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Building the new WPI.edu.

Processes
  • Agile/Scrum
  • XP
Team Leadership
  • Senior Producer
    Sean Eddings
  • Senior Architect
    Jeff Landfried
  • Senior Development
    Jeff Landfried

Clinically speaking, our recent work with Worcester Polytechnic Institute is a testimony to Last Call Media’s approach to the initial project phases of Discovery, Strategy, and Information Architecture. That said, the most important part of this story is how our flexible and adaptable work process embraced by both the WPI and Last Call Media teams resulted in a process and a final outcome that meets WPI’s stakeholder needs. Strong partnership-building was the goal from the outset, and it paid off in strong relationships and expectations satisfied.

Project Goals Last year, WPI embarked on a Discovery and Strategy phase with Last Call Media in order to:

  • Improve performance
  • Increase engagement
  • Reduce technical debt and operating costs

Thanks to WPI’s commitment to collaboration, the redesign of wpi.edu represents one of Last Call Media’s most comprehensive involvements from start to finish of any project to date. We acted as more than designers and developers, but instead as all-encompassing strategic management consultants, working with WPI to organize multiple stakeholders toward the realization of stated and unstated goals.

How we did it

The project had humble beginnings. WPI had a lot of ideas, which they’d translated into a giant content model spreadsheet. We meticulously ensured that we understood it all, guiding a wireframe process in which we were able to make significant contribution to the decision-making that yielded a highly intuitive structure. We took each step iteratively, building piece-by-piece, soliciting feedback, and then building the next iteration. We facilitated a dialogue between administrators, college communications, their design department, their IT department, and Acquia to map the landscape of business requirements, organizational needs, and their desired design aesthetic.  

On the technical side, we reviewed their existing RedDot site, and built a ‘scraper’ to scrape select content out of it and import the data into its new structure in Drupal. We open-sourced the scraper, too. Next, we built a flexible layout system of building blocks that enabled them to build pages however they needed. We dubbed them “widgets,” and WPI called them “elements,” but they were central to satisfying their desire for incredible flexibility that allowed them to build unique layouts on any given page.

As part of the creative partnership, Last Call Media’s creative team worked closely with WPI to improve the look and utility of the Events Pages, the Calendar, and a database of accolades they maintain. The outcome was a set of tools that present information in simple and digestible ways. WPI’s communications team helped LCM fully understand their brand, which enabled us to showcase their identity as we applied it to the work product.

Every step of the way as we constructed functionality, WPI developers, content authors, and staff gave feedback on the project as fidelity increased from a rough, unthemed Drupal site, to a polished release candidate. At the same time, Last Call Media was enabling WPI Developers to be self-sufficient in Drupal so they could help build new functionality. Last Call Media also built a custom ‘faculty importer’ that synced data from their Ellucian Banner system into Drupal, greatly simplifying the construction and accuracy of faculty pages.

Because we were in constant contact, there were never any ‘big reveals’ for WPI leadership to react to that represented hours of work they had to wrestle with approving or sending us back to the drawing board - they’d been part of the process at two week intervals and on board with each decision as it was made.

Today, the ability of the various administrative and academic departments at WPI to use the site is unparalleled in Last Call Media’s experience. The partnership enabled WPI’s content developers, in-house communications staff, designers, and developers to fully leverage the new wpi.edu. As a result, we’re seeing profound stakeholder use of the tools we collectively built. WPI embraces our approach and recognizes the value in the systems our working partnership designed. Such engagement is the dream of every project, and we’re proud it’s being realized at Worcester Polytechnic Institute.

We continue an ongoing relationship with WPI providing support and strategic counsel as necessary. What can Last Call Media do for you?

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Drilling down to an education.

Processes
  • Agile/Scrum
Team Leadership
  • Senior Producer
    Sean Eddings
  • Senior Architect
    Jeff Landfried
  • Senior Development
    Jeff Landfried

Education sites are huge and contain a lot of information. There are many different personas who frequent these sites, and they’re all looking for a wide variety of resources.

After getting the right personas to the right area of the site, faceted searching was one of the solutions Last Call Media implemented to help visitors drill down further into the specifics. In this case, it was WPI’s areas of study.

