Re-thinking ‘online open days’ with SMILE Hijack

For Regent’s University, London.
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SMILE were commissioned by Regent’s University London for fresh thinking on engaging with potential students from across the globe. Whilst the university undergoes a website refresh, they have the immediate problem of a drop in recruitment numbers so Regents University called on SMILE to create an online experience that would convert prospects.

Regent’s University has a beautiful campus, set in the heart of the Royal Regent’s Park. The campus is one of the key selling points for the institution and they know that if prospects attend an open day, (where they can see the campus in all of its beauty) chat with academics about the courses on offer and validate lifestyle choices with existing students, they are more likely to convert those prospects. The issue facing them was getting prospects onto campus in the first place. With such a competitive marketplace, the sell needed to be faultless in order to convince prospects to choose Regent’s open days over those of other institutes.

SMILE were employed as a partner to help develop a digital solution that would offer prospects the ability to engage with the university on a low-level, as an interim step before attending a real-life open day.

The design process needed to get buy-in from a large number of stakeholders, some of whom needed convincing that the project was worth the investment, given the current project to overhaul their flagship site.

The Solution

We gathered insight into issues the institute faces by running a discovery phase. We used this to develop initial wireframes, and after presenting these to the client and gaining soft sign-off, we developed low-fidelity visuals. The nature of the project meant aesthetically, the solution needed to accommodate existing visual guidelines, not look out of place on their current site, whilst at the same time represent a change in position for a forward-thinking university. 

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The engagement came through the inclusion of a sleek Live Q&A, allowing prospects to ask questions to real staff and students, and allow those staff and students to provide a timely, authentic and personal answer inclusive of media assets such as 360 videos and panoramas. The next stage was turning these into high fidelity, clickable prototypes.

For low-fidelity designs, we use Sketch — developed specifically for designing websites. In order to add transitions, motion and video assets, we use another tool called atomic. In atomic we build what are effectively functioning web pages without the need to write any code. We create relationships between pages so that it’s possible to navigate through a site as if it were built.

“One of the biggest challenges faced by our design team is explaining a concept for a page or component. Atomic bridges this gap allowing them to add a layer of polish you’d expect to see in code, far earlier in process — great for getting buy in from stakeholders before a single line of code has been written.”

Matthew Lees, Creative Director at SMILE

The technical implementation involved challenges as the system needed to seamlessly appear part of the main website, remain stable with a large number of concurrent users, and be home to high-quality content such as videos, and 360 content, without the traditional compromises in file size and quality. Stability was designed in as a core KPI of the project. Its robustness is proven by the first pilot whereby the system handled 52 concurrent users with only a 5% resource overhead.

We created a system whereby the university is able to create online events and deploy them to any page of their flagship website. We call this ‘Hijack’ and it’s handled by a javascript snippet installed via Google Tag Manager.


With only a three day lead time for event promotion, the first pilot of the system dealt with over 369 prospects, with nine going on to accept offers from the university. Based on this level of engagement, Regent’s have opted to continue with the long term vision for the platform.

Do you fight with your CMS? Are you looking to provide genuine engagement opportunities with your potential students? Or are you just looking for a new take on virtual open days with a proven track record of high conversion rate?

Maybe SMILE Hijack could work for you: For a no-commitment consultation about how Hijack can work for you, contact us.

Nathan Monk
Nathan Monk

I'm proud to work for some of the world’s most influential brands that shape cities and define lives: Universities and colleges.

I provide advice to forward-thinking senior leaders on how to exceed their organisational targets by creating user-focused, digital-first strategies.