Alliance Manchester Business School

Alliance Manchester Business School

The Brief

Part of the University of Manchester, Alliance Manchester Business School (AMBS) was established in 1965 as one of the UK’s first business schools. Today, they are one of the UK’s largest campus-based business and management schools with centres in Dubai, Hong Kong, Sao Paolo, Shanghai and Singapore.

Following on from comprehensive stakeholder research and existing website performance analysis, the school invited several creative agencies to bid for the redesign of their website. Along with TerminalFour, the industry leading content management system (CMS), Absolute was selected to lead the creative user interface and the front end development part of the project.

Wireframes created by Absolute during web design process

The Idea

The key to delivering a successful website for any university or school is to make sure the user can get to the information they’re looking for quickly, especially when they’re presented with a lot of content options. The focus should always be on simplicity and clear signposting as the user digs deeper into the website, leading the user to their destination efficiently and removing irrelevant information.

This make personalisation particularly important for the design and build through the introduction of a ‘content hub’ to give the user the ability to change what is served to them based on their reasons for visiting the site, whether that is by location, user type or course, the site should only display news, events, videos or social media relevant to them.

With vast amounts of content on the site, it was important that users didn’t get lost so we had the idea of creating two navigation menus, one clearly showing which page the user had come from and another showing where they needed to go next, supported with the use of breadcrumbs and an umbrella menu to jump quickly to other areas of the website.

Absolute played a key role in delivering the user interface design of the main University of Manchester website. AMBS were keen to use some of the key features in the creation of the new site, for familiarity when users navigate between the sites, but the site also needed to look like it had moved on, both aesthetically and with the functionality available from TerminalFour.

A set of icons developed as part of the new website design
Custom graphics created for the new university website
Custom graphics created for the new university website

The Delivery

The brand assets played a big part in solving what was quite a tricky brief. We utilised the strengths of the main university brand with AMBS’s own colour ways to maintain consistency in the user journey. We introduced more breathing space around the content, reduced the amount of clickable options within each page and introduced clearer call-to-actions. Taking a mobile first approach allowed us to concentrate on the flexibility of the user interface between every device the website would be viewed on.

Every page had to earn the right to be there, focusing on the audiences wants and needs from the findings of the strategy and research project - for example, if an academic needed to find vital research information or look at collaboration opportunities, then they could do so within a few easy clicks.

Initial wireframes were designed and constructed on a test server to enable early user testing by the client before the main assets were created and built. As part of the project we produced a collection of unique page layouts constructed using HTML markup, referencing any associated assets. A set of digital style guides were created in conjunction with the front end templates and then handed over to the team at TerminalFour and the internal digital team at AMBS for the initial build phase.

Design comparison between the new website and the previous version
Responsive web design for Alliance Manchester Business School
Living style guide for their digital presence
Simplifying the user journey
Personalisation - ability to change user interests and preferences across the site

At Absolute we’ve completed several website projects for a number of leading higher educational institutes so we understand the challenges they face. One of the main issues is that university websites have to cater for so many different personas that all have different wants and needs. By designing and building a digital platform that is fully responsive and offers a personalised experience for each user, we can make sure users can access the information they need quickly, without getting lost in a sea of irrelevant content.

Chris Hodgen — MD of Absolute