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University of Derby

Designing 'anything is possible'.

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The project was delivered as a true partnership and we've built a great working relationship as a result. We've really benefited from the rigorous nature of project scoping and delivery that Deeson use and it has delivered great results so far.

Kickstarting a journey of digital transformation through bold website design.

The brief

Partnering with University of Derby on a new site, the first step in an overarching digital transformation programme, Deeson delivered a digital experience which turbocharged recruitment and raised the bar for websites in higher education.

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The challenge.

Embarking upon a wide-ranging digital transformation programme, University of Derby wanted to further grow student recruitment, diversify income streams and support its ambition of becoming the most accessible university in the UK.

They needed a true digital partner to help them begin this journey by designing and building a new website. One which would stand out in the ultra-competitive higher education marketplace, and appeal to diverse local and international audiences, from prospective students and their parents, to businesses looking for research and consultancy services.

The results.

Working in close collaboration with the internal team and an external branding agency, we helped the University design and deliver a daring new site. A rigorous, in-depth programme of research, bold imagery and highly-consumable content ensured exceptional experiences for students and business users.

Launched in July 2018, the new website contributed to the University’s most successful recruitment and clearing period to date. Sitemorse INDEX rated the website as providing the best visitor experience out of more than 300 higher education sites in the UK for four consecutive quarters.

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Putting audience needs first.

Through workshops with both the University’s internal team and the external branding agency, Deeson segmented the brief into three key sections to reflect the audiences they needed to reach: prospective students looking for the perfect undergraduate or postgraduate course; incoming and existing students who need information on student life; and research organisations and businesses looking to make use of the University’s world-class research facilities and wider business services.

We then undertook a rigorous and in-depth programme of research to determine the optimum user journeys for each target audience. Interviews were carried out with prospective and current students, their parents, academics and businesses to find out what information they look for at each stage of their journey. This detailed research was then used to carefully map out key journeys, such as the student recruitment journey, and identify opportunities to assist the user at each stage.

Implementing design thinking.

We moved rapidly into design solutions by guiding the University’s internal team through a powerful collaborative design technique: a three-day design sprint. This intensive period of collaboration utilised the insights and user journeys from the research phase to generate and iterate over initial sketches and build clickable prototypes to test and refine with real students.

Testing was also carried out to ensure the site would be as accessible as possible. This included testing with someone who was partially sighted, checking colour accessibility for web and creating content guidelines with accessibility in mind. Throughout the design process, we worked closely with branding agency, Edit_, to help them adapt the brand treatments for use on digital channels.

Optimising website architecture and content.

University websites tend to be extensive, which can make the user experience challenging. Deeson and the University of Derby’s team set out to optimise the site structure and content to help users find important content quickly and easily. Through a number of content strategy workshops we found ways to reduce the overall number of pages and developed strategy, governance and workflows for content generation which would ensure consistent, high-quality content in the future. A content audit took 10,000 pages of content and reduced them to 3,000 at launch.

The new website was developed and launched in an impressive nine months. True partnership and collaboration between the University’s internal web team, Deeson and the branding agency, which made the most of the expertise of everyone involved in the project, helped the University launch a site that has set new standards in higher education.

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