Founded in 2006, Xi'an Jiaotong-Liverpool University (XJTLU) is the largest Sino-foreign university, a partnership between Xi'an Jiaotong University and the University of Liverpool. The University's website is often used as the first point of contact for anyone interested in studying, collaborating with or working for XJTLU.

The project

Starting August 2015 I led a team that redesigned, redeveloped and rewrote the whole XJTLU website within a period of nine months to avoid disrupting major student recruitment activities.

Since its establishment, Xi'an Jiaotong-Liverpool University's (XJTLU) website had developed organically and without clear governance. Content was fragmented across several sub-domains each using a different content management system (CMS), and the user experience and brand application was inconsistent. This created a high maintenance burden and poor user experience for visitors.

Goals and problems

As a starting point we prioritised the following deliverables for the website:

  • A user-centric design to improve the overall user experience and increase interactivity and engagement
  • Works on a variety of devices including mobile, tablet, laptop, desktop, HDTV to suit how our audiences access information about the University, higher education choices, partnerships etc.
  • Implement XJTLU's redesigned brand and visual identity system in the online digital environment to deliver a consistent and seamless brand experience from offline to online
  • Provide content in both Chinese and English languages, with room for expansion into other languages
  • Capture useful enquiry information that can be acted upon through integration with the CRM
  • Real-time monitoring and evaluation of website visitors and effectiveness of marketing campaigns.

Process

We decided to focus the website primarily at external audiences, including prospective students and their parents, business partners, research founding bodies, and alumni. Internal audiences could be communicated to and accommodated through other platforms at the University.

The content team undertook a content audit in conjunction with the development of the website structure. Through a thorough and robust content audit, the website was reduced from over 50,000 webpages to roughly 2,000 by launch. The most significant reductions were from removing duplicative content and outdated pages.

Whilst some of the content was repurposed from the old website, it was all reedited and published bilingually in English and Simplified Chinese.

Testing

Roughly half way through the redevelopment we launched a beta version of the website to our internal stakeholders. It didn't have all the functionality, but most of the components to validate our decision making and ensure we were heading on the right path.

I used Google Analytics to evaluate the beta, looking for any issues in how the navigation was used and trying to monitor the effectiveness of the content, whilst appreciating we weren't testing it against the true external audiences it was developed for.

Additionally we presented the beta to key stakeholders across the University for qualitative feedback, and to raise any items that may have inadvertently been overlooked. It proved a useful exercise for getting buy-in from across the University.

Results

1,902,783 sessions
1,216,832 users
6,493,020 pageviews
3.41 pages / session
00:02:47 average session duration
43.30% bounce rate
63.36% new sessions

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