Digitally uniting a family of universities

The Universities at Shady Grove (USG), part of the University System of Maryland, is nationally recognized for its instructional model predicated on fostering strong and diverse partnerships. All nine universities are conveniently located on one campus in Montgomery County, Maryland and each university provides its own academic programs and degrees.

USG selected Mindgrub to redesign its website for the purpose of building a strong and sustainable web presence. Mindgrub designed, developed, and delivered a fully re-branded, mobile-friendly website that amplifies USG's mission and core values, drives student recruitment, and helps attract potential partners.

Desktop view of The Universities at Shady Grove home page

The Opportunity

Websites are often the first encounter prospective students and other academic stakeholders have with a college or university. Increasing demand for self-service information via a multitude of internet-connected devices is putting more pressure on academic institutions to make good first impressions through digital means. It’s no longer enough to upgrade a website every five or ten years; it’s an ongoing process that requires strategic vision, user-centered design, and an understanding of software applications.

Our Approach

To reimagine USG’s online presence, we engaged their information technology (IT) and marketing teams in a comprehensive discovery process that included stakeholder interviews, industry research, focus groups with representatives from each user persona, and usability testing. We used the information gathered from these activities and our on-campus photo shoot to create mood boards, style tiles, and design concepts.

Once all concepts were finalized, we generated content for 25 key landing pages and established complex content management and migration logic to support USG’s operational needs. We developed visually appealing content templates and configured them to support future customization by administrative users in all departments and nine academic universities. By crafting a compelling, cohesive, and relevant story throughout the site, we dramatically improved the user journey and more clearly communicated what USG is and how it serves the community.

Desktop and mobile views of The Universities at Shady Grove's website
Desktop and mobile views of The Universities at Shady Grove's website

“On the technical side, Mindgrub has also been a great partner in providing solutions to critical tickets for fixes and site enhancements in a timely manner. The back-end CMS system they built for us is set up in a way that is very flexible, and the web hosting platform they have recommended to us (Pantheon) makes branching out into different environments and deployment very easy.”

Kelly Le & Sonia Sarangthem, USG
Designing for Excellence

We created a family of brand-inspired themes that align with USG’s new brand image and developed a web style guide for their IT and content managers. We incorporated all of the new design elements and messaging in a way that effectively:

Students studying outside

Communicates USG’s vision, mission, and strategic goals

Logos of USG's partners

Promotes the benefits of investing and partnering with USG

USG's news section

Highlights news and events of interest to various stakeholder audiences

A person standing in a library holding a book

Attracts prospective undergraduate and graduate students

System Development

Our examination of the existing information architecture helped uncover complex content issues and technical limitations. We reorganized the Drupal website with intuitive sectioning and bold color logic, developed custom page options, migrated all content, and created workflows that enable faculty and staff to add and edit content with ease. By incorporating accessibility, user experience, and web development best practices, we significantly improved the usability of the new website.

Students exiting a school building
Students exiting a school building

“We have been extremely impressed with Mindgrub’s ability to follow and implement our CMS user structure needs, which are quite complex... With over half of our users accessing the USG site through a mobile device, it has been incredibly important for us to develop and maintain a site that is mobile-friendly and mobile-responsive... On web performance tools like Website Grader and SiteImprove, the USG site consistently is rated high in the area of mobile...”

Kelly Le & Sonia Sarangthem, USG
Two desktop web pages
Two mobile web pages
Results that Matter

Using a comprehensive and strategic approach, we created a new website that reflects USG’s esteemed reputation and provides a strong sense of campus identity. Site visitors are greeted with eye-catching visual designs and can easily search for and navigate to the information they seek. 

USG’s new site serves as a strategic tool that provides information and services to its broad and multifaceted stakeholder audiences, resulting in an increase in student enrollment, partner engagements, and accolades and recognitions. We continue to provide USG with website development and consulting services to support their mission as new insights, industry trends, and needs arise.

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