How we did it

We developed a faceted search tool for their degree and certificates catalog to solve the challenge of drilling down through the options to get to a specific area of study. By structuring and categorizing the information of this catalog appropriately in the database, we were able to implement faceted searching functionality for the areas of study across Bachelor, Minor, Certificate, Master, and PhD programs.

Site visitors are able to use this implementation to drill down to very specific information, so this work has substantially increased engagement, as well as conversions.

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Consortium Assault Services app.

Processes
  • Continuous Delivery
Team Leadership
  • Senior Producer
    Kelly Albrecht
  • Senior Architect
    Rob Bayliss
  • Senior Development
    Rob Bayliss

In response to growing concerns and attention around Sexual Harassment and Assault Nationwide, Amherst College needed a tool to serve students of the Five Colleges with rapid access to Title IX office information and emergency services.

How we did it

LCM and Amherst College worked together with student advocates, Title IX, LGBTQ, and other campus offices and organizations to design and develop an iOS App that puts valuable information, from a Drupal site Amherst can administer, into the hands of students. The major feature of the app was to direct assault survivors to emergency contact information, help services, and other advocacy groups, anonymously and quickly.

The app was announced to all incoming and returning students during new school year orientation. Information about the app has been circulated through the Five Colleges on promotional materials and “get help” brochures and posters.

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Annual Fund’s 25th Anniversary Campaign.

Processes
  • Continuous Delivery
Team Leadership

The Advancement Department of Amherst College needed an updated brochure to support their efforts of encouraging donations to the Annual Fund’s 25th Anniversary Program campaign. Last Call Media was excited to build upon our technical experience migrating Amherst to Drupal and in building the Title IX iOS App with a project that could showcase our marketing strategy and design talents.

How we did it

The twenty-fifth anniversary year is an important one for advancement activities. Alumni have generally attained career and financial stability by this time, and it is an important moment in which to encourage a lifetime habit of giving to Amherst College. Amherst needed an accessible and compelling visual that would explain a complicated funding program. Working within existing guidelines and style templates, we worked with the Annual Fund to build a tri-fold brochure that plainly communicated the benefits and procedures of giving during the five years leading up to and including an alumnus’ twenty-fifth anniversary reunion year.

brochure 2

brochure

Staff reported that the leave-behind brochure was incredibly helpful for both their volunteers and donors, and twenty-fifth anniversary giving broke fundraising targets and records in 2015 and 2016.

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Custom tailoring Haverford.edu.

Processes
  • Agile/Scrum
  • Continuous Delivery
Team Leadership
  • Senior Producer
    Kelly Albrecht
  • Senior Architect
    Jeff Landfried
  • Senior Development
    Jeff Landfried

When LCM got the call from Haverford about redoing their site in Drupal, we thought it was going to be a redesign. After an initial conversation we agreed to do a Discovery and Strategy engagement first, to determine what the true needs were and then develop a strategy for solutions. We conducted stakeholder interviews and developed the User Personas of who our work was to be for. Interestingly, none of these personas ended up being an anonymous site visitor, but instead were different types of content editors and administrators.

How we did it

Haverford didn’t need a redesign; their site looked great already. The biggest issue they needed to solve was not having enough time to do new feature development themselves. They were a smart and capable team and over many years had developed and maintained a large custom PHP implementation for college’s website needs. They were finding, however, that too much of their time was being spent updating pages for college members and groups. Their hope was for us to build them a site that looked and functioned like their current site, but built on a modern CMS with exceptional user management and publishing workflows.

Once we had alignment on their needs and a strategy for solutions, we built out a Content Model, Product Backlog, and Information Architecture. The project was completed with Drupal in steady collaboration with the Haverford Communications team, in 5 development Sprints, and launched on the Acquia Infrastructure.

The Haverford Team really jumped in and took off with it. It was really great!

You can read more about this project as LCM’s Acquia Certified Grand Master Developer, Jeff Landfried shares details of his experience here.

Since then, Last Call Media has continued to work with Haverford on an ongoing basis as part of our dedicated Continuous Delivery relationship, where our dedicated team of developers helps to keep their site secure, up-to-date, and assists as needed with anything from strategy to design to development.

