This independent liberal arts college in Oakland, CA encourages its young, mostly female students to stand out and “make a statement.” So when it was time for a website redesign, Associate Vice President of Marketing Judy Silva knew it was imperative to develop a bold, creative web presence. The new site needed to be as forward-thinking as Mills students and right-fit prospects.
Before engaging mStoner, Silva and her team already had a strategy in mind for the new site as well as sophisticated design standards. They were seeking a partner who could understand their vision and make it happen. “One of the most challenging aspects of a redesign (and we’re still in the middle of ours) is the time it takes to do the work, on top of the other regular work you need to do,” Silva said. “It’s definitely a marathon, so you need a partner like mStoner to help guide and support you through the process with tools that can help you manage it all.”
With mStoner on board, the team established the following goals for the redesign:
“This is a site that’s going to last for a long time,” said Ben Bilow, creative director, mStoner, Inc. “There are no fussy design elements. Since it’s all about the content and images, it will be easy for Mills to update the CSS and the images and have a completely new look.”
Market research shows the most successful sites make it easy for users to find what they are looking for. The new site’s approach to design, content, and user experience is very intentional and pared down to get visitors where they want go quickly.
Three of the key strategies in play are:
— Judy Silva, Associate Vice President of Marketing, Mills College
After a midsummer launch, Mills started the 2017–2018 academic year with its newly minted site. New visitors to Mills.edu have increased nearly 20% since launch.
Usability testing results indicated that students are finding information easily. “The most important result for the marketing team,” Silva said, “is that we now have a mobile-responsive website that makes it possible to do digital marketing in a way we simply couldn’t before.”
Stats from the first quarter of 2018 indicate the site’s storytelling focus is resonating with Mills’ audiences: Undergrad campus visit requests increased 51.34% and graduate campus visit requests increased 34.04% compared to the previous quarter (October-December 2017). Other notable stats from this time period:
The Mills marketing team wasn’t the only one that grew from the experience. mStoner’s technologists and creatives reached new heights as a result of the partnership. mStoner Creative Director Ben Bilow said, “Mills brought a lot of good ideas to the work and pushed us, especially in the concept stage, while showing us they valued the work that goes into this. The real challenge was doing work that greatly impressed them.” From developing new ways to make a mobile site interactive to looking far beyond higher education for design inspiration, the mStoner team rose to the occasion and discovered some new capabilities in the process.
The effort did not go unnoticed. “mStoner was a true partner in the website development process from beginning to end,” Silva said, “and we’re working with them now for our next phase of development. Their entire team excelled at client service and creative problem-solving. What was really out of the ordinary was that we worked with the company’s leadership throughout the entire process, and they were genuinely invested in our organization’s challenges and long-term success.”
Content and web strategy; discovery interviews and focus groups; responsive redesign; content writing; competitor research; content audit; information architecture; thematic CSS development; programming assistance; visitor interface testing; usability testing; accessibility testing; quality assurance testing; Google Analytics set-up and support; site governance and sustainability recommendations