Case study: St Antony's College, University of Oxford
Having worked for many years with other constituent parts of the University of Oxford, the St Antony's project posed us with a new challenge: a college that was also a department.
About the client
St Antony’s College is an important centre for research and teaching in global and regional issues at the University of Oxford. It houses seven regional studies centres and several programmes, helping to inform public debate and public policy. It also fulfils the normal functions of a college, providing accommodation and meals and in hosting events and conferences.
St Antony’s College needed a simpler, clearer browsing experience for visitors, emphasising the core areas of college life and promoting the college to prospective students and stakeholders. Each of the regional studies centres required its own subsite and the solution had to improve operational efficiency for the college (by reducing the duplication of information online and via emails). The greatest challenges were reimagining the new site not as a simple update of the old one but as an entirely new site, conveying the most important messages and content to key audiences - and doing so on a limited budget.
We gathered user stories to highlight the needs of all audiences and from this research were able to agree with our client the four highest priority types of content. These were:
- Events. The range and number of seminars and other events in St Antony's is unusually large. Our solution gave events a higher profile on the site and allowed audiences to filter how they were viewed.
- Information about college. This content was essential but needed streamlining. We conducted Information Architecture (IA) and User Experience (UX) exercises to understand how users would expect to access this content. This resulted in the creation of two main menus; one promoting the college and its activities and one aimed at audiences looking for specific content.
- People. Many visitors wanted to know who was at the college and what they did, so we constructed a searchable and filterable series of lists. This included the prominent use of profile photographs.
- Centre sites. The regional centres needed subsites that preserved their independence, while clearly showing they were part of the college. Events, news and people were clearly linked with both the college and their relevant centres.
UX and design
The college asked for a 'modern yet prestigious' branding that emphasised the events and people at St Antony's. In order to expose this content, we suggested an overwhelmingly minimalist design with images coming from the events, news and people content types. This meant encouraging the college office and the centres to upload images on an ongoing basis. To accommodate both image-rich and text-only pages we created a colour palette of white and light grey with strong accent colours.
The site needed to be easily viewable on portable devices, especially given the high number of people coming to the college as visitors to seminars and other events. We agreed upon a design approach early in the process, wireframed with pen and paper and initially built mobile-only, before expanding to wider widths. We then conducted testing with real content and made UX and design improvements throughout the build.
By identifying and concentrating on four types of content of most value to the users of the site, we were able to reimagine the website as a streamlined presentation of the college's core activities. Consequently, the new site promotes the most-requested content to key audiences and in so doing ensures the first impression of the site reflects the vibrant and international nature of the college. This challenged the idea that the site should be a repository for all college-related digital content and instead has proved succesful in encapsulating the vision and identity of St Antony's.
Launched: March 2015
See the site: http://www.sant.ox.ac.uk/