The migration of Haverford to Drupal on Acquia remains one of our favorite projects to date, and it’s a great source of professional pride for all of us. We look forward to a long partnership with Haverford as we continuously evaluate how their online experience is meeting the needs of the College.  

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Redesigning the College of Biological Sciences.

Processes
  • Agile/Scrum
Team Leadership
  • Senior Producer
    Kelly Albrecht
  • Art Director
    Colin Panetta

Developing a digital media strategy with measurable results.

Challenged to increase enrollment, the College of Biological Sciences at the University of Minnesota looked to Last Call Media for ways to develop a digital media strategy with measurable results. Last Call Media focused on increasing engagement with CBS’ primary audiences— prospective and current students— by implementing fresh designs with improved pathways and navigation. LCM also coordinated the final migration and deployment of the site to the University’s Acquia platform.

How we did it

Working with CBS, we took the project from initial discovery and goal validation through information architecture, design, and development.

We were able to deliver a compelling, modern, and effective site. With CBS’s target users in mind, Last Call Media improved site navigation and menu structure, re-working the existing navigation system to create a more fluid experience visiting the site.

The site was launched in summer, in time to function as an active recruitment tool for the school year. After receiving consistent positive feedback, CBS and LCM received an award for the design and functionality. The CBS team has continued to add and manage new content on top of the sound foundation built by Last Call Media.

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A modern site home to the treasures of the world.

Processes
  • Agile/Scrum
Team Leadership
  • Senior Producer
    Sean Eddings

Aligning an aging website with modern organizational goals.

The Center of the Material and Visual Cultures of Religion (MAVCOR) at Yale University sought the expertise of LCM to help bring their aging website in line with their strategic organizational goals. As an online archive of objects of religion, often accompanied by narratives or conversations, the academic source was to behave like an online museum: delivering the user to the content in the most unobstructed way so they can focus on it.

Much like a museum would, it’ll recommend related content for further exploration.

How we did it

MAVCOR is a unique peer-reviewed publication and community that gathers visual culture and hosts multidisciplinary collaborations of scholars from around the globe. This necessitates a virtual space that is the only one of its kind. Previously confined to the Yale departmental design template, MAVCOR came to us to design and develop a Drupal 7 site to enhance the functionality of their user experience, robust asset management, and spotlight their obvious visual culture.

Different devices show MAVCOR's responsive homepage with an image of a mural of workers on the side of a church.

LCM partnered with the MAVCOR team to develop new and enhanced functionality to their Fellow’s Portal, Asset Management, Material Objects Archive, and Search in a visually-centric design honoring their unique and growing community.

The new MAVCOR is a literal and virtual center of publicly accessible collaborative scholarship.

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Forklift to Drupal 7 in 8 weeks

Processes
  • Agile/Kanban
  • Agile/Scrum
  • Continuous Delivery
  • XP
Team Leadership
  • Senior Producer
    Sean Eddings

Leveraging a small multidisciplinary production team and agile methodologies, LCM migrated SUNY Potsdam from their self-hosted legacy CommonSpot CMS to Drupal 7 on Acquia in just 8 weeks.

The small team at the SUNY Potsdam Office of Public Affairs had been managing the proprietary CommonSpot CMS since its implementation in 2008. It was inflexible and the team struggled with reliability issues, so SUNY Potsdam was looking for a more useable, stable, efficient, and scalable solution. They chose Drupal 7, Acquia, and Last Call Media.  

SUNY Potsdam partnered with Last Call Media and Acquia to migrate their site to Drupal 7. Leveraging the scrum methodology, LCM broke down and organized the major site features into a prioritized backlog, groomed for two-week iterations. While planning and backlog refinement was ongoing several times a week, the core development team at LCM met with Potsdam every other Friday to review work completed, provide training on the new CMS, and to facilitate the feedback-gathering process.

Since SUNY Potsdam had recently gone through a redesign, the project required the new site to maintain the existing look and feel. We began with an in-depth audit of all the different page types and page elements. Instead of doing this manually page by page, we first looked for a programmatic solution. Since CommonSpot did not provide a way to generate this information within the CMS, LCM used its HTML Crawler tool to programmatically crawl the existing production site and analyze the various HTML tags to determine page elements (such as slideshows, feeds, etc), including where and how often they appear. This provided tremendous visibility into the site’s underlying structure, which was critical in planning our approach to the migration to Drupal.

