The College of Idaho

Crafting an interactive design to highlight a unique curriculum.

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NewCity joined forces with The College of Idaho to create a Drupal 8 design that showcases the private liberal arts college’s signature curriculum, tight-knit community, and beautiful campus and surroundings.

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Founded in 1891 and located in Caldwell, Idaho, The College of Idaho was the state’s first private liberal arts college. Since then, it has become the #1 college in Idaho, boasting a close-knit community bound by a passion for excellence.

The college offers a highly flexible undergraduate curriculum with more than 80 majors and minors students can combine to tailor their curriculum.

We enjoyed partnering with the C of I team on this Drupal 8 redesign project. They came to us with a list of goals and an eagerness to get the job done right.

(By the way, a huge thanks to The College of Idaho for letting us snag some of the great photos from their Flickr account!)

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Reaching the PEAK

With C of I’s innovative “PEAK Curriculum”, students earn one major and three minors in four years across four “peaks”: humanities, social sciences, natural sciences and a professional field.

Early in our research and discovery process, we identified the opportunity to highlight the PEAK Curriculum as a differentiator for the college and as a unique opportunity for prospective students.

The PEAK Curriculum was cited by over 80% of current students as the reason they choose the college, but based on analytics of the college’s old website, only 1% of visitors ever saw the webpage discussing it.

We realized there was an opportunity to bring this program forward — and better explain it — using an interactive web tool.

Developing the solution was a cross-disciplinary effort that pulled together the entire project team — from user experience and content to design and developers — to build an engaging, easy-to-use feature for the site.

The new PEAK Explorer tool is designed to be interactive and user friendly. Using the tool, prospective students can build a customized study plan by selecting different majors and minors to fill each peak.

As prospective (and current!) students interact with the tool, they can view details of the different majors and minors and clearly understand how their choices satisfy the PEAK requirements. Once a PEAK curriculum is complete, users are prompted to email their information and custom curriculum to themselves, a parent, or the college. Students are also given the option to share their PEAK selections with an admission counselor or an academic advisor.

Jennie Salamoun, our Senior User Experience Architect tested a prototype of the PEAK tool with rising high school seniors. The testers were intrigued and excited about the PEAK program. Many of them said they would be willing to send their information to the college as an initial request for information after using the PEAK tool.

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Extending the Brand, Naturally

The college’s beautiful residential campus is located in Caldwell, part of Idaho’s vibrant Treasure Valley, just 30 minutes from downtown Boise and numerous cultural, arts and entertainment, dining, and professional sports offerings. Their campus is also within a short drive of countless world-class outdoor opportunities, including skiing, whitewater rafting, hiking, fishing, mountain biking, and wildlife viewing.

“Part of their story is organic,” said NewCity’s Director of Design Rodger Bridges. “As much as their PEAK program is awesome, as much as their school is awesome, they also wanted to promote Idaho and the surrounding area. So we brought nature into the design.”

After reviewing initial design concepts, The College of Idaho’s team identified that they liked clean, simple designs detailed with unique, dynamic elements and an easy navigation. We kept the highlights of their existing brand, but refined them to feel modern and accessible.

Jennie Salamoun tested the homepage design and architecture with rising high school seniors.

Each of the testers reported a good impression of the overall design. The themes that emerged from user testing included The College of Idaho as a welcoming, tight-knit community; a school for people who enjoy nature and are outdoorsy and active; and a beautiful school with good student life.


Making Maintenance Manageable

The College of Idaho has a small web team: a single web strategist to handle editorial wrangling, a one-of-many hats web developer, and a senior systems administrator who stepped in to co-lead the project.

Between them, they had the internal knowledge, clout, editorial skills and publishing experience to tackle the redesign. But they needed a clear path to building an internal culture that could maintain it properly.

The college needed a content management system they would be able to use and maintain with limited resources. While many websites are built with flexibility in mind, the project team realized that it was better to have more design elements baked-in and fewer options. The result is a Drupal 8 site with the perfect balance of the right flexible components that allow the team to extend the site as needed, but without a high degree of complexity that might make it hard to manage.

Post-launch, NewCity Systems Architect John Williams travelled to Idaho to provide a multi-day Drupal training to the college’s web development team, bringing the in-house team up to speed on the back end of the new site and teaching them the basics they need to manage and extend the site for the future.

To assist with the less technical side of website maintenance, NewCity Content Strategist Rachel DeLauder provided step-by-step recommendations for building a content governance process, from CMS users all the way up to executive leaders, including a chart that clearly defined responsibilities (and their limits) for different stakeholders and site sections.