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One Size Fits None: Remaking a College Site for a Content Hungry Generation


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From Netflix to Spotify to Amazon, prospective students are accustomed to personalized websites that offer recommendations to help them discover new content or products. When they arrive at most college and university websites the experience is very different. It can feel static and generic by comparison. The culprit? In order to tame the massive amount of content and competing priorities of college websites, a one-size-fits-all home and landing page approach has proliferated. When North Central College decided to redesign its website they wanted to break that one-size-fits-all mold and engage tech-savvy prospects with an experience that felt different from other school sites. With agency partner Spark451, North Central took cues from non-higher ed sites to develop a concept called “stacks.” Stacks are topically bundled content cards. For example, a photo of a faculty member, a video, a student quote, career facts, all related to a particular major. Stacks allow for things like curated categories, and can be embedded into landing pages, news articles and other types of content. They help North Central repurpose and surface content in strategic ways that support admissions efforts. Attendees will learn how North Central took a radical approach to organizing its content to create a user experience that’s different for higher-ed but feels familiar (in a good way) to prospective students.

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One Size Fits None: Remaking a College Site for a Content Hungry Generation

  1. 1. Remaking a College Site for a 
 Content Hungry Generation ONE SIZE FITS NONE
  2. 2. Ardis Kadiu Chief Creative Technologist Spark451 Christopher Jones Director of Web Communications North Central College
  3. 3. Content is a design problem. Good web design starts with content. Jeffrey Zeldman “
  4. 4. Expectations and Behavior TODAY’S PROSPECTIVE STUDENTS
  5. 5. mobile usage Source: Spark451 College Bound Survey (
  6. 6. google effect
  7. 7. mobile usage Source: Spark451 College Bound Survey (
  8. 8. Source: “Engaging and Cultivating Millennials and Gen Z,” Denison University and Ologie
  9. 9. Source: Cowen & Company ”ShopTalk Conference Takeaways: A Glimpse Into The Future of Retail & eCommerce”
  11. 11. Source: QS Digital Solutions “Digital Marketing Trends in Higher Education 2016”
  12. 12. Source: QS Digital Solutions “Digital Marketing Trends in Higher Education 2016”
  14. 14. PROCESS
  15. 15. DefineDiscover Design Develop
  16. 16. There are many website pages that are no longer used and are out of date. The navigation/search menu is poor and needs to be updated. Many things could be archived because they aren't relevant today. User Survey Response from Staff/Administrator What users said about the current site. The biggest thing is the organization. Clean things up and it will be more user-friendly. Websites are sometimes the first impression. “ User Survey Response from a Current Student
  17. 17. When you were deciding which college or graduate school to attend, what information on college websites did you look for the most? Source: Online User Survey Academic Majors/Minors #1 #2 Financial Aid & Scholarships #3 Campus Location
  18. 18. APPROACH
  19. 19. Spotify app default screen
  20. 20. Netflix catalog z
  21. 21. Netflix show page z
  22. 22. Amazon homepage z
  23. 23. Amazon product page z
  24. 24. Apple App Store main page z
  26. 26. A stack is a cohesive collection of content cards. They can be the same type of content (like news) or related topic, like education or the arts. Campus News Education (article, study abroad story, internship, event, profile) Fastest Growing (programs)
  27. 27. Types of Stacks Group Stack • Collection of "cards" connected by similar topic or type • "Cards" include title, fact, quote, image List Stack • “Cards” of … • content types (e.g. programs, news, events) • social feeds • factoids, promos • video/image Profile Stack • Title, department • Interests • Quote • Photo Program Stack • Essentials: title, degree options, department • Career-related: jobs, job outlook, salary, internships
  28. 28. Demo
  29. 29. QUESTIONS?