Above: The College of Idaho not only wanted a new design, they wanted more control afterwards. Photo by John Williams.

College of Idaho

The College of Idaho needed an image overhaul, an interactive curriculum builder, and a more open Drupal 8 implementation.

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The previous College of Idaho site was built in Drupal 7 and locked down by the previous firm.

The College of Idaho is Idaho’s oldest private liberal arts college. It has an enrollment of about 1,000 students. At the time of NewCity’s engagement, the College had a dated design hosted on Drupal 7. The existing site was still under the previous firm’s control, so the College IT staff were mostly unable to make necessary changes. They approached NewCity for research, redesign, and implementation in Drupal 8. Furthermore, they wanted to take charge of the site after the fact.

Audience research revealed that the College of Idaho had one significant distinguishing characteristic. Instead of major, minor, and common-core requirements, undergraduates choose one major and three separate minors spread across four different categories. This approach was very popular with the student body, and respondents often cited the program as a determining factor in selecting the school. However, most prospective students were not learning about PEAK from the website. They only found out about it from a campus visit or discussion with an admissions counselor. What little information about PEAK was on the web site was difficult to understand.

Initial user testing demonstrated that visitors did not require too much guidance; once they clicked on something and saw how it worked, they caught on to the principles pretty clearly.

NewCity decided to put this unique offering front-and-center on the site by making the PEAK program the centerpiece of the undergraduate program landing page. We briefly explain the program and then rely on an interactive tool to help prospective students visualize their customized liberal arts degree. When they finished, they could email themselves a copy of their plan — and optionally loop in an admissions counselor for a followup discussion.

Several parts of the site were implemented in Drupal first, then designed afterward to preserve more resources for developing the PEAK tool. This “backwards” approach allowed us to make maximal use of Drupal’s standard toolset.

Throughout the project, we collaborated primarily with the College of Idaho’s Information Technology team. They validated our decisions and received many opportunities to see and revise the Drupal configuration before delivery.

Finally, we closed the project with a three-day, in-person training session. I flew to Idaho and conducted the training myself to a group of three individuals on the front-end pattern library tool, drupal development, and continuous deployment. We then left the project, as they wished, in their own hands for maintenance and further development.

The redesigned site now has a more open design with better responsive behavior and much improved accessibility.

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Contents © their respective publication dates or 2019. This John Williams did not write the theme to Star Wars. “Elfin John” was originally a Tim Conway character.