On the Rise: Building a Responsive Website for a Rapidly Growing Institution

Posted: April 16, 2014

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The University of North Carolina at Pembroke has experienced unprecedented growth over the last several years. Fueled by the combination of its diverse student body, top-tier faculty and an ever-expanding number of activities in which students can get involved, UNC Pembroke’s growth has far outgrown its decade-old website.

Realizing this, the University and its leadership partnered with VisionPoint Marketing to research and create a new solution that could grow with UNCP in the future.

Research & Strategy

After taking a long look at UNCP’s current website, we started our research as we always do by listening to the client and their users. We booked interviews with people from all levels of the campus community including UNCP’s chancellor and cabinet, IT, Admissions, Distance Education, the web advisory committee, current students and more. Speaking to so many different people within UNCP gave us a much clearer picture of what stakeholders really thought about their website experience. We learned what they liked, what they didn’t like, and ultimately what they wanted to see with a new website.

Overall, the majority of stakeholders wanted to see several things accomplished with a new website:

Build a truly modern website.

The new website needed to be mobile-friendly, meet accessibility standards and be beautifully designed in a way that made information easier than ever to find.

Showcase the University’s key differentiators in new and engaging ways.

With a new website as a framework, UNCP’s stakeholders hoped to better demonstrate the University’s rich heritage and history while also highlighting its small class sizes and diverse student population.

Engage prospective students with up-to-date, highly interactive content.

UNCP has a strong presence on social media, but its old website – designed before the creation of modern social media sites wasn’t doing that fact justice. The ability to easily embed different media items, like YouTube videos, slideshows and more, would help the University better engage with users.

Empower content owners to tell the University’s story with a new and versatile CMS.

UNCP has plenty of media assets (pictures, videos, etc.) and stories to tell, but they didn’t have an easy way to post or manage it. A new CMS would empower UNCP’s content creators to develop the new and captivating content they want.

A Flexible CMS

UNCP was already using Drupal a popular and versatile content management system for its Admissions website. It seemed only natural to move the rest of the University’s website over to Drupal or a few key reasons:

  • Drupal empowers UNCP site administrators to assign specific levels of access to content owners, creators and editors.
  • The ability to assign varied permissions makes it much easier to get information out in a timely way.
  • Drupal enabled the University to classify their content into very specific categories and then edit it sitewide at one time, thus making sure content is always up-to-date.
  • As UNCP’s website grows, it can add new functionality easily by choosing from an expanding list of modules.

Designing Responsively

Responsive websites are tremendously useful over their traditional, one-platform counterparts. We knew a responsive website would accomplish a couple of major priorities for UNCP:

A scaleable design would function well visually across multiple screens.

As with other responsive website’s VisionPoint had designed in the past, UNCP’s new website utilizes a modular design to offer content managers and creators tremendous flexibility when it came to showcasing the institution’s stories. Visual assets now scale to fit the screen they are being displayed on, ensuring users have just as rich an experience on mobile and tablet devices as they would on a desktop.

It would maintain a positive user experience across multiple platforms.

On the smallest screens for UNCP’s new site, users encounter a much simpler structure than they would in a traditional desktop view. Menus are hidden until the user selects the menu button, revealing a header that expands to display the site menu.

The site also adapts to fit tablet screens. This time around, the layout looks more similar to its desktop counterpart. Calls to action, social media icons and text links are more touch-friendly.


Now that UNCP has a responsive website in place, its users can find the content they need wherever they are. Combine better usability with a stunning visual design and UNCP users are free to engage with the University’s brand story unimpeded by technological or visual limitations.

Conclusion

It’s truly stunning to see how much UNCP has grown as an institution over the last decade. Talk to any student or faculty member on campus and they’ll echo that fact the evidence can be found in a growing list of University successes that’s expanding day-by-day. With a diverse and talented student body as a catalyst for continued growth, UNCP will surely have more success stories to tell the world. Thanks to the University’s new responsive website, however, they’ll have a flexible and more engaging way to share those stories for years to come.