Penn’s Office of Parent Outreach & Development (commonly referred to simply as ‘Penn Parents’) is a crucial fixture at the University of Pennsylvania. This vital department builds relationships and establishes avenues for parents and families to feel connected, informed, and authentically involved in life at the University during their student’s undergraduate experience.
As one of the first departments to welcome recently admitted students, it is critical that Penn Parents makes a strong, welcoming impression to Penn families. These connections are crucial, and the University realized its website had become informationally, structurally, and visually outdated, not to mention it was built on a soon-to-be retired CMS — in short, it desperately needed a refresh.
The Penn Parent’s website should be the first stop for any and all parent questions, but that often means corralling information from decentralized departments like Dining, Transportation, Financial Aid, and Residential Services — in short, the key information Penn families need was living across dozens of department sites. Penn Parents needed to become a singular destination and starting point for all relevant information for families.
Our approach to the new Penn Parents website was to create an intuitive informational portal and launchpad that explains how this dedicated team can help families navigate the Penn system. To bolster the welcoming process, we also tweaked the site voice and tone to foster goodwill and direct interactions between parents and the department. This process included:
- User & Contextual Research: At the start of the project, we met with the team to align on strategic goals and to better understand the experience we wanted to create. After aligning on those objectives, we immersed ourselves with similar organizations through an in-depth peer review. We analyzed how they were supporting families, addressing key pain points, and the types of content they were providing.
- Digital Strategy & Architecture: Armed with our thorough research, we crafted two user personas and journey maps to build a site that was dynamic enough to meet the individualized needs of Penn families. This work guided our digital strategy to build the go-to resource for relevant information. With the strategy in hand, we were able to distill everything we learned into a revamped sitemap and wireframes that defined the architecture for the new website.
- Responsive Design & Development: From the wireframes, we created responsive designs that highlighted updated and original imagery throughout. This guided our development team during the actual website build, while ensuring the highest level of accessibility and functionality across systems.
From there, we migrated all content off of Drupal 7, their old content management system, and on to WordPress to provide a more flexible backend. Transitioning to WordPress was a priority from the very beginning, and as the Penn Parents team needed easy content editability, this was our clear-cut recommendation.
The new, visually striking, website is much more than a sea of links. This welcoming portal for parents as they join the Penn community provides all the necessary resources they need to navigate the college process, answering their questions and creating direct connections to every form, event, and piece of information they need. Not only does it help new Penn families begin their journeys as members of the Penn Quaker family, it is a sustaining source of knowledge and community from enrollment through commencement and everything in between.
Best of all, with the new flexible content management system, the Penn Parents team can quickly and easily make updates to the website’s content in WordPress. The improved user interface, clearer navigation, and messaging aligned to clearly defined personas results in a better user experience for Penn families as they navigate through one of the most important experiences of their lives.