Challenge

Founded in 1882, Virginia State University (VSU) enjoys an illustrious history as one of America’s top historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs). In fact, in their recent annual college rankings, U.S. News & World Report placed the university 29th against its 106 competing HBCU schools and 84th among overall regional universities in the South.

The university’s website, however, fell short in communicating the institution’s rich history, it’s stature among not only HBCU schools but Southern universities, and critical factors for incoming students such as retention, faculty resources, and academic excellence.

In partnering with VSU, CapTech set out to create a robust, easy-to-navigate digital experience for the university, one that would weave together the spirit, heritage, and overarching benefits of attendance. The goal? To create a user-friendly interface that would increase enrollment and provide valuable information for existing students, faculty, and alumni.

Approach

The process began with an evaluation of the information architecture and a content inventory. These would drive the creation of a future state, prioritizing the most important pages, combining redundant ones, and archiving any that were obsolete. And, with 67% of students using search engines to research higher education institutions, a comprehensive SEO strategy was needed to improve content rankings, increase traffic for targeted search terms, and increase the opportunity for conversions/student admissions. This included keyword research on what users look for when researching HBCUs, with CapTech optimizing 20 priority pages.

In addition, CapTech guided the university in consolidating 11 of 18 external subdomains, designed several reusable components to be used throughout the site, and implemented a new content management system (CMS). The final “develop and deploy” phase included CMS implementation, technical development, content migration, and deployment. Content migration, in particular, was a challenge as the site utilized 1,250 HTML pages and 1,112 pdfs. A keep/edit/archive approach was used for existing pages, to prioritize which pages and pdfs moved into the new CMS.

Results

At the project’s conclusion, CapTech provided VSU with a digital style guide that outlined all components and elements of the design in order to ensure consistency when new pages or features were added to the site in the future. In addition, the site’s new responsive design accommodates the increased trend toward smartphone viewing. Updated imagery gives it a new, fresh look. And a consistent voice throughout reinforces the VSU brand. In short, the university now enjoys a website that truly tells its story in a way that is both engaging and simple to navigate.