It was time…. way past time. Though I had only been a part of LeTourneau University’s Marketing and Communications team for about 2 years, it hadn’t taken long for me to become familiar with everyone’s weariness of the bloated, cumbersome and dated website that had been in place for the past 15+ years.
The Old Site
Visually, the website had become sterile, lacking imagination and identity. There were several font types, sizes and colors. The information was overwhelming, and the photography was underwhelming. Even for a STEM school, there was not enough design and creativity. Structurally, the issues continued. There was a crowded, catch-all menu headlining every page. It held anything that anyone of importance could successfully make a case for. There was no real hierarchy to help you understand any page’s level of importance. As the saying goes, “form follows function,” and many functions were either broken or unestablished.
Ultimately the web LeTourneau University Website project became the university’s leading effort to catalyze solutions on multiple fronts. But before our team could devote any time to the outdated form of the old website, we had to respectfully address the problems with many of the functions, and that would take time.
Several preliminary discussions were necessary in order to make some early, important decisions. As creative director of our marketing and communications team of 9, I was responsible for the creative portion of the workload while our head web developer handled most of the detailed programming. We weighed the costs and benefits of tackling this project in-house versus hiring a design firm and decided we were up for the challenge. Among several other benefits, we were able to create a bespoke website, tailored to our identity as “The Christian Polytechnic University”; we sped up the process by eliminating the need for a design agency, middleman, to create something that would work within our chosen content management system, which was also new; last, but certainly not least, designing the website in-house likely saved our university more than $250,000.
Our new design needed to solve as many of the aforementioned problems as possible while satisfying a local and alumni community numbering in the tens of thousands. It had to take an abundance of information and condense it into a practical, digestible, aesthetically pleasing package.
Various pages within the website held different levels of importance, and I wanted those differences to be felt, providing certain visual cues to subconsciously inform site visitors. After considering the breadth of content that would be featured, and accounting for future growth, I came up with a modular system to accommodate the variety. The site templates would be generated for the largest subsets of content. The home page would stand on its own, followed by academic landing pages for the different colleges and major departments, and finally, there would be an article page designed to hold information, accessible after about 3 clicks or a direct link.
Then, within each of those templates, pre-designed modules could be activated or inactivated to present content when and where it was needed. For Instance, the article page would consist of a hero image or background video, a title bar with a submenu to include important areas within each department, and the main content area comprised of 3 vertical sections. The only constant would be the main, center article section, and the left and right columns could be activated when necessary. Nearly every page was built this way, and the months ahead would prove that decision to be a wise one.
The Final Product
Overall, I was very proud of the final product which ended up winning several awards, and long after completion, our team still considers the project one of our proudest moments. It solved so many problems and made information accessible to prospective students and campus partners in a modern, responsive package. In a time when so many turn-key solutions exist, it was quite an accomplishment to build a website from the ground up. It was—and still is—something we can call our own for years to come…. but hopefully not 15+