Systems Alliance, Inc. (SAI), a digital and IT consulting firm helping clients build, assess and optimize online properties, today announced the redesign of the Baltimore Collegetown Network website. The Baltimore Collegetown Network partners with 14 area colleges, totaling 120,000 students, to position and market Baltimore as a vibrant place to learn and live, educating audiences on all Charm City has to offer. Collegetown’s mission is to attract, engage, and retain students, raise the visibility of Baltimore as a college destination and advance the development of the region as a competitive and vibrant metropolitan area.
The Baltimore Collegetown Network was in need of a website that truly reflected their purpose of highlighting Baltimore as an exciting, cultural, quirky city that offers small town charm with large city benefits and many opportunities to get involved and succeed. Through detailed research and analysis that included student surveys, a website analytics review and usability testing, SAI was able to fully understand gaps and opportunities with the current website. Based on this analysis, the SAI team recommended features and enhancements to create a more engaging user experience focused on Collegetown’s goals.
“SAI helped us determine what our constituents truly wanted from a user's perspective, and then designed a website that would exceed those desires and expectations,” noted Darcy Accardi, Assistant Director, Baltimore Collegetown Network.
SAI implemented changes based on initial feedback in usability tests from students, faculty, and staff about the new design, reiterating the importance of understanding audience interactions and creating a seamless and results-focused user experience.
Key objectives of the new design are to:
- Enhance awareness about Collegetown, engaging current students and attracting others to the Baltimore area
- Increase participation in Collegetown programs and activities, including internships, Collegetown LeaderShape, the Collegetown Shuttle, Communities of Practice, and the Baltimore Student Exchange Program
- Highlight the benefits that Baltimore brings to the student experience through a rich multimedia experience including video, imagery, infographics, interactive maps, social media integration and student stories
- Increase the value of Collegetown to member colleges
The redesigned site was built in SAI’s flagship web content management system, SiteExecutive, and leveraged structured content to its full advantage. Clear and intuitive site navigation helps users find the content they need quickly and easily. The resulting design is fun, engaging, and most importantly, student focused -
- College and university pages include detailed information about each school, imagery, infographics and student stories enabling students to easily explore benefits and learn about each institution.
- The Collegetown LeaderShape program is displayed more prominently on the homepage enticing students to learn more and apply.
- Interactive maps built with custom Google Maps integration display the 14 colleges, places to eat, play and shop and shuttle lines encouraging students to explore Baltimore and get involved in community activities.
- An internship management capability allows employers to post internships on the website and have them automatically sent to 14 area colleges. Students can search the broad list of postings for internships matching their interests.
- Integration with NextBus real-time transportation information provides site visitors with up-to-date Collegetown Shuttle status and schedules.
- Dedicated sections help employers find and manage student interns, and faculty and staff members connect with Communities of Practice, workshops and training events.
Early research found that the majority of students were accessing the site via mobile devices, so this was a crucial component of the project. Responsive design was implemented to ensure optimization of web content across all devices.
"From start to finish, SAI was a pleasure to work with,” explained Accardi. “Throughout the design and implementation process they strived to make our site the best it could be, and provided exceptional support throughout. They brought creativity, technical know-how, and professionalism to our website redesign- I would recommend them again and again!"