Designing a beautiful face
Working together with IT, Bellone, and vendors, Story+Structure developed a familiar shopping cart experience to replace the previous registration and payment system, and eliminated the two-day wait for an ID.
For Bellone, the significance of this achievement should not be underestimated. “The fact that we were able to create a shopping cart using PeopleSoft is the most amazing thing,” he noted.
CE’s overhaul did not stop with the development of the shopping cart, however. The CE website and course catalog were among a total of four major projects (including a Salesforce CRM implementation) that the division undertook all at once. “A respectful experience is one that takes into account the entire student experience,” said Rutirasiri as explanation for the broad scope of the redesign.
The CE website had not been redesigned since 2004.
“The old website used catalog-type language that’s quite common in higher ed,” said Bellone. “We wanted to build a site that was easy to use but also had more of an emotional appeal. We went from talking about programs at an institutional level to talking directly to prospective students by using words like ‘you.’ The new site is also really beautiful: big hero images at the top, a lot of graphical elements, and a lot less content.”
Student testimonials, quotes from professors, as well as data about how programs mesh with today’s job market further round out the website experience. Also key, in Bellone’s view, is a distinct call to action on every page: a button, for example, where students can request more information.
Bellone is the first to admit that the ambitious agenda left him and his staff running around with their hair on fire. “It may seem crazy to be doing these four projects all at the same time, but I wouldn’t do it any other way,” he recalled. “It made much more sense to develop them in unison. The end product is much stronger than if you tackled them one at a time.”
While it’s too soon to know whether the new shopping cart system is a success—its launch is slated for late November—the redesigned website is already pulling its weight. “From day one, the number of info requests has gone up drastically,” said Bellone. “We went up from getting six or eight a day to 60, and that’s been consistent since we launched.”
For Bellone, the benefits of CE’s new customer-centric approach far outweigh the costs. “The percent of our overall budget that we spent on this project was small,” he noted, “In exchange, we’re presenting students—and prospective students—with a user experience that is very friendly.”
Andrew Barbour is an editorial freelancer with eCampus News.