Regularly ranking amongst the top 10 universities, Glasgow Caledonian University (GCU) is one of Scotland’s largest and most respected universities. Our relationship with GCU began in late 2015, when they contracted us to redesign their main corporate website, with a clear focus on user experience (UX). The success of this work has resulted in an ongoing relationship, with further work including the design and build of their internal digital strategy website.
Kicking off in December 2015, we were asked to analyse the existing user experience, creating new template designs that provided the GCU team with greater flexibility, the ability to better showcase and surface resources and reflect their modern brand identity to the world.
With an internal technical team, the university had been gradually evolving their website but required a fresh approach, dedicated UX expertise and resource. They also needed a partner who could work closely with their digital engagement and technical team, sharing best practice and acting as an extension to their team in the longer-term.
Ensuring that the new website templates adapted to the changing technological environment was of optimal importance; making sure it was as responsive and user-friendly as possible. One of the key elements we had to be mindful of was working with the existing TERMINALFOUR (T4) content management system (CMS), fortunately, with previous experience of the CMS, we were able to make the best design decisions (from layout to spacing to weighting).
Within the brief, we were asked to provide a solution which incorporated the full website but that specifically focused on two key user journeys:
- Course search
- Course application
Our proposed approach was to create a library of flexible components and templates, within which GCU could best manipulate content and page structures to provide information and resources in the most effective manner, so as to best serve the user’s needs.
This required a simple yet adaptable design to display multiple content formats, including imagery, text, social feeds, video and downloads.
We worked with their marketing and IT departments to map out user journeys, information architecture and brand implementation. In addition to redesigning landing pages, article pages and providing stylesheets for the required components, we reviewed other areas of the site’s architecture and user experience, making recommendations for content and structure moving forward for internal teams.
Our experience on similar projects, in the H.E. sector, and familiarity with T4 meant that we were in a great place to maximise the power of the CMS platform. Our designers and front-end developers worked closely with the lead developer at GCU to ensure all new features seamlessly transitioned onto the CMS.
At the heart of this project, was constant communication and a strong working relationship. Weekly catch ups and a clear handover process ensured successful outcomes; with all requirements met or exceeded. The templates are now with GCU’s technical team for implementation and we continue to work with them to support their digital needs.
“We're now on our second major project of the past two years with After Digital and the team continue to impress. The detail and expertise that After Digital brought to the projects meant we were able to achieve everything we set out to. For the redesigned templates, they overcame the challenges of our existing systems, creating flexible, quality templates, components and forms. They understand the HE environment and bring both experience and professionalism to the job.”
- Stephen Robertson, Head of Digital Engagement, GCU
And, this was just the beginning...
As evidence of a strong working relationship, the success of this work led to After Digital being asked to deliver a second project - a dynamic new website to provide a home for their ‘Digital First’ initiative.
Becoming a university of digital excellence
With a vision to be for “the common good”, GCU is constantly striving to improve and ensure optimal reach. Of particular importance on their agenda, was their ability to achieve digital excellence.
As a result, the university underwent a lengthy consultation period, exposing all areas of the business and infrastructure to a thorough strategic review. The output of which was a clear digital strategy. However, this strategy had many moving parts and lengthy timescales attached to actions. They needed a way to effectively collaborate, provide progress updates and involve various stakeholders, otherwise they risked losing the positive energy and enthusiasm of individuals who were being asked to contribute (but not necessarily seeing the immediate impact).
The new Digital First website aimed to showcase to internal stakeholders what had already been achieved within the university in its digital transformation journey and the plans that were underway. The platform was to be the home of ever-evolving content and narratives, championing those contributing to supporting the university in becoming ‘digital first’ and celebrating all successes, no matter how incremental.
The focal requirement of the site was that it would be a 'living platform', continuously updating and growing to maintain momentum and retain the attention of stakeholders.
We ran workshops with key stakeholders from across the university, identifying user personas, scenarios and journeys, which could all be translated into meaningful features and functions within an intuitive site architecture. Wireframes created a clear blueprint for the site, which we then developed in line with their brand guidelines to have a completely different look and feel to any existing portals.
In order to meet tight timescales and not be restricted to technologies that were changing within GCU, the site was initially built as a static HTML platform, with the ability to later apply these templates onto a flexible CMS, such as WordPress or TERMINALFOUR (their existing central CMS).
Launched to time, budget and specification, the new site enables GCU to shout about their ongoing achievements, share learnings, engage with staff and offer support to staff/students in becoming more digitally focused. The website has received positive feedback from all involved and is now used as a key tool for internal communication around digital strategy. If you're looking for something similar and would like to find out how we could help, get in touch with us today!