The University of Denver (DU) approached Blue Flavor in the spring of 2006 to help them create a unified interactive strategy and design and deploy it across several of their primary websites. These included the main university website (.edu), graduate and undergraduate admissions, financial aid, the university news portal and their quarterly online magazine.
The project was more than just design and strategy. DU also needed custom development and the deployment of a pre-selected institution-wide content management system (CMS) across all the selected sites. With that came templates, style guides and training so DU staff could begin deploying sites themselves using the new CMS.
Blue Flavor had just over three months to complete this project.
Strategic Design Challenges
One of the primary challenges we faced with this project was reworking the existing strategy for the new websites. Like most universities, DU’s websites were managed by several different groups and many different stakeholders within those groups. This resulted in a fragmented strategy and jumbled look throughout their web properties. We talked with Chris Stewart, The University of Denver’s Director of Web Communications, about the project.
“We were able to overcome these challenges by engaging in a candid and exhaustive conversation. Throughout the project, as key approval, sign-off, and other milestones were nearing, we communicated immediately if roadblocks were in the way to creatively problem solve to remove or work around them.”
Our primary goal for this project was to take all of the sites and bring them together into a single cohesive experience. This involved more than just a redesign and CMS rollout across DU’s web properties.
A Change in Philosophy
Blue Flavor began by helping DU define an institution-wide level architecture and brand strategy for all of their public-facing websites. As you can imagine, this wasn’t easy. Not only did it pose a significant design challenge, it also meant shifting the way the various departments viewed their share of the website and reevaluating how it worked into the greater DU website strategy.
Because of DU’s rapid timeline, we developed a process for approval that didn’t slow the progress of the redesign. This was keyed by rapid turnarounds on sign-offs and constant and clear communication with all parties involved. This was not an easy task with several schools, departments, and groups for each website involved.
CMS Integration Challenges
Setting up a CMS for any site is never a very easy thing to do, but when it comes to institutional-level CMS rollouts, it’s a massive undertaking to say the least. The biggest challenge we faced was taking what we had architected and designed and making it happen within the CMS. This called for quite a bit of custom development work.
However, we also recognized that the success of a CMS doesn’t end with the technical development.
We worked with our stakeholders at DU and the CMS vendor to define the workflow process for editors. This allowed for maintenance of the content and templates and design of the websites. This process required more technical implementation; the creation of contributor roles and tasks within the CMS, as well as an overarching, non-technical process for content publishing.
Planning for the Future
At the conclusion of the project we provided DU’s in-house team with all the tools and assets we had assembled over the course of the project. It is our belief that clients should feel empowered to “own” their website, modifying and adding to the work we provide.
As a result of this belief, we provided all assets and mechanicals royalty-free, and created a detailed list of recommendations and guidelines to support current and future sites.
With excellent in-house project management and a solid approach to design and development, we managed to complete the project within DU’s three month timeframe and came in 20% under the estimated budget.
The success of the DU project is a perfect example of how Blue Flavor works with our clients to create people-centered solutions quickly, cost-effectively and without sacrificing quality.
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