How SMILE helped Bradford College Evolve their website in 2021

In 2020, we were delighted to launch Bradford College's new website. The college then moved on to our creative retainer, Evolve, through which we have helped enhance their site since January 2021.

In 2020, we were delighted to launch Bradford College’s new website. This was our first flagship project built to take full advantage of WordPress’ Gutenberg Editor. The college then moved on to our creative retainer, Evolve, through which we have helped enhance their site since January 2021.

Roadmapping

By this point, the new Bradford College site had been live for a few months. The digital team were therefore keen to appraise how the site had been received among students, staff and prospects. The feedback informed our early discussions and led to requests for enhancements to particular site sections. First up was the home page.

Asana project management road map, illustrating the monthly progress of the home page enhancements.
The through line for the home page tasks is made clear on the Evolve roadmapping board

This is where Evolve immediately came into its own, affording us the ability to plan these enhancements in the right way. Lumping all the sub-tasks involved into one block task due all on the same deadline date would have risked:

  1. Rushed work and oversights
  2. Nothing left in the budget for the many other crucial updates required each month

Instead, we planned with purpose, dividing the work into clear packages spread over several months. Not only did this allow us to release a steady stream of enhancements month-to-month, but it also provisioned us with healthy breathing room for tasks such as design consultancy and QA testing. These are phases that are easy to rush when reacting to feature requests in a more hand-to-mouth ad-hoc system. The final result is all the better for it.

The Home Page

Against the green we felt that the apply now button could be more prominent. Turning this into a button with a contrasting background colour could make it more obvious to the user whilst retaining consistency with the colour profile of the site.

SMILE’s Bradford Home Page Review

Two of the improvements immediately apparent to our design team when revisiting the prototypes were masthead changes. A more prominent ‘Apply’ button – the most crucial call to action on any HE website – was implemented as well as a sticky menu bar.

bradfordcollege.ac.uk following the 2021 enhancements

Scrolling arrows on the carousel further down the page were also made more prominent. Advice on carousel content was also imparted as there were some colour clashes impinging on the accessibility of these controls. Three of the items contained in the 6-grid beneath the carousel were given an on-brand pink overlay, providing more depth to this partial. Finally, it was decided to only feature 8 news articles on the home page rather than an infinite amount. This was a simple decision in the end but made a dramatic difference to the unnecessary scroll time, especially on mobile devices.

Knowledgebase

We undertook a similar process when we were requested to freshen up the Help & Advice section on the college’s site. Particular pain points included:

  • An initial ‘mosaic’ design for the category tiles on the Knowledgebase home, which were proving difficult for users to scan.
  • No provision for child categories. So, for example, ‘Fees and Financial Support’ is a category where articles could live. But it wasn’t possible to divide this category further into ‘Grants’, ‘Bursaries’, ‘Course Fees’ etc.

Again, we set about first writing a report addressing what these issues were and proposing possible solutions. These were solidified into prototypes which we eventually built and deployed. The process provided a through-line over the course of 4 months, over which time there was plenty of room for consultation, feedback, amendments and testing.

Asana project management road map, illustrating the monthly progress of the Knowledgebase enhancements.
Roadmapping the Knowledgebase Enhancements

The result was a brand new look and feel to the Help & Advice section. The mosaic was transformed into a cleaner grid view, providing scope for additional category tiles in the future – something which was not possible under the initial design. Child categories were also provisioned for, allowing the college to offer a deeper level of content organisation.

Bradford College’s Knowledgebase following the 2021 enhancements

Indicators of Evolve Success

Our creative services retainer was designed to help our clients plan for the future. Its major advantage is that it affords a constant supply of hours to spend each month, all at our lowest rates. This means that consultancy, design, development, testing, operations – they all come at the same price month in, month out. With this in mind, we encourage purposeful planning. When consultancy and research are made affordable in this way, why not make sure that any enhancements are backed up by the evidence provided by data, user testing and analytics?

Evolve Task Breakdown

Chart showing an even split of Evolve tasks among SMILE's various teams. Development worked on 45% of tasks, Design worked on 23% of tasks, Operations worked on 26% of tasks.
Evolve Task Breakdown: 45% Development/23% Design/26% Operations

In our experience, a good benchmark for Evolve’s success is a healthy even spread of work among the various teams here at SMILE. This indicates that tasks have generally followed a through-line from conception through to research, design, build and eventually deployment. Of course, not all tasks require the full conveyor belt but the equal spread shown in the pie chart above points toward generally good road mapping.

Evolve Hours Breakdown

Chart showing the split of Evolve hours among SMILE's various teams. 93 hours were shared fairly evenly among teams, with Development working slightly more compared with Design and Operations.
Evolve Hours Breakdown. 93 hours shared between teams

A breakdown of Evolve Hours by team tells a similar story. Development tasks are often the most time expensive which explains the slight skew here. Nevertheless, a healthy hours count for the design team demonstrates good use of the agency’s creative talent for bespoke mock-ups and prototypes.

The Future

The Evolve subscription has provided a successful framework through which to enhance Bradford College’s website over the past 8 months. We hope the relationship continues long into the future. We’re keen to maintain an evidence-based approach for new developments, with the user experience of current and prospective students at its heart. As is the case with all of our Evolve customers, moving forward, we’re keen to highlight our availability for some of the more prosaic needs of a HE/FE website alongside those that are instantly visually attractive. As well as shiny new designs, we’re keen to flag that Evolve can also be employed for SEO work, accessibility updates and content reviews. Whatever the next challenge, it can be achieved in the right way through Evolve.

For more information about our creative services retainer, please visit the Evolve section of our knowledge base.

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Jon Bates