University at Buffalo Website

A comprehensive rethinking and redesign of UB’s top-level website.

Role

User Research, Competitive Research

Date

2010-2011


This research-driven, collaborative website redesign effort and winner of the 2012 CASE Gold Award lowered the website’s average bounce rate from 75% to 37%, doubled the average time on site, and drove an unprecedented number of website visitors to admissions information.

Process

To build a strong understanding of UB’s users, our team underwent an extensive research process employing Indi Young’s Mental Models ethnographic research methodology. We worked directly with Indi to define the university’s primary task-based audience segments. We also partnered with higher education consulting firm mStoner to conduct user interviews, and identify and group the common needs and behaviors of UB’s key audiences into meaningful clusters.

In addition to the user research component, I conducted competitive research on the project. I researched navigation trends, design patterns, and content from peer and competitor websites and created a set of recommendations to help guide the UB homepage redesign effort.

These user and organizational research insights drove decision-making about the website’s architecture, user interface design, and content development.

Results

UB’s homepage redesign won the 2012 Council for the Advancement and Support of Education (CASE) Circle of Excellence Award for Best Complete Institutional Website.

The University at Buffalo won the top award this year for an impressive, comprehensive rethinking and redesign of its top-level website using ethnographic research on mental models pioneered by Indi Young. The site’s content, architecture, and research-based approach are absolutely award-worthy … Buffalo.edu illustrated that clear process, experimentation, iteration, strategy, and hard work yields results—and top honors.

—Council for the Advancement and Support of Education (CASE) Circle of Excellence Awards 2012 Judges’ Report | Read the full report (PDF)

The University at Buffalo homepage successfully addresses the needs of the school’s many audiences, including prospective and current students, faculty, staff, parents, visitors, and alumni.

UB’s primary task-based audience segments include Matchseekers, Prideful Belongers, and Active Supporters.

An excerpt from the Matchseeker mental model. The top half of the model groups user tasks by common goals and themes. The bottom half represents our content gap analysis, which helped us understand where our existing content addressed specific user needs and what new content needed to be created.

Related Sites

The UB homepage redesign was one of several pilot sites from UB’s Digital Communication Transformation. I was heavily involved with the creation of the following sites that were developed using the same process: