Goldsmiths, University of London

Redefining what a University website ought to be

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Goldsmiths is a creative and cultural powerhouse with a tradition of producing household names in the arts, including six Turner Prize winners, James Blake, Katy B, Lucien Freud and Oscar award-winning Steve McQueen.

But Goldsmiths is not just about art – its world-class research and academic integrity needed highlighting to its diverse audiences, and so Numiko was commissioned to completely rethink the University’s online presence.

Goldsmiths’ brand values are ‘Challenging. Creative. Visionary. Empowering’, and we wanted a project vision that reflected this. We established the vision as:

The Goldsmiths website should redefine what  university websites look like.

“Numiko shared our vision for a website that stood apart from others in the higher education sector from the start and have tackled the not insubstantial project with energy and style. As with any major site overhaul, there were a number of technical issues to overcome and a complex stakeholder environment as well as a vast array of content to consider. The team at Numiko took it all in their stride and remained calm and reassuring from start to finish.” — Liz Hutchinson, Director of Communications & Campaigns, Goldsmiths, University of London

This might sound like a tall order, but with a client on board who really wanted to achieve something industry-leading which made use of the latest responsive design approaches, this became our aspiration.

During the discovery phase of this project we led focus groups with students and analysed data from open days to inform persona development. We created 8 personas, then honed in on their key information goals to allow us to start thinking about a new site structure. 

Through speaking to student recruitment and to undergraduates themselves, we really got under the skin of prospective students’ decision-making process. We were highly conscious of the differences in the user journey of prospective undergraduate, postgraduate and international students, so we designed an experience to meet the distinct needs of each.

We learned from both staff and students alike that there was a real appetite for telling the Goldsmiths story. We learned that facilities and direct contact from academic staff during the application process were critical to international students. And that employer validation is one of the most critical factors for influencers.

Most excitingly for us, we realised that in prospective students we were dealing with possibly the most engaged user group we’d encountered. Competitive advantage can easily be achieved by investing in a superior digital presence, as this is most prospective students’ primary touch point:

“I looked at every piece of info I could find on the first 4 pages of Google” — Third year undergraduate, Goldsmiths

We wanted to expose to prospective students that areas of academic study don’t exist in vacuums and that related courses might be available in other departments. One of Goldsmiths’ key differentiators is its emphasis on interdisciplinary, so as part of our focus on presenting course search results in the most user-friendly way, we introduced thematic grouping of courses. This new approach aims to highlight commonalities between subject areas and expose prospective students to courses they may not have discovered themselves.

A key success factor in this project was our use of user research and testing to unite stakeholders. Numiko regularly attended show-and-tells that allowed internal CMS users to engage with our creative process and the Goldsmiths digital team communicated regular progress through their brilliant digital transformation blog.

This open and collaborative way of working allowed Numiko to share insight gained from our information architecture validation. This test showed a success rate higher than or equal to any other study we had previously conducted. We also tested a semi-functional version of the designs which were made interactive and linked together using Axure, our wireframing tool. Participants were given tasks to complete whilst eye-tracking software captured where they looked on each page. We gathered qualitative feedback on the look and feel as well as the overall user journey.

“Sexy, creative, stylish” — Postgraduate user testing participant,

Numiko was responsible for the front-end development of the site. When this was completed, we handed our HTML and CSS over to Goldsmiths’ internal team for integration into SiteManager, their existing CMS. The development framework that we’ve provided means that Goldsmiths can continue to work on the site using the same tools and considerations as a major studio, with knowledge shared every step of the way.

We can now also report that Goldsmiths have enjoyed bounce rates decreasing by up to 40%, they've doubled their mobile traffic and average duration times have also shot up by 10%! News pages have seen an impressive 300% increase in views and the introduction of content tagging allows a dynamic way of resurfacing related content from different pages. This project is a testament to the initial vision and has truly redefined what a university website should look like. The website has since been recognised through several award shortlistings and wins, including Best Website at Heist Awards. 

View the project