Named the Forbes #1 college in the nation, Pomona was looking to capture their personality, propel their brand, and unite their college under one cohesive digital roof.
Pomona College is a one-of-a-kind place. Located about an hour outside Los Angeles, they’ve got all the pioneering spirit of a West Coast college mixed with stringent Ivy League academics. They practice need-blind admissions, and their 1,600-person student body is enviably diverse, in all senses of the word.
In short, they’re a Utopia for the academically elite — in a very open, collaborative, unstuffy way. A digital redesign would have to convey that sense of self-driven openness that sets them apart from their East Coast ivy competitors, but without discounting their mind-bendingly rigorous academic curriculum.
They came to us for our past experience uncovering what makes an institution truly unique and communicating that online through form, function, and content.
Prioritizing What Students Want
It’s clear to see that Pomona’s a special place when you talk to their students, set foot on the campus, or just take five minutes to look at their print materials. But you couldn’t tell it by looking at their old website.
Navigation was clunky. Templates were inflexible. Details prospective students wanted, like undergraduate research and financial aid, were hard to find because they were buried so deep in the site.
We brought the most critical user tasks to the front, which included clearing a path to their major pages. Degree program pages are the chief recruitment tool on higher ed websites, so we redesigned these to work like high-end product pages, with structured panels to accommodate data points, student testimonials, example research projects, and video content.
We also settled on a design that was as big and open as their institutional personality, with a bold, adventurous color palette and expansive image containers. With full-bleed photos and prominent placement, they could use imagery to show their stories instead of telling them, and really set the tone of a page.
Organizing by User Journeys, Not by Department
Pomona already had some fantastic content on their existing site — they’d prioritized digital communications by building a 6-person editorial team dedicated to working on web content. They had a video series called Pomona Passions that was popular with students, personal stories to support cross-college communication campaigns, and great news coverage of faculty members’ professional and outreach activities.
Our work focused not on inventing shiny new initiatives for them to tackle, but on bringing content they were already publishing into places where users would see it. That meant taking a clip of students describing their science project out of a repository where you could “view all videos,” and putting it on the biology major page.
Integrating content this way creates a more cohesive website for users, but it also requires stronger collaboration across administrative departments. Our content team worked on-site with stakeholders from 16 different areas to reorganize their department’s information architecture around user goals, then worked with them remotely to create content that would support the college site as a whole.