Potsdam Art Page

 

After reviewing this data with SUNY Potsdam, we began the process of consolidation– instead of building one-off page elements, we consolidated similar elements into single widgets that behaved differently based on where on the page it was placed. This helped reduce the vast number of options a content author has to choose from, making it easier for them to do what they need to do: focus on the content. To achieve the desired platform flexibility, LCM built a repository of flexible and adaptable widgets to allow the marketing team at Potsdam to build custom pages. 

The migration included several different page templates and tens of thousands of pieces of content, which required writing and testing a series of migration scripts to get all the content from one CMS to another without downtime or a lengthy content freeze. Since the CommonSpot installation did not have a concept of structured content, LCM used it’s HTML crawler tool again to programmatically identify page content and then map it to its new location in Drupal. Once the custom scripts were written and tested, the migration took only 15 minutes for tens of thousands of pieces of unique content and the associated metadata, such as date published, authoring information, and URL

Potsdam Events Page

 

The new site also pulls in events automatically from their event management system, SOGo, and tags the event to the relevant department or office in the CMS so that it appears on that organization’s page.  

Lastly, in order to make it as easy as possible for content authors to login to the site, we leveraged the identity management service at Potsdam, Active Directory, to allow users to use their domain credentials to authenticate with Drupal.

This project addressed several internal pain points with the SUNY Potsdam main website, allowing the marketing team to move from maintenance and support tasks to other organizational priorities. The site loads blazingly fast on Acquia, and Potsdam continues to work with LCM in an ongoing support relationship.   

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Exploration and Research.

Team Leadership
  • Senior Producer
    Kelly Albrecht

As part of a comprehensive interior remodeling, the Utah Museum of Fine Arts partnered with Last Call to carry their visual, communication, and wayfinding efforts through to the digital experiences offered by the museum.

We worked with the UMFA Marketing and Communications team to understand the personas of their visitors and to strategize the messaging and functionality needed to design and build a digital experience that could anticipate and provide needed information to the right visitor at the right time. This included identifying and prioritizing the most valuable calls to action desired by, and of, a visitor; building in strategy to persuade the visitor appropriately, directly, and contextually, to complete the goals that are mutually and wholly beneficial to the experience.

Last Call’s Creative team brought their expertise in Strategy, User Experieince, and Design to research, audit, and produce content structure and governance, functionality prototypes, and design deliverables. These deliverables were used in a two-day immersion visit, which culminated in a day of alignment with stakeholders, senior management, and the Marketing and Communications team. This exploration, research, and resulting strategy and design direction will act as the foundation informing the design and development of UMFA’s new digital experience, to launch in time for their annual membership drive and the reopening of their museum.

Kudos continue to roll in about the website… We just loving using it too.

Mindy Wilson, Marketing & Communications Director
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Modern site design, historic content.

Processes
  • Agile/Scrum
Team Leadership
  • Senior Producer
    Sean Eddings

The Yale Department of the History of Art sought a design and technical implementation partner to assist with the redesign of their website. The department wanted a more updated online presence that would remain aligned with their status as a center of academic arts excellence. 

How we did it

The team at Yale was great to work with because they were very engaged in the process. Last Call Media brought expertise in user experience, user interface, and design to the table.

We started with some proposed changes to the information architecture and user experience aspects of the site, and the feedback we received informed the work that followed. 

We offered three options of style tiles at the outset of the design process, and we were pretty excited when the Department chose the bold, modern look.

Historic
Style Tile #1: Historic
Museum Card
Style Tile #2: Museum Card
Modern
Style Tile #3: Modern

The implementation of the new design consisted of developing a custom template. The design effort was focused on the homepage and a few key landing pages. After applying the new styles to the existing content, a few minor tweaks were handled by the LCM development team to enhance the remaining pages.

Repsonsive

We created a modernized Art History website that was uncompromisingly “cool,” while maintaining a clean backdrop to showcase esteemed works of art, respected artists, and notable news and events out of a well-known Yale institution.