When someone hears the word “makeover”, they probably think of an improvement of someone’s appearance. However, when giving a website a fresh makeover, the overall aesthetic is just one of the many components that make a successful website. Going beyond the overall look and feel, a good website should be search optimized with organized content laid out for the visitor with an attention to usability in mind. The brand needs to be cohesive throughout and in this day and age, the best websites are adopting social media to create a sense of community.
On May 26, 2010, Metropolis Creative hosted the second annual Boston Extreme Website Makeover at District Restaurant & Lounge along with a special fashion show by Calico. This year, the lucky winner of the makeover was The Boston Center for Adult Education. The BCAE is the oldest nonprofit adult education center in New England. The center provides a wide offering of fun courses that could fit anyone’s interests.
Before their makeover, the BCAE website had a confusing navigation that inhibited the user’s ability to search. The site was also lacking in calls to action which made browsing and signing up for courses very difficult. The website also suffered from an unclear hierarchy of content as well as inconsistent branding. These were the key factors that Metropolis took into consideration prior to even thinking about the design of the website.
The Boston Center for Adult Education has a target audience of men and women with various levels of education from the Boston area in the 22–55 age range. Considering the fact that users of all ages would be visiting the site, the goal was to create a clean homepage that evoked professionalism while still maintaining a sense of fun and appeal. To achieve this, we let the page breathe with a lot of white space, introduced bright colors sparingly and included a variety of compelling photos that would appeal to the target audience. We also wrote a tagline “I’ve always wanted to learn more about…” to appeal to visitors who might not have had the opportunity to try something they are interested in.
Well-planned hierarchy and content layout is key when creating a website that contains a lot of information. When a user visits the BCAE website, the goal is to get them to sign up for a class. Therefore, it must be easy for them to find a class they’re interested in. In the new design, visitors have the ability to find classes in several different ways. They can select a featured class, browse by category, search by keywords or download the course catalog. BCAE told us that the classes that fill up quickest are the ones that are featured on the homepage. To exploit this, we implemented a moving slider that cycles through different classes with large imagery and a signup button right from the homepage.
With every new website project we take on, we carefully consider how we can use social tools to leverage the site’s content to create a connected community. This is ideal for both the company and the customer. The Boston Center for Adult Education is large community of people learning new things, so we wanted to give them and their students the ability to share their experiences. Beyond the standard run-of-the-mill social icons, users have the ability to upload their photos and videos as well as view others’.
As you can see, a lot of thought goes into planning a successful website. We don’t think these measures of planning should be considered extreme, but in our experience, it is. A lot of companies cut corners when planning their website because they don’t understand that an effective online presence requires this much attention to detail.
Congratulations to The Boston Center for Adult Education for being the winners of Metropolis Creative’s Second Annual Boston Extreme Website Makeover. We would also like to extend a special thanks to the sponsors that made this successful event possible: The Ultimate Magazine, Acote, Calico, Makeup by Jacquelyn and District Restaurant & Lounge.