Maryville College launches new responsive website
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Chloe Kennedy, Assistant Director of Communications
Just in time for the holidays, Maryville College has a gift for its online audiences: A brand new website!
Launched Friday, the site (maryvillecollege.edu) now features a simplified and cleaner design; large, vibrant photography; buttons and tabs for easy navigation; easy links to the College’s social media outlets; and even use of the College’s official tartan.
According to Karen Eldridge, executive director for marketing and communications at the College, the most exciting feature of the site is its new responsive architecture.
“With responsive design, webpages are resized – automatically – according to the width of the device on which they are being viewed,” she explained. “Our old site, which was created in 2009, was built with mostly desktop users in mind, and anyone using a mobile or tablet device to access the site would have to zoom and scroll multiple times in order to navigate to the content they were looking for.
“Knowing that a large percentage of our audience today is visiting Maryville College virtually using smart phones and tablets, we wanted to – we needed to – improve the online experience for them.”
After a lengthy process that involved soliciting and reviewing proposals for the project, the College hired DesignSensory, a Knoxville-based digital agency, to design the new site and build the content management system that powers it.
“Our relationship with DesignSensory goes back many years,” Eldridge explained. “They built our first content management system and have assisted with other web-related projects, so we knew they would deliver a quality product for us.
“The DesignSensory team already knew what files, databases and processes we had in place, and team members had a good working relationship with Russ Porter, our web manager,” she added. “Those were huge advantages in a project of this enormity.”
Approximately 18 months were spent on the redesign project. In addition to creating a new look and building a new content management system, the project involved migrating content from more than 1,000 webpages to the new site, then sharing those pages to the campus community for review and feedback.
“Russ Porter really stepped up to the plate with this project and deserves a big round of applause for the work he put into it from vision to completion – all while maintaining the College’s existing website,” Eldridge said. “Because the project involved use of a relatively new technology, there were a lot of unknowns. Russ stayed positive, kept strategizing and moving everyone forward.”
Redesign involved research
Coinciding with the website redesign was market research to identify the characteristics of the College that most resonate with target audiences and then determine the messaging that best communicates those marketing priorities to them.
According to Eldridge, the findings revealed five key themes: the advantages found in the College’s academic majors and pre-professional programs and the mentoring relationships between faculty and students; the College’s affordability; its emphasis on character-development; its opportunities for experiential learning; and its historic and picturesque campus and facilities.
“The website is a vital piece in our marketing efforts, so we wanted to make sure it was communicating these themes effectively,” Eldridge said. “On our homepage, people will now see the words “Advantage,” “Affordability,” “Character,” “Experience” and “Tradition” paired with action verbs and very much ‘front and center.’”
More work to be done
Eldridge pointed out that the project is not fully completed. More pages and features will be added in the coming months, and more user testing will take place.
Specifically, she said that the site would soon incorporate more video, and more content would be added to sections.
“Ultimately, we’re going to tell the Maryville College story in a more compelling, 21st-century way,” she said. “A good website is always a work in progress, but I believe our audiences will agree that this new site – this new look – is a huge step forward for us.”
Maryville College is ideally situated in Maryville, Tenn., between the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and Knoxville, the state's third largest city. Founded in 1819, it is the 12th oldest institution of higher learning in the South and maintains an affiliation with the Presbyterian Church (USA). Known for offering its students a rigorous and highly personal experience that includes an undergraduate research requirement, Maryville College is a nationally ranked institution of higher learning that successfully joins the liberal arts and professional preparation. Total enrollment for the fall 2014 semester is 1,213.