Staff and alumni are two key audiences for all higher education institutes. Each has different needs and brings new marketing communications challenges. After the successful delivery of the new University of Southampton website UX and front-end design, the University returned to us with a new challenge - how to best communicate with their staff and alumni, sharing latest news, events and research, whilst creating business efficiencies.


ANNUAL budget required


Operating EFFICIENCIES created


LAB to contribute thoughts



The primary existing touch points for these audiences were email, quarterly print publications and a staff intranet. Audience research showed a clear dissatisfaction with the format, frequency and content of these communications. They lacked relevancy and often by the time content was delivered it was already outdated. The University knew it needed to implement a more scalable and forward-thinking solution, and following our discovery and research it became evident that a strong digital-first strategy must be present to support the university’s long term goals and vision.

Discovery Phase

Our strategic team set up workshops with key stakeholder groups to identify ‘where are we now’, ‘where do we want to be’, ‘what do we want to achieve’ and ‘how can we get there’ scenarios with the internal teams. A series of workshops identified key requirements and more specific and measurable KPIs for us to work to. These insights, combined with in-depth desk research where we audited all existing user research and content, as well as a review of the competitive marketplace (looking at best practice in education and from across other disciplines), formed the basis of our ‘as is’ model and uncovered some key recommendations for the ‘to be’ model.

One-to-one interviews established more granular requirements and individual stakeholder needs, ensuring all
stakeholders were bought into the project from the outset. We developed an Ideas Lab - a collaborative online forum, where client and agency could contribute thoughts and examples of best practice for a potential new solution.




User scenarios were established for both very unique audiences - alumni and staff - in order to establish key user needs and criteria. These could then be crafted into usable user stories and personas. Lines of differentiation and cross-over were drawn to establish where cross-pollination could occur and where standalone content would need to exist.

Content was then prioritised into a logical IA, focusing on a mobile-first and user-first experience.

All print content was reviewed and a new content strategy for web content was developed with copywriting and SEO guidelines put in place for each audience. How this online content then integrated with social channels and email marketing was then scoped out and considerations around personalisation put in place. The secure staff portal allows for even more sophisticated customisation due to individual data records.

Beyond this we recommended a number of clever new interaction designs to increase user engagement when browsing articles. 

University of Southampton interaction design by After Digital


University of Southampton UI design by After Digital

The Output

As well as creating a clear digital strategy we went on to map out key user journeys, design the full UX and develop the responsive, scalable WordPress portal (with a secure staff area). The new solution was conceptualised, designed and built for a quarter of the annual print budget. As a result, The University of Southampton has now stopped its quarterly print runs on all alumni and staff magazines, instead working on our content recommendations to produce up-to-date, regular online content and an annual printed publication for both audiences.

The savings and efficiencies to their business model are in their hundreds of thousands and the communications team now have the flexibility and capacity to publish real-time, current and relevant news, that is highly targeted, customisable and engaging (with considerable social integration and user interactivity features).



“The collaborative process that we went through with the University of Southampton in order to develop this beautiful new portal was the foundations of its success. We worked closely with a range of internal stakeholders to identify key requirements, new opportunities for engagement and personalisation, and to ultimately go on to create a truly scalable solution. We’re massively proud of this project and its many intricate features and front-end creativity.”

Cat Leaver, Head of Strategy,
After Digital