All Case Studies

Case Study: Wheaton College (IL) Redesign

Client: Wheaton College, Chicago, IL
Project Year: 2022 - 2024
Objective: Website performance research, an iterative website redesign and updated content

The Challenge

  • Wheaton College liked its Content Management System for the support features but needed to update its design.
  • Wheaton’s programs had mini-sites muddled with internal content for current students and faculty. They needed performant program pages with clear calls to action for prospective students to support a strong conversion strategy.
  • They needed a new design system and components to showcase their robust, faith-based community and exceptional academics.

The Research

Bravery started with a Web Strategy Guide featuring search engine optimization research, a content strategy audit, competitor analyses, a website performance audit, and user experience research. As part of the WSG, Bravery conducted a heuristic evaluation. This was intended to complement studies Wheaton commissioned from another agency focused on enrollment management. The top recommendations from the heuristic evaluation included:

  • Breaking financial aid and admissions content into two different sections.
  • Reorganizing and emphasizing career preparation and success after Wheaton content.
  • Styling fixes for headers, accordions, and navigation
  • Taking steps to improve readability

The Strategy

To provide maximum flexibility integrating with their existing CMS, we knew a design system with composable components was the best strategy. Combining a typography-centric visual style and bold color blocking, the design system maximizes visual clarity and improves the overall user experience.

Screenshots of various sections on the Wheaton homepage on a phone.
  1. Improved User Journey and Conversion Rate Optimization. We collaborated with key stakeholders to identify each program’s unique features and benefits. We mapped out user journeys along the key content areas and updated calls to action so prospective students would no longer hit dead ends or find themselves in content meant for current students. We also revised the primary information architecture to improve navigation.
  2. Updated critical website sections. We rewrote and reorganized content in stages so that they could be launched in a staggered manner to align with the recruitment cycle. These sections include Cost and Aid, Programs, Life at Wheaton, Admissions, and About.
  3. Content Navigation. We focused on content navigation principles to encourage exploration while maintaining clear and actionable journeys. For each section, we mapped the exploratory pages closely to the information architecture to increase the scent of information, making content easier to find and navigate.
  4. Sentiment Analysis testing. We ran sentiment analysis tests to ensure our new program pages performed for our users. We had over 120 participants identifying as prospective students from the Chicago area. Overall, the participants found the new site clean and engaging. When asked how they would describe the site (given a list of positive and negative terms), the most selected descriptors were: “Welcoming,” “Easy to use,” “Organized,” “Premium,” and “Caring.”
  5. Program Finder. Building a custom Program Finder on top of their existing CMS was the key to improving conversion rates. The Program Finder widget can be used anywhere on the site and provides a convenient, fast way to find any academic program the college offers.

The Outcome

The new homepage and design components elevate Wheaton’s brand and support better user journeys. Wheaton is up in applications across the board.

Lessons Learned

This project emphasized the significance of composable design systems. The flexibility of the components allowed us to direct prospective students’ attention to meaningful content across the site in a beautiful and simple way.

There is tremendous value in negative space and simplicity for creating an impact. The content becomes more memorable and engaging, increasing the overall user experience.