Translating a higher ed program’s complex goals into a modern web experience

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When it comes to rebuilding the website for a higher ed institution – even for just one program within the institution – the UX and content strategy phases of the custom web development process present unique challenges.

Higher Ed on the Web

Many colleges and universities have been around for decades (and centuries), and have had to adapt bit by bit to the growing demand for digital over the last 20 years. This approach, while necessary, has resulted in disjointed web experiences for many schools and their programs.

Repairing the issue of a university's broken user experience starts with information architecture and content strategy. Universities are highly complex, and so are their digital needs. Even within single programs, there are often multiple goals that have to be translated into a streamlined web product.

The Washington University Program in Physical Therapy is no exception. It's the nation's top PT program, and for good reason. The program delivers incredible education, research and clinical care. This three-pronged mission, which makes the program amazing, was at the root of the website's content strategy challenges.

Our Solution

In order to take the PT program's site from out-of-date and confusing to modern and easy-to-navigate, we started with a full audit of the old website, pulling the sitemap and summarizing the content of each page.

We were able to identify what content needed to be updated and migrated to the new site, what content could be removed completely and what pieces of the site could be consolidated to create a simpler structure.

From here, we created a new sitemap, establishing an improved architecture that elevates the three pieces of the program's mission (education, research and patient care) and provides clear pathways for users to reach their destinations and complete actions like applying for the program, scheduling a student visit or making an appointment.

The content itself, which is the most critical piece of the new website and provides detailed information about the program, is updated to be more web-friendly. The content is clear and concise, featuring short sentences, logical section breaks and clear calls to action.

"The new PT site's simplified navigation and use of the Medical School's WordPress theme offers users a modern web experience that makes reaching user goals easy," said Ed Morrissey, Integrity Parter and CCO. "That's our goal on everything we do – from the smallest marketing site to major web applications. We're thrilled to be bringing that UX expertise to an amazing university, helping them modernize and adjust to the increasingly important presence of digital in higher ed."

You can read more about how we tackled the PT Program's challenges in our case study and check out the website itself here.

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