Summer Academy has been a successful academic program in the Twin Cities since 1978 that offers high-potential students 50 imaginative and inspiring classes that stretch and challenge students from 1st to 11th grade. Due to the program’s popularity, the goals for the redesign were not centered around acquiring more students, but serving the existing users of the site better. So the priorities were improving ease of use – especially around course selection. Clearer navigation and sign-posting of information. And, better overall user experience in terms of layout, readability and calls to action. And like most education based site, these goals needed to be achieved for all the different user groups – of students, parents, teachers and supporting school districts.
Education Website Redesign
First things first – planning. Through the Planning and Discovery phase, we knew we could improve the site structure and navigation. Also, by applying our understanding of how people use websites (User Interface Design), we could significantly improve the usability. Artistically, we took the fantastic photos Summer Academy had, their existing brand colors of black and orange, and created a new logo and a motto that captured the essence of the program – “Going Beyond The Classroom”. Then we created a layout that allowed for plenty of big, bright photos of students enjoying classes, with lots of clear calls-to-action so people knew where to go next. Lastly, we designed an easy-to-use system for browsing and selecting from the 50+ classes offered.
“The new website improved email sign-ups from 60 sign-ups in 17 days from 1319 visitors, to 78 sign-ups in just 5 Days from only 732 visitors!”
The new website dramatically improved engagement – shown by the 74% increase in email subscription rate between the old and new site in the same year. Most importantly it resulted in Summer Academy filling all 1,100 places in just 3 days compared to the previous year which took 11 days. That’s a 367% improvement (year-on-year), with no increase or discernible difference in marketing or promotional activity.
From a user experience perspective, this is the first project we’ve ‘officially’ designed using “mobile-first design”. Which meant we were able to create an incredible user-friendly experience for smart phone and tablet users. As a result we’ve had fantastic feedback from members of the Summer Academy board.
An education website redesign provides a true test of your design process. We’ve really enjoyed meeting that challenge with this project, and we are very proud of the end result.