Tufts University is an international leader in student-centered education with a longstanding reputation for offering transformative, socially impactful opportunities to its diverse community of students, faculty, staff, and alumni. It needed a new site that could be as responsive and engaging as the university itself — as well as a unified content strategy that featured the inclusivity and innovation for which Tufts is renowned.
Tufts and mStoner had previously worked on two other projects: a new Graduate Programs site and a redesigned student life web experience. Our familiarity with Tufts’ vision, priorities, and institutional culture from those projects informed our approach to the creative challenge of reimagining Tufts.edu.
As a university that excels at big thinking, Tufts was aiming for more than a beautiful new website. It saw the relaunch as an opportunity to create a more cohesive content strategy for all of the university’s media channels. The moment also presented a chance to include more communications teams from across the university to make their content more impactful than ever.
Under the leadership of the executive director of marketing and chief brand officer and a university steering committee, mStoner developed a strategy that would:
- Foster more collaboration between Tufts academic units and central administration on content creation
- Represent all parts of the university with a dynamic, user-optimized homepage that tells the Tufts story
- Facilitate easier site updating with a single content management system (CMS)
- Sustain the new website and communications plan with adequate staff resources
- Set institution-wide site governance guidelines, supported by university leadership, to maintain brand standards.
The new strategy also addressed Tufts’ main external communications goal for the site: creating an intuitive, compelling browsing experience for prospective students. Our team presented a plan to accomplish this with:
- Content that speaks directly to prospects and helps them envision attending Tufts
- A new information architecture (IA) that assists prospects and parents in locating information they need and discovering new information that surprises and delights them
- A web-accessible, mobile-responsive, and attractive site design that prospects would enjoy exploring
- A unified brand presentation that creates a memorable impression on prospects.
Building consensus across the university
The broad reach of the strategy required substantial involvement from multiple academic and administrative departments, as well as university leadership. Our team recommended an approach that involved as many stakeholders as possible in the decision making. This meant:
- Building extra time into the schedule during the discovery, design, and testing phases to seek extensive feedback
- Giving stakeholders a chance to weigh in on the design concepts, user testing results, template suite, and live beta-site
- Listening to the feedback and making changes based on what was shared
An important part of this process was a storytelling workshop, facilitated by mStoner Co-Founder and CEO Voltaire Santos Miran, for the university’s multiple communications teams. The workshop brought together editorial, marketing, and public relations staff from across the university to think collaboratively about creating content designed for multiple channels — digital, print and social media — and targeted to specific audiences from inception.
While many institutions struggle to define themselves, Tufts was in a position to capitalize on the brand attributes its community already embraced. Tufts has its story — what the institution needed was a methodical process for creating and curating content that included the communicators from across Tufts’ academic and research areas.
– Voltaire Santos Miran, co-founder and CEO, mStoner, Inc.
The Final Product
The final design for Tufts.edu tested universally positively among current and prospective students, as well as faculty, staff, alumni and university leadership.
- The Tufts.edu homepage is story-rich, with engaging video, photography, articles, and social media that speak to prospective students while also conveying the strategic themes of the university.
- Tufts’ commitment to diversity and inclusion is evident almost everywhere on the homepage, not just in its prominently titled section, but also in the site’s imagery and coverage of Tufts’ diverse approaches to study, research, and innovation.
- The popular “Right Now” feature from the original site continues to provide an enticing snippet to draw site visitors into what’s happening on campus.
- New typography, lots of white space, and a bold color palette create a clean, contemporary, welcoming look that communicates the collegial, open-minded character of the university to prospective students.
- The new site is now mobile-friendly, responsive to multiple devices, and up-to-date on web accessibility standards.
- At the start of the project, the university was using several different content management systems. mStoner assisted the Tufts team with a migration to Drupal and enhanced its capacity to support other units that choose to opt in to the same CMS.
- The Tufts team oversaw successful implementation of the new site with functional specifications, programming support, and quality assurance testing services from mStoner.
The new Tufts.edu site launched with an overwhelmingly positive reception in March 2016. In a comparison of the period between March and May of 2015 and 2016, page views in the faculty and staff sections increased 145 percent, while student sections increased 173 percent. The number of visits from mobile devices also increased from 12 percent to 17 percent for the same period.
Our goal was to bring to life Tufts people and Tufts places online. We wanted to convey who Tufts is, who makes up their community, and why they matter. When you’re able to launch a site that people get behind and really love, it’s a wonderful thing.
– Voltaire Santos Miran, co-founder and CEO, mStoner, Inc.
Tufts approached its homepage relaunch as a rare opportunity to revamp the university’s digital communications strategy. But it needed to serve eight schools with a single approach that responded to university priorities, as well as prospective students’ interests.
Digital strategy, content audit, competitor research, experience maps, personas, user testing, information architecture (IA), responsive design, content workshop, content management system (CMS) selection and implementation support, thematic CSS development, programming assistance, quality assurance testing, web governance, sustainability recommendations