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Get ready for a whole new Doane.edu

Get ready for a whole new Doane.edu

Meet the new Doane.edu.

In the online landscape, a website is like a digital face. It’s often a person’s — whether a potential student, parent or donor — first impression of a university.

That’s why it’s so important to ensure that websites meet the needs of prospective students with mobile-friendly formats, quick load times, visually appealing page layout and memorable content promising an experience, not just an education.

And it’s why the 11 employees in Doane’s Office of Strategic Marketing & Communication dove into the several thousand pages on the current Doane.edu, looking at what was necessary, what could be consolidated, what made sense to remain public-facing and what could be placed on a separate website solely for internal audiences, such as current students, faculty and staff.

We considered the questions that prospective students have and how the website works as one piece of the marketing and admissions funnel that leads them to enrolling.

And we got to work, collaborating with deans, departments and offices across campus, as well as partnering with a national agency to help with the design and development of foundational elements and ultimately create a website that could scale alongside the growth of Doane University.

Now, after months of planning, writing, coding and, gosh, a lot of meetings — here’s a preview of the new Doane.edu:

 

 

The Lead Up

Beyond the appearance and accessibility issues present in the current Doane.edu, upcoming security risks were a major reason for the push to a new website. The content management system the current site uses is being phased out of support by Drupal, making the site much more vulnerable to digital attacks.

But let’s step back a bit, to changes made by the Office of Strategic Marketing & Communication over the past few years. In 2018, we were already looking at ways to make the existing site more user-friendly, so we hired someone for UX — short for user experience.

That position helped bridge what had traditionally been a gap between marketing and IT, where marketing provided only content and IT provided only website maintenance. From there, we added two other positions, one for digital content strategy and one for front-end web development. Doane’s IT team already provided back-end web development skills.

Our departments were ready to tackle a whole lot more than just patches for the current site. It was time to rip off the band-aid and equip Doane with a site that wasn’t just representative of the university, but would be able to grow with it.

Our Process

Sometimes, to grow you need to take a step back. When our UX designer left in mid-2020, we needed to switch directions for the design and implementation of the new website, and opened a request for proposals from local and national marketing agencies.

Which is how we began working with R&R Partners, an ad agency with a client list including Boeing, Anheuser-Busch, the National Hockey League and the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority. They were able to take on the project within our timeframe and provided an above-and-beyond partnership. From the get-go in March 2021, the agency stayed in near-daily contact with us to ensure a clean handoff of the site, tools and components in late August.

Together, we built the foundations for the new site, a series of 21 different modules that can be combined to create unique and dynamic pages, along with graphic assets used throughout the site. It’s a testament to the collaboration and work ethic of both teams that this happened in the span of just six months.

R&R tackled the first 50 pages, with content and design input from our team. From there, we’ve created more than 100 additional pages.

Each of these started with a wireframe — arranging the physical layout of the page using the modules created by R&R. Then we decide what graphics, images and videos are available for the page (or need to be added to a shot list), and write copy.

Once the wireframe and content is ready, the pages get built and checked for quality. Each part of this process is documented in a spreadsheet to catch and follow up on any blocks or additional needs.

Something else to point out is that, while this process started in March, four of our team members started working at Doane just this summer and immediately hit the ground running on not just the new website, but many other marketing projects.

What Comes Next

Of course, the challenge with any website is that it’s never really “done.” At launch, we’ll be at a place where the experience is complete enough that we can provide answers and direction to prospective students. But our work doesn’t stop there.

We’ll have new content to upload and changes to make to existing content, modules and pages. To achieve this, we’ll continue meeting with Doane’s leadership team and deans. We’ll connect with department heads, to make sure key information and contacts are available for prospective students.

And if you notice something while you’re perusing the site, we’ll have a form set up to receive input from all — faculty, staff, administration, trustees, alumni, students and parents. If you have an idea, a question or a suggestion related to the website, let us know and we’ll take it into consideration for updates or for other future marketing projects.

Thanks for bearing with us over the past year as we balanced this project with the normal needs of a university marketing department. We’re excited and proud to showcase Doane’s digital future!