Balancing Engagement with Usability.
University websites, like prospectuses, are challenging things.
The sheer volume of content is born out of necessity – you need to position the university, explain its background and focus, answer the questions you know students will have, showcase student life and successes – not to mention deliver the requisite depth of information that each individual course deserves.
And for art schools, every touchpoint also stands as evidence of your creative credibility.
Norwich University of the Arts (NUA) approached us to explore balancing usability with engagement – finding a way of making sense of the volume of content, whilst making it as interesting as possible, and showing off some graphic design creds.
We solved the engagement issue by not using any templated design, meaning each page was a new experience for the reader, without repetition. And we pushed the use of illustration across the prospectus as typically it produces a higher dwell time, as readers take the time to understand the intricacy of the design.
To boost usability we actually leaned on insights gathered during a recent UX research project on their website. We placed a simple coded ‘nav bar’ at the side of the prospectus, and gave each section of the prospectus, be it a course, a map or an intro to city living, it’s own mini design identity. This allowed users to flick through the book and find the content they were after quickly again and again, remembering the distinctive feel of each section.
We were left with a high impact publication that prospective students could simultaneously get lost in – and actually use. And all of it worthy of a thoroughly modern arts university.