Western Colorado University: Leading a Brand Transformation and Website Redesign

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/ Overview

Western Colorado University website design + digital and brand transformation.

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The Challenge

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.

Our Approach

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.

/ University Design System

An inspiring, authentic and scalable education 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.

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/ Strategy

Defining the Western experience.

The first step to the Western project was our in-depth discovery. Through this process, our team developed internal relationships with key stakeholders, executing discovery and strategy sessions throughout the organization to define the Western experience. We dug into the current state and the future state of the Western brand, identifying its strengths, weaknesses, and other potential areas for growth.

Looking at a client’s audience is key in any project. However, with Western the task was larger than most. When communicating with such diverse audiences, defining what’s right and wrong is highly complex. Every webpage, digital advertisement, blogpost, and beyond had to have a consistent voice that aligned with the University’s message and goals. That is why Blennd developed a 63-page brand guide for all University communications. It highlighted the brand positioning, voice and tone, visual guidelines and more.

Western Colorado University: Leading a Brand Transformation and Website Redesign

/ Design

Showcasing unique stories through scalable and engaging design.

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 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. These resources provided a guide for how people would interact with the site.

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/ Tech

University website development: building a cutting-edge university 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
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/ Traffic

Digital advertising & SEO: a data-driven targeted digital strategy.

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.

/ Results

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.

Website pages audited, designed, and optimized.

Bounce rate decrease in 90-days.

increase in application completions.