or emergency.
- We revamped our university-wide events marketing calendar.
There’s only one more thing; we now have to do all of the above for all of our colleges, schools and administrative departments to achieve an integrated and compelling web experience. That is now priority one for the next 12-16 months, and we look forward to working with you to accomplish this goal.
A lot has changed for LMU’s family of websites and there are complexities we couldn’t anticipate, so we thank our campus colleagues for helping us identify issues they run into so we can continue refining our work. We’ve created a few online forms to start the conversation: