Lancaster University

Pioneering responsive design

The design and build of the Lancaster University website took six months from conception to launch. It was the first HEI ‘fully responsive’ website within the global top 100 universities – a true world leader in web standards. From scoping, content creation, design, implementation, content input, testing and QA to delivery, The Roundhouse managed and advised the University as a strategic partner. We delivered on time whilst being flexible and responding to changes to deadlines. Throughout the process we shared our knowledge of best practice to help form decisions.

Feedback was very positive with users favouring the new easy to navigate information architecture and image-centric design. There is now dynamic content and film on the homepage, a number of carousels allowing continual fresh content and a more confident, positive design experience. This is the first expression of a more engaging University personality and is informing designers how to use design elements sensibly and sensitively. Most importantly it has changed the perception of the University. It is now modern, colourful and purposeful with a genuine intent to help all audiences understand its offerings.

Strategic consultation and the web development platform

Following the release of the first phase of the site The Roundhouse continued a strategic consultation whilst the University implemented a new CMS, giving in-house webmasters the ability to upload and edit content on the website themselves. As this implementation took place, The Roundhouse developed new responsive designs for a number of new web applications and portals which sat outside the core Lancaster site, leading to internal operations which were previously carried out through mobile apparatus being available from any access point.

The third phase of the Lancaster programme looked at developing sustainable functionality within the CMS. This tactical approach started with the creation of a Website Development Platform (WDP) – a core set of pages and functionality that were critical to an academic department. We then created a process to replicate this structure across 20 different departments whilst also scoping out unique, department specific functionality which could be plugged in to the WDP. The strategic consultancy formed the bulk of this initiative, generating a ground breaking approach of using a WDP which has allowed for changes to take place at pace to what is a vast site of circa 40,000 pages. The work has included internal processes and guidelines, from policy creation to resource allocation and recruitment, which has allowed the University to self-manage its site going forward.

Outcomes

The outcomes from the site re-development are significant. Average time spent on the site increased 43%, over four times the student target was achieved in the latest round of clearing and the site has received a huge amount of positive feedback from the web community being named .Net magazine’s Responsive Website of the Month and winning both Best Home Page and Best Responsive Site in the 2012 eduStyle Awards.