Adam Clayton Butler

ASU Online: Rethinking Higher Education Online

Responsive website

A new face for one of the world’s top online universities

ASU Online has one of the most innovative online education programs in the world, offering the same degree that is earned on campus. Unfortunately, for being in the online space, their website left something to be desired. I was the lead designer in charge of evolving the ASU brand and giving ASU Online the web presence they deserve. Since its January 2015 launch, the website has received 236% more conversions YoY (that’s 9,000+ more RFI submissions or applications), 106% more visitors, a 9% lower bounce rate and a 14% decrease in session time for converting visitors.

Research & sketching

Since the website is primarily marketing-focused, time was spent up front brainstorming and sketching ideas for how to sell the program to prospective students and define the website’s navigation patterns in a responsive solution.

An evolution of the ASU brand

Several directions were explored initially for the homepage; some of which followed ASU’s main brand standards quite closely. But ASU Online isn’t just another department of ASU. The winning art direction pushed the limits of the existing ASU brand, using modern photographic styling, new styles of typography and a large, open layout. The homepage integrates marketing selling points, a degree selector, testimonials and social feeds to make ASU Online appear to be the innovative online university that they are. It was also important to online students to feel like they were a part of the ASU college experience in the same way that on-campus students were. To solve for this, I used photos of campus to relate and equate the on-campus experience with the online experience.

Clarifying the admissions process for students

College admission can be unnecessarily convoluted and cumbersome. I aimed to alleviate this problem by providing clear design solutions at every point in the conversion funnel. According to the analytics, degree pages were among the most valuable pages on the site, in terms of conversions. Knowing this, it was imperative to make these pages easy to use and have obvious calls-to-action to “request more information” and “apply.” I proposed that degrees be sorted into subject matter to allow the user to easily narrow down what they’re looking for. After drilling down into a degree detail page, all relevant information is clearly presented on the page, arming the user with all necessary information to make an informed decision.

A consistent & modular visual system

About halfway through the redesign, ASU’s marketing hub announced a long-term plan to standardize their web presence online, leaving the new ASU Online approach in a state of limbo. Fortunately, after some deliberation, we were able to move forward with our approach, as long as we conformed to some of the new web standards. I created a comprehensive style guide that uses some of these standards, but evolves it significantly in order to maintain the elite image that ASU Online has come to earn.

Designed to be device-agnostic

Mobile is a significant percentage of ASU Online’s traffic, so it was important that the website perform well (and consistently) no matter what device was being used. Unfortunately, I did not have much influence over the development of the siteā€”it was being developed by a separate third party. However, tablet- and mobile-sized mockups were created to guide the development team in the right direction.