The University of Texas at Arlington doesn't consider itself a traditional four-year public college. Rather, this Carnegie Research I university wants to reflect its diverse student body and progressive curriculum.
In particular, as a former UTA president pointed out, this 125-year-old school wants to be thought of in new ways: "We want to position ourselves as what others want to be in 5 years."
Those were the words presented to Rightpoint solutions architect Justin Bradley when UTA sought help refining and updating its website by leveraging Rightpoint's experience in content management systems, e-commerce, and content hub development.
Bradley joined Richard DeSantis, Manager of Enterprise Content at UTA, for a Sitecore Symposium 2020 breakout session – “Case study: Sitecore + Coveo for education.”
They discussed how Sitecore, Rightpoint, and Coveo took large volumes of content and identified relevancy, built in strong audience-targeting personalization capabilities, and added contextual and relevant search experiences to create a better user-friendly experience on UTA.edu.
Rightpoint, a Sitecore Platinum Partner with more than 500 Sitecore projects under its belt, worked with UTA officials in pivoting to a content-first approach with UTA.edu and its 60,000-student enrollment.
Creating consistent messaging and branding
Before the project, which began in August 2019, UTA.edu consisted of 200+ web properties spanning more than 100,000 pages, all managed by multiple teams and multiple content management tools with little or no cohesive messaging and branding.
“We lacked a focused voice for the prospective students and our other key target audiences,” DeSantis said. “Our goal was to create a website that expressed our missions, our goals, our values, and the quality of success, and to position us as the university of the future.”
Bradley said Rightpoint determined that it wanted to open the project with research to define UTA's primary audience and which content mattered.
Rightpoint interviewed more than 80 university stakeholders, including the school president, faculty senate, leadership council, provost, deans and associate deans, current and prospective students, and parents.
“It helped provide data to inform us that prospective students — undergraduate, transfer, graduate, and international — should be the main focus,” Bradley said. “And next is current students, and of course, prospective faculty.”
UTA is an R1 institution with the top-rated nursing program in Texas, “so obviously recruiting the right talent to the university is key for UTA.”
Once Rightpoint gathered its research, it turned to building personas that would be later used for targeted personalization.
“Thinking about a university of the future, we wanted to lean on everything we've heard from our interviews, everything we had done to build our personas, and then also what matters most to UTA and how we can really help,” Bradley said. “And so in that, we know the focus should be on driving enrollment.”
As a brand, UTA has a deep, rich legacy, “but at the same time, we want to introduce some unknown facts about UTA to position them as the university of the future, and in doing so deliver a flexible design system that can support... these 200-plus digital properties.”
Rightpoint put together a playbook of what UTA content should or should not keep, including identifying new content, content gaps, defining a content taxonomy, and shaping it all with appropriate tagging.
The idea was to show people that “hey, UTA is not your average university,” Bradley said. “The perception is that UTA is a commuter school is actually an incorrect perception. We want to make sure that we're not just saying we're a university of the future, but we want to demonstrate why we're the university in the future.”
Rightpoint integrated its user experience in a visual design that also supports accessibility. It provided UTA with digital guidance so that standards and consistency could be maintained using a data-driven approach.
Sitecore's platform encourages workflows, data, and content governance because “a university of the future needs a platform of the future,” Bradley said.
Sitecore also provides multi-site support, including multilingual, because UTA's diverse student population was also considered. The university is in North Texas, which has a sizable Hispanic and Latino population.
Coveo’s global search narrows, yet increases, focus
Coveo's role emerged because UTA required an intelligent platform to target segmented content searches. Coveo's machine-learning and personalization capabilities can provide relevant and contextual search results while working with Sitecore's database. In UTA's case, the platform could help users find specific information within academic programs rather than getting results from a more comprehensive global site search.
“What we really wanted to hone in on was the fact that we need to be able to index content within Sitecore, and also at the same time, index content that's outside of Sitecore and other web properties as the migration of this content and these web properties happens over time,” Bradley said.
Using Coveo, UTA.edu was able to configure its unified global search experience to pull up content inside and outside of Sitecore. SiteImprove was also utilized to measure SEO, accessibility, and overall performance.
UTA.edu is continuing its migration of content from UTA's colleges and departments and training departments to maintain their own content. DeSantis said UTA's web content should be migrated from its on-premises services to the cloud by the end of 2021.
A website that delivers
For now, UTA.edu is fully functional and improving daily.
“Having all of these technology enhancements, it's enabled us to provide a robust, stable, and secure website,” Bradley said. “Since migrating our main web content to Sitecore, we've maintained a 99.9% up-time. Our response times continue to be good and are improving. And our internal CMS tools are state-of-the-art, stable, and secure.”
Jason Masini is the Director of Content Marketing at Sitecore. Connect with him on LinkedIn here.