College of Engineering website – then and now

Seth Godin recently posted about “Just the good parts“, a trap I think that all too many of us fall in to. The Web is no exception here, it’s great to have an amazing website, but it isn’t something you can make appear overnight or pay a company to produce for you. The quality of your website is a direct reflection of how much time and energy you put into it.

“The very thing you’re seeking only exists because of the whole. We can’t deny the difficult parts, we have no choice but to embrace them.”
~ Seth Godin

Two things happened a few weeks ago that talk to this point directly. The first was that we launched the last of 10 College of Engineering departmental and programs websites as an overall restructure of the College of Engineering Web presence. Secondly, their Associate Director of Marketing and Communications, Kristin Copenhaversent out this email to sum up the recent changes to the marketing of the college. The message was great to bring to light some of the great things available to the college but it intended to be brief. It didn’t get into the details about the process and hard work leading up to what seems like logical pieces of the Web.

College of Engineering “then”

College of Engineering “now”

More than skin deep

Looking at the screenshots above you can tell we made a dramatic change in the visual appearance across every engineering website. Before, every department was able to create their own interpretation of what it means to be part of Wayne State University. In theory, this seemed to work great for individual departments because they had the ability to create highly crafted messages. In reality, the Web was not something in which they specialized. The limited department resources were focused on their research, teaching, and education; the website was often the last thing addressed. This isn’t unique to engineering; it is something we see across our campus and across the entire Web.

Dean Farshad Fotouhi identified this situation, allocated funds and hired an Associate Director of Marketing and Communications to work closely with our team to create solutions that worked for each department and the college as a whole. It came down to every engineering department having a cohesive yet unique look, voice and set of values represented online to ensure consistency and success for prospective and current students.

Insightful statistics

The project overall took on a life of its own but we broke it down in to multiple parts and stages, and had a very consistent routine to starting, migrating and launching every department, alumni, student organization, and other websites, to ensure its success.

This is just a sample of what went into the project as a whole (this doesn’t include daily maintenance and post launch updates):

  • Project Scope: 39 websites, 8 email newsletters, 12 email templates, multiple digital signage templates, internal tools, and more
  • 550+ Web Communications staff hours
  • 45+ hours of meetings with College of Engineering
  • 2 homepage revisions after initial launch
  • 1,700 pages on the new site (compared to 5,000+ on the previous)
  • 75 unique “templates” across the entire website
  • 8 new tools created in the CMS to accomplish goals that are now available to everyone
  • 30,000+ of Web visitors per month
  • 50,000+ email interactions

Below is some insight into where the 550+ hours of Web Communications staff time was spent. The bulk was spent on transitioning content, this is moving the content from the old website into the new. I want to clarify this is not just a copy-and-paste task. It means evaluating and editing every single page, ensuring it’s up to date and possibly splitting it up, removing it, or combining it with other areas across the entire website. This takes dedicated time between the college and Web Communications. We talked daily with Kristin and met every Friday to track progress, ask questions and create a plan for us during the next week. These meetings were grueling but this is exactly a direct reflection of the focused time spent that resulted in a successful website. Simply put, without the talent from the college putting in the hard work, this website redesign would never have been a success.

Time spent - Engineering

Tools that make a communication strategy work

  • College website
  • Departmental websites
  • The ability to share news/events/promotions between them all with a click
  • Faculty Profiles with In the News, Publications, Books, etc.
  • Spotlight on Faculty, Students, Alumni
  • College HTML email template
  • College email newsletter
  • Departmental email newsletters
  • Faculty experts list
  • Social media with support behind the content
  • An analytics package focused on objectives and goals
  • A key employee focused on doing the hard work it takes to bring an entire college together to speak in a single voice to the public

Overview of the Engineering Web content workflow

engineering content workflow

View the new College of Engineering website at http://engineering.wayne.edu/ 

Launch: Center for e-Design

Last week we launched the Center for e-Design website. The site is purely informational as the College of Engineering goes through the process of becoming a member site.

The design has a touch of our standard template while at the same time having it’s own unique feel. The header is based on the center’s standard colors and we blended it with out global header to ensure someone visiting the site can explore the rest of the university.

The goal of the site was to present information so the homepage is sectioned into the benefits, partners and research thrusts. Each of the areas have a specific style to highlight the content. The main promotion rotates on refresh and the visitor can move through some photo representations of the work they are doing.

View the Center for e-Design website: http://e-design.wayne.edu/

Launch: Industrial & Systems Engineering

Last week we launched a redesigned Industrial & Systems Engineering website. We started the redesign 8 months ago because they were growing and started to add new programs. At the time we didn’t know that growth would result in a name change, a complete restructure of the department and a new client contact.

Twice baked

Essentially we did a redesign twice for this site. The first was based on an initial architecture and goals and was almost complete except for content when our contact from the program left. We didn’t know what would happen since he was not replaced right away. A month or two later we got a new contact and completely new goals for the site. We went back to the drawing board, we came up with a new navigation, interaction and elements for the homepage and started working with the design team to match an upcoming branding campaign.

Features and changes

In the end the site turned out great. The homepage offers quick access to degree programs, spotlights on great work happening and an area to focus on selling points that distinguish Wayne State from other schools with similar programs. The previous homepage focused on the director of the program and a lot of talk about themselves. The new homepage focuses on what they are offering students and all the great things they can be involved in.

The content was also completely re-written. Faculty profiles were scrutinized and assigned to multiple areas for cross reference. We were also given a new set of photography of faculty and facilities. These updated photos really help to show off the advancements the program has made.

A little bit of social

They are investing some time each day and have started a few social media outreach and communication strategies. We wanted to highlight those activities on their homepage. They aren’t the most prominent thing on the page but they offer the visitor a jumping off point if they reach the bottom of the page and haven’t found what they were looking for.

View the Industrial & Systems Engineering website at: http://ise.wayne.edu/

New Newsletters: Exemplar & Synergy

This last week we launched two newsletters. Over the last year or so schools and colleges across campus have been transitioning their traditional print publications to the web. Right now most are doing dual format but we expect them to go all digital over the next few years. This will not only allow them to save money (on postage and printing) but also get the word out to in a timely manor and start interacting with their audience.

College of Engineering – Exemplar

Traditionally a print magazine and will still be for some time but now they give their readers the option to read and subscribe online. The main audience is alumni and unfortunately they don’t have email addresses for them all. This is a slow transition by promoting the online version in print to get people to subscribe to the email and online version. It is still early so we don’t have statistics yet to show the conversion rate.

View the Exemplar Newsletter

College of Pharmacy – Synergy

Also started out as a print newsletter but this one has gone all digital, no more print. Traditionally they would publish a PDF of the print version online but not many people were reading them. The new site also includes an HTML email formatted specifically to promote the primary articles and upcoming events. Below is the preview of the email.

View the Synergy Newsletter

Overall this trend doesn’t look like it’s going to stop. Almost all the school and college sites we do have brought up bringing their newsletter online. Initially these were all custom but as we do more of them we noticed tons of similarities. We are building the tools to bring this capability into the CMS for anyone who hosts a site through us to use. We will keep you updated on these features as they become available in the CMS.