The College of Imaging Arts & Sciences at Rochester Institute of Technology is a place where art and technology merge. CIAS wanted to facilitate recruitment, engage users, and give control of the content to the faculty and staff. Before we proposed any solutions, we wanted to understand their challenges from a logistical and operational perspective. What’s needed to recruit? How were faculty and staff contributing to the current website and how could we improve their experience?
The College of Imaging Arts & Sciences understood that showcasing student work was a great way to attract prospective students. However, to gather CDs with student work, review them, figure out how to extract the files and upload them to the website was a tricky and difficult process. CIAS needed an easy solution to gather students’ work, review it and quickly display it on the CIAS website gallery.
To solve the logistical challenge of gathering, reviewing and displaying current students’ work, we gave the responsibility back to the source: the students. We designed and built a private crowdsourcing tool for current students to submit their work, critique and review others' work, and like and share their favorite projects. This tool helped faculty and staff to find the best work being shared and gave them the ability to transfer the work with ease into the College of Imaging Arts & Sciences public gallery.
What makes the College of Imaging Arts & Sciences unique is the diversity of its schools and the innovations that take place within the labs and studios. The challenge was to create a consistent design system that can provide each school with a sound structure to display its own stories. We designed a comprehensive template that is integrated with other central elements from the site such as the public gallery, faculty profiles, and news and events to reduce the need for redundancy in populating content. Each school has the ability to independently update its home with unique stories and content.
To ensure all the tools we designed and their rich interactions are effective and intuitive for all users, we tested the main flows heavily with both internal and external audiences. The test results generated comprehensive heat-maps that gave us great insight and helped us tweak the design and hone the interactions for maximum usability and strong engagement.
For prospective students and their families, knowing the names of faculty members and staff is important, but getting to know them on a personal level is crucial. Faculty members' credentials, their personal work and the work of their students all can be key in the decision-making process of prospective students. With that in mind, we created faculty and staff profile pages that house their photo, biography, education and contact information. The pages also display their work in the field and work produced by their students. We also built easy-to-use tools for faculty members to transfer their students' work from the Student Showcase to their own profile page. This helped eliminate redundancy and encouraged sharing of work.
Choosing a particular program to enroll in is no small decision. And with the lack of consistent naming conventions and the ongoing emergence of new fields of study, things can get confusing. To help prospective students and their families make an informed decision, we created an interactive planner that can quickly explain the different programs offered and describe for each what skills will be learned, the career paths offered, and the companies they will most likely work for.
With the diversity of tools created, a consistent experience is a must. The backbone is a cohesive design language that makes it easy for all users to quickly recognize and learn how to interact with different user interface components. We created a design system of typographical scale, color family, grid system and interaction models, and evolved the college brand as well.
The College of Imaging Arts & Sciences has a large body of faculty, administrators and staff members of different backgrounds and needs. To ensure a smooth and easy transition to the new system for all, we provided group learning sessions, video tutorials and hands-on training.