Strode College are rated Outstanding by Ofsted and provide a full range of courses for school leavers and adults.
We were approached by the college in 2014 to give their existing website an overhaul. The site had become overblown and dated, with management aware that their digital presence wasn't in keeping with the outstanding work the college did with its students.
Navigating the content was hard. There was no clear focus, the content and design failed to engage and the website failed to convey the personality of the college and its students.
The college offers a variety of courses including GCSEs, A Levels, Apprenticeships, Vocational Qualifications, Higher Education courses, courses for Business as well as range of courses for adults. As such, we had a varied audience with whom we had to engage and also represent on the website. Whilst also dealing with a range of different course types and variants whose data we had to present and integrate with from the existing college systems.
We worked with the college through a series of focus groups and workshops to understand the true identity of the college, its students and how it should be portrayed.
Whilst the outcomes of our research sessions were varied and detailed, there were a number of key factors that consistently came out of our sessions:
- The navigation must be simplified
- Terminology must be easy to understand
- The site must have a strong student presence
- Video is an important medium and should be used to engage with their younger audience
Simple and clear
We worked with the college to restructure their content, presenting a more focused set of navigation to ensure content could be found more easily. We utilise large drop down menus on the four main menu items to allow people to quickly see what is in that section. Our research has shown people prefer this approach - they get an insight into a section before clicking.
Photography plays a strong part in our design as it allows the personality and student voice to come to the fore. Real-life photos of students were important - ones that show what students and the college is really like, rather than staged or stock imagery.
It was important to raise the profile of the 'Enrichment' programme available at the college. The college is committed to the personal development of all students and the website had to promote the large and varied range of activities available and to showcase the extracurricular side of learning.
It was important that the website had a place where people could hear about real-life experiences from current and past students. Hearing from actual students through video and case studies has huge influence on prospective students - they want to hear from real people, not just a corporate or marketing voice.
As such, we have woven case studies throughout the website. Related to the page you are viewing, you will see a corresponding case study with a student talking about their own personal experiences.
The website had to integrate with the college's own internal systems for online applications. We have developed an 'add to my courses' feature that lets people select the courses they wish to study by adding them to a "basket", then applying online in one single process.
The website CMS stores data from the college's UnitE system to ensure key course data is synchronised, allowing people to seamlessly pass from the website to the application system without interruption or loss of preferences.
What we did
- User experience
- User interface design
- Usability testing
- Information architecture
- Visual design
- Responsive design
- Website development
- Content Management Systems