Johnson & Wales University pioneered experiential learning more than 100 years ago and continues to provide exceptional career preparation with its unique model of industry-focused education. In spring 2015, university leaders found themselves in a bind: they were launching a brand awareness campaign, complete with broadcast ads and billboards, within a matter of months — but updating their dated, nonresponsive website from 2002 would require at least a year.
A collaborative team within Johnson & Wales agreed on a risky but brilliant solution: launch a smaller site with the proper brand presentation on an extremely aggressive schedule, then rebuild the entire site afterward in a more relaxed timeframe. They then searched for a partner who offered creative and technical expertise, as well as the capacity to deliver on such a short timeline.
mStoner stepped up to the plate, working with the former Johnson & Wales Director of Digital Communications and the Johnson & Wales team to triage the priorities for the site, manage stakeholders’ expectations, and create a schedule everyone could stick to in order to launch the new site within five months.
After many late nights and weekends, and heavy lifting from Johnson & Wales’ IT and Marketing Communications departments, the team delivered a 150-page, recruitment-focused, mobile-ready site that hit the deadline.
The new information architecture (IA) focuses on the journey prospective students make toward deciding to apply. Data showed that after landing on the homepage, most visitors clicked through to one of Johnson & Wales’ four campuses in Providence, Miami, Denver, or Charlotte. The new homepage design features these locations, so visitors can now explore these from the homepage without leaving the main site.
We were very true to their brand campaign in the design, which was tied to market research. We anchored it to something that had been tested, since the compressed schedule didn't allow time for our typical visual design testing.
Professional photography from the brand campaign creates a strong visual impact for visitors. And employing microcontent, such as one of the campaign’s messages, “Experience. Success,” gives visitors a quick brand impression that reflects and reinforces the larger campaign strategy.
Former director of digital communications, Johnson & Wales University
"We were very true to their brand campaign in the design, which was tied to market research," said Ben Bilow, creative director, mStoner, Inc. "We anchored it to something that had been tested, since the compressed schedule didn't allow time for our typical visual design testing."
While the intense schedule of the Track 1 site forced the team to make some sacrifices with features and content, it is addressing these areas with the Track 2 site strategy and creative, as well as applying the insights gathered from Track 1 to make the larger redesign stronger. In the meantime, bounce rate is down, time-on-site is up, and Watson is satisfied that the team accomplished what it set out to do.
"We have a graphic brand presentation that puts us on equal footing with the competition. We have a good presence on mobile and a logical interface," said Watson. "The overall responsiveness of the site is clean, professional, easy … all the things you would want it to be."
Assessment, planning, strategy, information architecture (IA), responsive site design, HTML and CSS creation