William Paterson University
William Paterson University
WPU is a repeat client – their latest cycle came at the three-year mark and was driven by messaging requirements from Admissions.
I was engaged by WPU’s marketing agency, Fuseideas, which was in the process of updating the branding and marketing strategy for the university. The new brand – Will. Power. – became the catalyst to amp up how the university describes the academic experience at WPU in the context of career opportunities (really measurable student outcomes). The web discovery phase was compressed to four weeks, piggy-backing off brand development. It focused on: a wellness check of the site structure; a heuristic review of competing and aspirational higher-ed sites; and, a laying of groundwork for future site personalization.
The overarching goal was to cause students to see themselves as becoming successful at WPU. Key to this objective was:
- Inclusion of “proof points” to support the academic quality/positioning message (backed by nationally recognized and noteworthy programs)
- Emphasis on outcomes
- Leveraging the Will. Power. brand to help students see and achieve their potential.
An interesting aside for those who work regularly in the world of higher-ed, the critically important department tasked with enrolling students is alternately called “Admissions” or “Admission”. Every college and university has a preference, with a well thought-out rationale for whether they employ the third “s” or not. I learned over a decade ago that the choice is not open to debate, that clients become grumpy if the wrong term is used, and that it’s usually better to ask than to guess.
Tasks & Deliverables
- Stakeholder interviews with key departments
- Heuristic review of WPUNJ and related sites (Landscape Analysis)
- Site structure wellness check and proposed site map changes
- Functionality annotations
Similar Projects & Clients
- Boston College (Admission)
- Dean College (Admissions)
- Dominican College (Admissions)
- Goucher College (Admissions)
- Hamilton College (Admission)
- Iona College (Admissions)
- Massachusetts College of Pharmacy & Health Sciences (Admission)
- Massachusetts Institute of Technology (Admissions)
- Norfolk State University (Admissions)
- Northeastern University (Admissions)
- Plymouth State University (Admissions)
- Simmons College (Admission)
- St. Anselm College (Admission)
- University of Virginia Darden School of Business (Admissions)
- Western New England University (Admissions)
- Wilson College (Admissions)
Landscape Analysis (Heuristic Review) Sample Screens
List of half-dozen sites included in landscape analysis. This represents a mixture of immediate competitors to WPU and aspirational sites identified to establish industry best practices.
Summary findings presented as a heat map (green = excellent, red = very poor). The heuristic criteria evaluated are listed vertically with averaging in the bottom row.
Screen showing evaluation of program/majors search functionality for a competitor.
Site map with call-out for program/majors search functionality linking to Academic department pages.
Wireframes – Sample PAges
The home page wireframe was structured to support the new branding initiative with a call-to-action funnel:
1. Hero space brand articulation.
2. Emphasis on academic quality.
3. and 4. Proof points of academic success.
5. Calls-to-action tailored to driving applications.
The Program Search page features:
6. prominent search functionality with easy-to-understand facets.
7. Results presented as flip-tiles linked to supporting content.
Note: Unless the project parameters dictate otherwise, I intentionally keep wireframes rough and low-fidelity. I have found over the years that higher-fidelity wireframes tend to prematurely lock-in visuals and create unnecessary design contraints. Competent visual/UI designers are best left with broader creative freedom and high-fidelity wireframes tend to lead to unintended design decisions.
Functionality Annotations – Sample Page
Coding of the WPU site was completed by in-house developers. To facilitate a smooth transition of the site vision from agency to client, I annotated a set of black-and-white design files with functionality notes.
Every component/widget on the site was tagged with a pop-up tool tip so that developers could follow-along visually as they built out the new site.
By way of example, eight tool tips are shown in an open state on the home page design.
1. Biography and flavor quote
2. Key traits mapped to sliding scale
3. Platform affinity
4. Relevant behaviors and beliefs
5. Persona’s information needs
6. Core site objectives directly related to persona
7. Relevant content goals
Screen shot of Content Goals Matrix
Usability Test Findings Report
Task success summary. It should be noted that although usability testing is a qualitative tool, simple summaries of task success/fail rates can help drive recommendations and build consensus around usability issues and challenges.
Sample observations from a single user task gleaned from 10 usability test sessions.