From Popcorn to Personas
Consider this: we began working with the Purdue Center for Food and Agricultural Business (CAB) in April... of 2013. Yes. Last year. Just like a fine wine, these things take time. I mean, we're talking countless hours of driving, meeting, brainstorming, interviewing, record shopping, bad Thai food binging, and (mostly) good music from 93.5 WKHY out of Lafayette.
Our primary focus was to design a site that worked. Period. For ALL users — whether it may be a degree-seeking student or an industry professional. The site was designed to serve both, while remaining relevant, simple and device-agnostic (i.e. responsive).
In the beginning, we started as we always do – with Discovery. During an early North Star session, we defined CAB's goals for their website, and how it all tied into their strategic, organizational plans. This early session allowed us to get a baseline understanding of the language their team used when they talked about CAB.
A Voice Within A Voice
We also spent a lot of time helping CAB to craft their own brand voice... that is, a look and feel that was both unique to them and worked well within the umbrella of the primary Purdue brand. Purdue's brand guidelines provided a lot of great information, but were very much focused on their primary audience (undergraduates), not the agribusiness professional audience that is CAB's primary target. We worked to help them stand out while maximizing the benefits of being aligned with such a prominent brand.
A Publisher Needs a Platform
People often think that the technology will be the hard part of a website project, but generally it's content that poses the largest challenge. This is especially true for very large websites where valuable content already exists, and needs to be merged with new content.
The faculty of Purdue CAB are prolific researchers and writers, which meant we had a wealth of long-form content available to us. CAB's existing content library was somewhat hard to navigate, making it difficult to assess, audit and inventory. We knew the new site would need user-friendly methods for organizing (and browsing) such a vast amount of content, so we recommended a customized filtering menu for key areas.
We used an online prototyping and user-testing tool, Solidify, to test our recommendations. Conducting user testing, even in the most low-level, 'down-and-dirty' form, can often yield insightful results. In this case, even with a relatively small sample group of testers, we were able to learn that a few of the choices we'd landed on for navigation terminology were unclear, and we were able to adjust those prior to launch.
Another challenge was leveraging all of these assets across both the new website and their social platforms. The CAB team didn't want to launch a brand new website only to let it stagnate. They needed an actionable plan that empowered them to use the site as a publishing platform, a place for industry-leading content in many different forms. We built a robust marketing plan and content strategy that touched on everything from traffic acquisition and SEO, to PR and social media, in order to help position CAB as the thought-leader in agribusiness.
What's New – And Cool!
The new CAB site has a number of new and exciting features, including:
- The Plan of Study pages – This module is a great way for students and potential students to view the yearly curricula schedule during the MS and MS-MBA programs. We created a custom module that allows not only unique styling on the front-end, but also full customization on the back-end for easy updating.
- Integration with InfusionSoft – CAB's CRM, InfusionSoft, allows for the creation of forms that dovetail directly with the database. We created a module for the importing of InfusionSoft forms, which are then automatically restyled to match the standards of the website.
- Audience Landing Pages – One of the key insights from our research was that each of the two major audiences had distinctly different needs when coming to the CAB website. We decided that one way to further engage these audiences was to create landing pages for them. We did so for Agribusiness Professionals and for Students/Alumni so that each could be served content that is relevant, timely and curated.