Digital and Brand Transformation: Engaging Academic AudiencesVisit Website
The Western Colorado University project was driven by an $80 million-dollar philanthropic donation by Paul M Rady. As an alumnus, he provided the resources to build a new Computer Science and Engineering school and to transform the Western brand. While the new school was being built, Blennd got to work constructing the University’s new brand from the ground up. We wanted to ensure their digital presence would highlight the unique, high-quality education of a small university in the Rocky Mountains.
In March 2020, Blennd announced a partnership with Western Colorado University and our project launch. Two years, a transformed school website design, and a pandemic later, the University has seen a massive rise in new student applications — along with all other valuable metrics. Home of the Mountaineers, Western is located in Gunnison, Colorado and known for its active students, excellent education, and hands-on learning opportunities.
With Paul M. Rady’s support and trust in the team’s vision, Blennd was encouraged to take Western’s digital presence in a completely new and modern direction. Following a series of discovery sessions with stakeholders, board members, faculty and students at Western, we moved into the process of redesigning, developing and eventually completely overhauling the university’s digital footprint.
/ Design System
An Inspiring and Authentic School Website Design System
Western’s design system reflects the authentic student experience. The university’s colors, elements, and imagery elicit a feeling of inclusivity, diversity, adventure, and academic prowess.
Synthesizing the Insights
Once we gathered the quantitative data from our heat mapping and auditing tools — and qualitative data from our subject matter experts on the Cain Travel team — we took that information and created a data-driven strategy for the project ahead. The research showed that Cain’s client support section was getting a ton of interaction, but it was located way down in the site footer. Their COVID-19 travel resources also earned a lot of attention — they frequently updated information for every airline and added the latest mandates to help their travelers. rnrnAn additional key feature was HubSpot integration. The Cain team used the customer relationship management (CRM) tool for a lot of their internal processes and wanted to seamlessly utilize it through their platform — particularly for the contact form and blog. These insights and requirements played a pivotal role in the user journey mapping and travel agency website development.
Displaying Unique University Stories
With so many successful students, alumni, and faculty, Western was brimming with stories that demonstrated their world-renowned hands-on educational opportunities. However, those stories were not being told in a digital environment. Blennd changed that, by executing professional photo and video shoots that captured the energy of the campus and its people — invoking excitement and interaction. Through that content, visitors would be able to understand what is meant to be a Mountaineer – and possibly begin to see themselves in the content they were viewing.
The Blennd team began their UX transformation by assessing the original website with a comprehensive site audit – spanning over 3,000 pages. The designers and developers imagined a new site structure with a 14-page site architecture document, defining the functionality, operational and environmental needs, maintainability, support, security, and privacy guidelines.
Along with that, we developed a comprehensive website strategy, including UX/UI, research, attributes, goal setting and development of key personas and 15 user flow diagrams. Each persona included journey mapping across the many digital touchpoints. User experience makes a massive difference when it comes to conversions. These resources provided a guide for how people would interact with the site and move toward action when they clicked.
University Website Development: Building a Cutting-Edge Website
The next step was building a custom-designed and developed website, with modern and effective user experience, lead flow, analytics/tracking and overall functionality. At launch, the site consisted of over 2000 pages, and continues to grow its influence with new brand-relevant, goal-oriented and optimized content. New search functions and filtering features created a user-friendly experience that made finding programs, scholarships, and other opportunities much easier. With cutting-edge expertise, the university was able to transform its overall marketing and operational effectiveness. With our ongoing services, the Blennd team continues to make updates and improvements whenever necessary through quarterly updates and request management.
Since this website was a hub for all of the university’s digital operations, it required many additional integrations on top of our standard improvements. Some features we built included:
- CourseLeaf integration that is synced with the database to easily manage courses on program pages
- Slate CRM integration & tracking to streamline admissions and enrollment processes
- 255 program & 70 department pages that dynamically populate program and department-specific content
- Custom built academic program page, with filtering features to easily search and find programs
- Extensive caching system to improve site speed and reduce the server resources needed to generate content
- Dynamic, custom built breadcrumb and subpage menu structure for better UX and site architecture
Digital Advertising & SEO: Data Driven Digital Transformation
After 12 months and over 5,000 hours of digital marketing transformation work, Blennd launched its state-of-the-art, data-driven paid media and digital advertising campaign. For the first time in the university’s history, we closely tracked user journeys, attribution, cross-domain conversion and ROI metrics. Blennd’s marketing team built a custom scorecard to track cost-per-application metrics, and gain insight into how that targeted marketing was paying off. With ongoing education web design services and marketing efforts, the University has greatly exceeded the industry benchmark for click-through-rate, conversions and other valuable metrics.
Throughout process, the Blennd SEO/Content team dove into Western’s webpages to improve their search engine ranking. Ongoing SEO and content writing services provided the backend content boost the website required to improve the organization’s visibility among their target audience.
Extraordinary Outcomes and an Ongoing Partnership
Blennd’s involvement did not end at the website launch. In fact, that was just the beginning of our partnership. We act as their dedicated digital strategists, marketers and education website design agency — designing, writing and developing content for Westen’s digital presence through our ongoing website management services. As a constantly growing and evolving institution, the Western website frequently requires new pages, functionalities, news articles, and SEO blog content to keep the website up-to-date, high-ranking and reflective of their active campus. As an ongoing partner, the organization can submit requests to the Blennd team to update content, add additional capabilities, create new page designs, and more.
Post-launch, the university saw a massive transformation in their digital presence. With a cutting-edge design, new development features, and marketing and content updates, the user experience and capabilities on the website was vastly improved. This digital transformation got game-changing results when it came to the website’s visitors, cost-per-application, and more.