Showcasing Storytelling and Supporting Exploration

Work

Showcasing Storytelling and Supporting Exploration

Northeastern University College of Engineering

Northeastern University College of Engineering (COE) is a leader in experiential learning and interdisciplinary research.

Its mission is to prepare the next generation of engineers to address the complex and global challenges of the 21st century to benefit society. The college offers nearly 100 programs total — undergraduate and graduate, majors and minors, degrees and certificates — and houses 17 interdisciplinary research centers and institutes driving discovery and innovation.

northeastern's homepage on a laptop northeastern academics web page on a tablet northeastern mobile page examples on three different phones northeastern website pages on multiple different pages northeastern's full width homepage

The Challenge

“Our needs significantly evolved in terms of the number of academic programs and research efforts we have, and then simply the overall look and feel of the site. Our current site was not delivering from a design perspective,” said Janet LeClair, director of marketing and communications at COE.

Northeastern COE wanted to clearly communicate its value proposition as well as the depth and breadth of its offerings while telling the college’s stories.

The goals for the new site were: 

  • Emphasize what makes COE special: cutting-edge research, experiential learning, and a commitment to engineering for society.
  • Make academic program information clear and easy to find.
  • Reinforce the recently updated Northeastern University brand.
  • Inspire users with a modern, interactive design and multimedia capabilities.
  • Keep and expand upon the functionality of previous custom coding in new CMS.
male student peering through a surveying instrument
student ascending a white, spiral staircase
a man who is out of focus holding a small colored cube that is in focus

Strategies

A Window Into Research

COE’s excellence in research and experiential learning sets it apart, and its website needed to reflect that. During a visit to one of the COE research facilities, the Interdisciplinary Science and Engineering Complex, inspiration struck mStoner’s creative director, Ben Bilow. “It’s an amazing facility. I remember thinking, ‘I want the website to look like this building,’” he said.

“As you climb the stairs, you can see into people’s labs. One of the original ideas that carried over in the hero area of the website was getting a window into the research. You can peek into topics, and it’s a space to tie what’s happening on campus to what’s happening out in the world.”

As visitors “climb” through the homepage staircase — the structured information routing — they encounter more windows into COE via news stories, faculty profiles, and videos of students.

Maximizing Pathways

Improving navigation was a top priority for COE, with easy-to-find academic programs and multiple pathways that considered different visitor needs.

“One of the most challenging things was all the range of programs and the different levels. We’ve got majors, minors, BS, MS, PhD, PlusOne, certificates, and we had to figure out how all those were going to work together,” Bilow said. “Sometimes we combine the levels on a program page, and sometimes we break them up so each level has their own page. Here we decided we needed a combination of the two.”

For example, one prospective freshman may want to compare undergraduate majors within the college. Another may know she wants to study bioengineering and she wants to learn about the entire undergraduate-to-PhD trajectory.

The mStoner content and design team created several paths to information, allowing visitors to choose to travel through the site by student segment, department, or topic.

Complex Coding

mStoner and COE designed the new homepage to balance storytelling and information surfacing. The mStoner design and development teams created a sophisticated tagging system and a large library of content types to reinforce those priorities throughout the site.

“We wanted to make it really easy for people to find our programs, but we also wanted to bring our brand to life through storytelling,” LeClair said. “mStoner designed the site with a lot of good, complex coding so we’re able to tag various topics and categories. We don’t just have a news story posted in news; relevant stories can appear very attractively and automatically update on different pages throughout. There are also a lot of different templates and design flexibility, yet the overall brand is consistent throughout the site.

One of the biggest compliments we keep getting is how easy it now is to find things, because that was a significant challenge previously. And now with the navigation set up how it is, as well as the way the mobile view is set up, people can actually find what they’re looking for.

Janet LeClair, Director of Marketing and Communications at Northeastern University College of Engineering

Early Results

The new COE website launched in September 2019 to immediately positive feedback.

Members of the COE community feel the college now has the website it has long deserved.

“We’ve had people at COE telling us how much they love it,” LeClair said. “They are proud of their website — and feel it’s a good representation.”

Awards

  • graphic of gold davey award icon
  • edm award logo black and white
  • ava digital platinum award graphic