A Drupal 8 redesign focused on streamlining content, engaging visitors, and measuring performance.
Springfield College is a private, four-year college located on the shores of Lake Massasoit in western Massachusetts. Fun fact: It also happens to be the birthplace of basketball; the sport was invented there in 1891 by graduate student James Naismith.
Academically, the college serves a mission of educating its more than 5,100 undergraduate and graduate students within the philosophy of Humanics, the Greek ideal of the balanced individual that calls for the education of the whole person — in spirit, mind, and body — for leadership in service to others. This concept is represented by the triangle, featured prominently in their logo, around campus, and, of course, throughout their new website design.
We worked closely with an outstandingly talented and dedicated team from the college to redesign their main website in Drupal 8, providing a focus on recruitment and improved accessibility, incorporating strong content strategy and creating an engaging design that reflects the personality of the college.
Bringing together Springfield’s goals for the project with the results of our research and discovery process, we established the following playbook for the redesign:
- Streamline navigation and make the content easier to scan;
- Make cost information easy to find and better communicate the value;
- Tell the Springfield story by incorporating more imagery and video and folding testimonials and student voices into the academic programs;
- Improve the mobile experience with easier navigation and reduced text; and
- Collect data in order to measure and continually improve on the experience.
With Springfield’s talented team in place to tackle the site’s content, content strategy became a collaborative effort, and NewCity focused on content structure and editorial guidance. Director of User Experience Melissa Beaver created a content roadmap for the site and held weekly content meetings with the Springfield team to provide guidance and walk through editorial decisions.
One particularly notable achievement for the structure of the site is the creation of navigation based on different areas and focus. Many college and university websites get bogged down in navigation that is based on organizational structure, which may make sense to administration, but can be confusing to users.
Springfield’s previous website organized academic programs by schools and departments — more like an org chart. Usability testing showed that the previous navigation and classification system was confusing. During the discovery phase for the redesign, we conducted on-site activities with students including exercises to group programs with related subject.
This led to a category-based navigation that allows students to freely explore a range of programs within a specific area of interest. The Springfield team worked diligently with the academic departments to help them understand the value of this approach.
To ensure that the site looks and feels like Springfield, our design work on the project aligned with the branding that Ologie released for the college in April of 2015. We created an extensive style guide to support the continuity of the content strategy and site design post-launch and into the future.
A Leap (of Faith) Forward
Springfield’s previous Drupal 7 site was hosted with Acquia, which made the project a great fit for us as an Acquia partner. However, while the new site remained with Acquia, one of the most interesting — and challenging — aspects of this project was the decision to launch the new site in Drupal 8.
Making a decision on a content management platform is always daunting, but in this case, the timing of the development for the new site complicated that decision. Drupal 8 had just been released in November of 2015, and the Springfield and NewCity team needed to make the call in early 2016 — before many modules were ready. Following an involved process of evaluating the functionality needed and the capabilities of Drupal 7 and 8, the decision was made.
Phil Pelanne, our director of technology, described the decision to move to Drupal 8 as, “…a little bit of a leap of faith.”