After launching in 2019, the first online-only community college sought to increase enrollments and improve partnerships in its mission to better lives through free secondary education—which called for a new website design and structure.
After launching in 2019, Calbright, the first online-only community college, sought to increase enrollment and partnerships in its mission to improve lives through free education. The California non-profit offers free competency-based education and helps underserved populations obtain better job opportunities through comprehensive student support and flexible class schedules, along with a focus on accessibility for any and all Californians who wish to enroll.
The Project: What Solid Digital Engaged With
The strategic vision for Calbright includes increased enrollment and partnerships along with full accreditation by the end of 2023. With those goals in mind, Calbright partnered with Solid Digital to help achieve an online presence that would help funnel those leads and accomplish their big picture goals:
- Update brand and website look and feel;
- Improve user experience to increase engagement and conversions; and
- Facilitate easier site management and optimization.
Beyond these goals, Calbright also wanted to both emphasize their validity to the general public via increased student enrollment and to prioritize student accessibility in all arenas—especially their website. Though Calbright had just completed a recent rebrand, the website still felt outdated and misaligned with their goals and brand, and lacked some pieces of necessary accessibility and flexibility.
Solid Digital worked with Calbright to revamp the website design, add credibility and incorporate accessibility from the strategy through to the smallest design detail. The intentionality stemmed from Calbright’s mission (to make education available to all) along with the Learn and Discover phase of this project, which revealed Calbright’s top brand personality attributes: simple, approachable, and friendly. These guiding principles kept the branding direction on track. With all of these goals in mind, Solid worked to:
- Keep the marketing funnel at the heart;
- Identify and segment the audience, using research to create clear user pathways through the top navigation; and
- Clarify solutions, maintain approachability, and improve accessibility.
After the Learn & Discover phase, Solid Digital provided a visual direction for Calbright. The visuals of the site included photos depicting students diverse in age and background, with an emphasis on community, pursuing an online education from home, and post-Calbright success: working in a new job. The visuals also included small, simple illustrations and neutral backgrounds with enough contrast to keep users focused and engaged.
The previous website contained large blocks of text, with few photos, and tried to speak to every user at once. By segmenting their audience into different buckets, via the top nav, it allowed the content to present itself naturally to the user while on their UX pathway. The mission-driven team at Calbright wanted the site to be a successful, usable tool, and were highly invested and engaged with the UX and sitemap design. The website needed to create touch points along the user journey from locating program-specific information to enrolling.
Before the partnership began, Calbright had already completed research on their audience, including triggers, concerns, and what questions they were most likely to ask. This research led Solid Digital to feature an FAQ page from the top nav, and place a virtual Q&A webinar link in a prominent home page position. Much of the home page is dedicated to being a resource, with the most common questions added to better guide the conversation around Calbright’s programs. These quick, scannable answers were key in keeping every user in mind—from the limited time of a working parent to the technology constraints of a mobile-only user.
Along with these considerations, accessibility needs became clearer during the design process. The previous brand needed to shift its visual language to improve UX, leading to better conversions (enrollments). The accessibility plugin was removed, and in its place, slight, subtle changes to the logo and brand guidelines (improved color options, adjusted typography to align) shifted the design. The page builds and testing were vetted by a human rather than a plugin, to ensure that the accessibility of the site was top-notch and ready for any user. The WCAG Level 2 was maintained, with an improvement in color variation and a better visual brand identity that offered enhanced accessibility.
Solid Digital closely collaborated with Calbright’s team at every step to finalize the redesign and ensure they would reach their ideal audience, allowing plenty of time for each part of the process. A small informal test group of Calbright students confirmed the brand alignment and inviting design.
The new website architecture brings readers through a pathway of questions answered, from a featured Q&A to a collection of testimonials—students with favorable outcomes, thanks to Calbright. Everything on the website points out an answer to a question being asked by adults looking for a flexible-style education: Is this going to work for me? How will I be able to succeed? When will I find time to do this?