Founded in 2006, Xi’an Jiaotong-Liverpool University (XJTLU) is China’s largest Sino-foreign university, a partnership between Xi’an Jiaotong University and the University of Liverpool.
XJTLU’s first website had developed organically, without clear governance, since the University opened in 2006. Content was fragmented across several sub-domains, each using a different content management system (CMS), while user experience and brand application was inconsistent. All this created a high maintenance burden and poor user experience for visitors.
We had a tight deadline to redevelop and launch – the site had to go live within nine months (by April 2016) to avoid disrupting major student recruitment activities.
At the beginning of the project, I prioritised the following requirements for the website:
- User-centric whilst aligned to business objectives
- Responsive design
- Apply the new brand identity to the online environment
- Bilingual content (English and Simplified Chinese), with room for expansion into other languages
- Integration with the CRM
- Real-time monitoring and evaluation of website visitors and effectiveness of marketing campaigns.
Much of the old site’s content had been focussed towards internal audiences at the University, such as staff and current students.
We radically changed the focus of the new website to cater to important external audiences, including prospective students and their parents, business partners, research founding bodies and alumni.
Internal audiences would be communicated to and accommodated through other platforms at the University.
A thorough content audit identified duplicated content, complex navigation structures and outdated pages. Whilst some content was repurposed from the old website, it was all reedited, optimised for search, and published bilingually in English and Simplified Chinese.
Through this process we reduced content from over 20,000 webpages to just over 2,000 by launch.
User experience and interface design
The content audit informed the site structure from which key templates were created and technical development of the website started.
Template designs were shared with key stakeholders across XJTLU for comment and sign-off. I collaborated with key departments to ensure their requirements were being met whilst keeping the University’s business objectives, and the needs of the visitors, at the forefront.
Halfway through the redevelopment, we launched a beta version of the website to validate decision making and ensure we were on the right path.
Using data from web analytics and a user survey, I evaluated the beta, looking for any issues in the navigation and monitoring the effectiveness of the content.
I also presented the beta to key stakeholders across the University for qualitative feedback and to discuss anything that may have changed since the project started. This proved a useful exercise for gaining stronger buy-in from across the University.
We launched the new XJTLU website early in April 2016, having made refinements from the beta feedback and completing outstanding development tasks.
I continue to manage the technical development of the XJTLU website as it continues to grow and improve through feedback from both visitors and across the XJTLU community.