Queen's University Belfast
Leaders of a digital transformation.
Queens University Belfast approached Absolute to lead the Transformation of its digital channels to support its long term vision and strategic priorities. As a world class research-intensive institution, the website needed to offer their key stakeholders an easy to use, high quality, interactive and personalised experience, ensuring that content was optimized in support of the University’s Global Vision and Strategic Priorities.
We needed to present a clear vision and set of recommendations, and then turn these into reality through the development of an optimum Digital Channel Blueprint, user tested Information Architecture and design templates, among other key deliverables.
Doing our research
Together with Queens University Belfast, Absolute engaged with 551 stakeholders over a period of 6-8 weeks, to compile an extensive 148 page research document, its main objective being to identify Key Stakeholders, and gain insight into their priority wants and needs from the digital channel.
This information provided us with the direction to identify the best tools to engage with our Key Stakeholders, ensuring that the objectives of the Queen’s Digital Strategy and vision 20/20 were met.
The first section of the document began by identifying our Stakeholders, and these were then divided into 5 main groups. The Stakeholder groups relate to common objectives and interests that these users want from the site.
The document highlighted the common themes of user feedback and their main priority rankings, alongside individual Key Stakeholder personas.
From this we produced priority matrixes for each group, identifying their information priorities. This gave us strategic direction on how we should weight up content on the site to cater to the needs of each group, and in turn, gain an advantage on the competition.
From the research document, Absolute held Internal Workshops before wireframe design to ensure that all key stakeholder needs were met, without overcomplicating the site.
We wanted users to be presented with content relevant to them, all the while keeping in mind that the design of the site had to portray simplicity, as well as being engaging. Users wanted to be able to swiftly, and easily navigate to their desired content, and we wanted to make this as smooth a process as possible. This was made easier by the introduction of Personalisation.
Coursefinder: The Research Document found that it was hard to use, and took too many clicks to get there. We designed a simple, effective coursefinder which is prominent on most pages, and drilling down further, allows users to view the courses by Faculty, and also provides the ability to compare courses in an easy to view format.
Personalised Content: Something that QUB were very keen to do, we ranked content on the homepage by importance (backed up by the research document) based on Region. Ie someone from USA will be presented with content displayed in a slightly different order, which correlates with their level of importance to that specific stakeholder.
The research document identified that the photography from Queens was lacking honest and believable images of the students and the campus. It was found that the current photography lacked personality and a cohesive look and feel. More images were needed of the historic campus, the city of Belfast and real student shots.
Queens commissioned Absolute for an 8 day photoshoot which was split between the campus, the city of Belfast and some shots of the students in their study environments. We managed to get over 3,000 images, all to be used throughout the new site. We also provided a photography style guide to ensure consistency moving forward.
Responsive website design
The site has been designed with Mobile First in mind, meaning that content/style isn’t lost when viewing on different devices, and we are able to scale up the content to look great on desktop, without looking like a typically responsive site.
An easy access menu was developed via the use of the Hamburger and Icons. Previously it was found that people were confused when they clicked through to one of the top level navigation pages, and were taken to a different URL and it was hard to get back. The Hamburger menu will work as a concertina, ensuring that students will be able to see that the page they click on houses the content they want to see.
The focus groups proved that students see Queens as a friendly university, and we wanted to portray this through the designs. The introduction of the QUB red has softened the look of the site, and we have suggested a new secondary (web) colour which is the dark grey, we wanted to strike the balance between professional yet friendly, which we feel these colours achieve.
Finally, we provided Queens with an online digital style guide. This housed all of the information required to continue the development of the site. We provided HTML templates, along with a PDF style guide. This was to ensure that this could be distributed throughout the faculties & schools within the University, as a way of keeping consistency amongst other departments and their own sites.