The previous undergraduate admissions website was not effectively conveying UCI’s main brand attributes: it’s southern California location, beautiful campus, top-tier academic programs, and unique student body. The website was not being utilized as a vehicle to convince students why they should consider attending the university.
The website was also functioning as a link farm, shooting users off to various disparate UCI department websites instead of providing prospective students with the information they needed. And there was limited academic information: the website simply listed majors and minors in alphabetical order.
Request for proposal
I developed the RFP articulating our desired goals and outcomes for the redesign project: we wanted to build a modern, accessible, best-in-class website, yield higher-caliber students for enrollment, and illustrate and express the UCI brand story in a compelling way that engaged prospective students and those in positions of influence.
During the RFP process I forged partnerships with campus stakeholders, obtaining buy-in and support, synthesized the vendor proposals, solicited internal feedback, and made strategic recommendations toward a final contract awardee.
Internal Project lead
I served as the internal project lead and worked closely with the chosen agency throughout the entire process to ensure a timely completion of all deliverables. I secured approvals, made final decisions, and ultimately contributed to the project’s successful on-time launch, within budget.
I helped craft the creative vision of the new website with third-party photographers and videographers; assisted with the development of the new site navigation and wireframe; wrote copy, metadata, and tags; selected which images to be used; and determined the layout and design of each webpage.
We needed to address prospective students’ desire for authenticity. Seemingly polished, institutional content is no longer trusted as students turn to social media to uncover unfiltered snapshots of campus life from actual students.
So we decided to leverage UCI students, who already serve as great brand ambassadors and are at the heart of what makes the university exceptional. We designed a curated Instagram feed at the top of the homepage to prominently showcase the experiences of actual students, and we crafted a tagline that placed students at the center of the UCI brand story.
We also wanted to highlight student journeys throughout their entire tenure at UCI. We selected three representative students and shot videos that looked self-produced in the style of a personal vlog. We also pulled Instagram photos from their personal accounts so prospective students would feel like they’re getting to know the representative students personally.
Since the site’s launch, we have continued to shoot video updates so that prospective students can follow the journey of representative students step-by-step and picture what their own experience would be like at UCI. We will also continue to check-in with the students after graduation in order to showcase outcomes and career successes.
We wanted to ensure that the website served as a driver for in-person campus visits. Through research with current students and CRM data, we knew that stepping foot onto campus was a huge differentiator between students who enrolled and those who didn’t.
We designed a teaser video of campus that autoplays on the homepage along with a strong call-to-action to attend a campus tour. We also promoted the virtual tour experience for out-of-state and international students and created new videos and webpages that further highlighted UCI’s unique campus attributes and southern California location.
Finally, the most important aspect of the college decision-making process is what students will learn. We wanted to provide prospective students with detailed information about each of our academic programs and convince them that UCI is a first-choice option for their desired area of interest.
We created a new majors and minors page so prospective students could browse each program, filter based on their interests, and read detailed descriptions that outline what makes the program unique, what classes students take, and what careers students go on to have.
1st year results
104,000 applications (+7%)
1st time crossing 100,000, a main strategic priority
3rd most-applied-to school in the country
UCI had a record-breaking year following the launch of the new undergraduate admissions website. UCI received more than 104,000 applications, a 7% increase over the previous year despite an average increase of only 2% for the rest of the UC campuses, and the university leapfrogged UC Berkeley to become the #3 most-applied-to school in the country.
UCI also saw a huge surge in out-of-state applications that was unique among the UC campuses. This result speaks to the effectiveness of the new website in conveying UCI’s brand attributes and persuasive appeal to prospective students who were unable to visit campus in-person.
Website analytics also proved how well students responded to the new site design. The average time users spent on the majors and minors page went up from 1 minute and 20 seconds to just over 4 minutes—a more than 200% increase. In addition, site traffic to the FAQs page went down from 23,000 to 6,500 pageviews, a clear indication that students were more easily able to find the information they were looking for through the redesigned navigation.
2nd year results
116,000 applications (+11%)
#1 UC for CA under-represented minority applicants
#2 UC for CA applicants overall
The following year, UCI saw an even bigger spike in student interest. Applications increased by 11%, despite an average increase of only 6% for the rest of the UC campuses, and UCI became the #1 most-applied-to UC for under-represented minority students from California, as well as the #2 most-applied-to UC for California students overall.
Site traffic also continued to rise, as the number of website sessions increased by 28%, the number of overall users increased by 14%, and the number of pageviews increased by 13%.