University of Salford

A new platform for a new generation of students

Visit the University of Salford

The challenge

The University of Salford have embarked on a large-scale digital transformation project, integrating internal systems, implementing a new CRM and revisiting their digital presence. They were looking for a strategic and delivery-focused partner who could help them transform their public facing website to meet the needs of a new generation of students and set them up for future success, as part of their wider digital strategy.

The opportunity 

The strategy included a re-platforming of the current site, but importantly, unlocked an opportunity to revisit the overall experience and offering. With a focus on whether the site was still aligned with the organisation's objectives and students needs.

With so many facets of the University managing disparate sections of the site over 100,000 unique pages had been created across multiple content management systems and microsites and the quality and integrity of the user experience had fallen behind as a result. 

This, combined with the ever-competitive higher education marketplace all modern universities face, meant there was a huge opportunity to produce a platform that delivers for the organisation, students, parents, industry partners and the wider academic community whilst also positioning the University of Salford as an real innovator in the space.

Our approach 

We started by understanding exactly what the platform needed to deliver for the university. Conducting stakeholder interviews and insight gathering workshops across the institution; everyone from school heads, to prospective students were encouraged to feed into our overall strategy for the new platform.

“The old website didn't stand out or make an impression.”

1st Year Undergraduate Student

Catch interviewed a broad cross section of students, prospective students and parents to understand what they wanted from the new platform. We garnered data and insights from the current site to help us highlight areas of improvement, as well as collecting new feature requests and suggestions from our focus groups.

“As a parent you want to know the practical info - you don't get this from your child so this is what you go online for.”

Parent

An Agile approach

We worked with the University of Salford to help onboard them to our agile product-approach for their new platform. By prioritising features, based on key user stories and organisational objectives, we agreed the first release would be focused on delivering the best experience for finding, discovering and applying for courses. Our focus then shifted to showcasing the world class facilities. Next, we tackled Open Days and Student Resources and so on.

An MVP approach for such a large and complex organisation such as the University of Salford sets the project up for success. Building out a product backlog, and having a robust roadmap ensures we’re able to iterate and improve the website based on real user feedback and avoids a “build it and they will come” mentality, where you have a single launch then walk away.

“We wanted to shift the site from an organisation-centric model to a user-centred experience.”

In its previous iteration, the site had very much been an organisation-centric tool with lots of information from across the different departments and areas of the university which informed the whole site architecture and user flow.

Based on our research, we knew we needed to shift to a user-centric approach, with a number of key audiences to design around:

  • Students
  • Parents and Family
  • Alumni
  • Businesses
  • Academic Community

This step-change meant an internal change of approach, which we worked closely with the university to facilitate and guide them in reworking their content. We did this through blended teams that worked collaboratively on site here in our London studio as well as in Salford.

Results

Catch and the University of Salford have successfully delivered an MVP of the new digital platform. A completely overhauled user-centric site architecture with an aggregated content engine built on Drupal 8 CMS gives the organisation maximum control over content, while also delivering an excellent user experience.

Since the MVP launched in beta, we've continued to deliver against our roadmap with exciting new features launching regularly. Watch this space!