In 2014, Blayzer embarked on a collaborative website redesign and development project with Jefferson College (JeffCo), a community college in Hillsboro, MO. The resulting website launched in August 2014 and has greatly improved how the school manages online content and information about its offerings. This case study describes the path we took for this project and the results we helped JeffCo achieve.
Goals & Challenges
When Blayzer first met JeffCo, their website was feeling a pain that many HigherEd web solutions experience at some point in their life cycle: its content had vastly outgrown the confines of its technology.
The old www.jeffco.edu had been built way back in the late 2000’s. JeffCo has grown a great deal since then, and along with that growth came a lot of new content to share and make available online. When Blayzer came on board, the college had accumulated roughly 700 pages of content from roughly 20 departments spread out across 7 departmental sub-domains, each with its own individual website build on the back end. None of the sites had “friendly” web page URLs, which make sites easier to navigate and improves search engine appeal.
This awkward and aging infrastructure created a whole host of problems for the school and its students:
- Content & workflow redundancy
- Navigation barriers
- Disjointed user experience
- Administrative & editorial headaches
- Cryptic, alpha-numeric webpage URLs
- Multiple site logins and user account controls
When the time came for Jefferson College to select a partner to assist them on the journey of updating their website, they selected Blayzer based on our previous higher education web experience with SMFA-Boston, our understanding and response to their needs, our nearby St. Louis location, and our ability to work within their pre-defined budget.
The JeffCo project was a great fit for Blayzer because it allowed us to flex our HigherEd marketing muscle, work within our open-source technology wheelhouse with Drupal CMS, and help guide a good organization back onto the right path for success on the web.
The first step of Blayzer’s Jefferson College website redesign and development project strategy was to assess the existing site’s content and technology infrastructure. Once we understood the root cause of Jefferson College’s website problems, our next step was to figure out what exactly JeffCo wanted its new site to be. This involved an in-depth consultation and collaboration process.
We met face-to-face with stakeholders from each JeffCo department and heard their needs, wants, and concerns. We communicated big-picture strategy and explained technology requirements. Through this process all stakeholders were able to have their voices heard and their needs directly addressed, which is critical to a collaborative project.
With a clear picture of JeffCo’s starting point, needs, and goals in mind, Blayzer then went to work creating a new sitemap and website structure that would not only bring JeffCo.edu up to date, but prepare it to handle the school’s future growth as well. The new sitemap provided a clear system of organizing each department’s content within the new, unified web solution in a way that would easily grow and scale over time.
Next, we directed JeffCo’s department leaders to get started on gathering, editing, and creating content for the new site. Once this lengthy and intensive process was underway, Blayzer turned our attentions to designing and developing the new Jefferson College website.
We started by creating wireframes to outline the organization of content on JeffCo’s home page, departmental landing pages, and internal content page themes. Because of the volume and variety of information that must be incorporated into a HigherEd web solution, solid wireframes are absolutely essential to the design process. First we worked out how everything would lay out on a desktop display, and then we created mobile-friendly versions that optimize the layout when viewed on a smartphone or similar mobile device.
Using these wireframes as our guide, Blayzer’s design team then got to work on the design. We worked up a few comparables to establish a base design, and then collaborated with Jefferson College’s design and marketing teams to create a final design that reinforces their strong and recognizable brand while following current web design trends and best practices.
The next step in Blayzer’s production process was to start building the new Jefferson College website. The school had already selected Drupal CMS as its preferred web development platform, so Blayzer’s developers were able to dive right into adapting the technology to fit JeffCo’s needs and design specs.
First, we installed and configured the latest and greatest stable release of Drupal, an open-source web development platform for online content and user communities. Drupal is a good content management platform choice for a HigherEd web solution like JeffCo’s because it is free, flexible and easy to scale.
Configuration involved creating a custom Directory module that is linked via proprietary API to one of JeffCo’s back-end systems. This allows the JeffCo website to always serve up the most current list of faculty and their latest contact information without manually updating the website for every change. This module alone should save the college thousands of dollars in website management time and labor over the life of the web solution.
Blayzer also created approximately 20 custom web forms for the JeffCo site.
Another notable feature of the web solution we built for JeffCo isn’t something you can see from the outside. It’s something you experience on the back end when managing content on the site. To align the technology with JeffCo’s editorial and web content management process, we created levels of website users: Web Master, Department Head, and Faculty. Content created by a Faculty level user requires review by the Department Head, who then submits content to the Web Master for live publication onto the site. To enable a fast-track publishing option for time-sensitive content, we also created a custom flagging system that allows Faculty users to “flag” content for immediate review and publication by the Web Master, bypassing the Department Head role.
Once the website was developed, beta tested, and ready to start taking on content, Blayzer’s focus shifted from creating a solution to supporting it. For this uniquely collaborative project, this meant educating over 20 department heads on how to use and manage the new website. We created a custom, click-by-click visual training manual for the site and conducted two full days on on-site training sessions at Jefferson College. This training and documentation enabled JeffCo faculty and administrators to maintain firm control over the site while inserting hundreds of pages of content into the new web solution. By doing this monumental task themselves, Jefferson College saved tens of thousands of dollars on the total website redesign and development project cost.
In completing this project for Jefferson College, Blayzer and our teams provided the following mix of integrated solutions and services
Thanks to Blayzer’s Website Design & Development project, Jefferson College can now be proud of its new web solution features