Skip to Main Content
Menu
Client Cisco College
Disciplines Design & Content, Marketing, Web Development

Cisco College Sets the Bar

Share

Cisco College — spread proudly over two campuses in west Texas — is setting a model for community colleges across the country: They’re responding to the shifting landscape of higher education marketing.

Instead of clinging to outdated academic practices, Cisco is giving tomorrow’s workers what they need to thrive. Instead of narrowing their programs, Cisco is expanding them. And instead of playing it safe, Cisco is investing in technologies that make learning possible for anyone, anywhere.

Bucking the Trends

Cisco’s two campuses — in the cities of Cisco and Abilene, situated three hours west of Dallas — are somewhat isolated. 

So how are they attracting hundreds of international students? How are they helping thousands of students graduate from Cisco and transfer to four-year schools and/or high-paying, in-demand jobs? How is Cisco College serving so effectively as a “gateway to higher education”? 

They’re sharing their unique story. And with our help, their story is more attractive than ever.

Cisco’s new website had to be more than mobile-responsive; it had to become mobile-friendly.

From Zero to Sixty

The project started like many others: A college or university takes a good, long look at its online presence. They don’t like what they see. It’s been four years since the school’s website got a fresh design. Plenty has changed since then — the school, technology, what works online, etc.

Not to mention how hard it was to manage the website. The CMS was old and buggy. Updating a webpage was often not worth the headache.

Our new website launched less than a week ago, and we have already received an outpouring of positive feedback. Mighty Citizen took the time to listen to our needs and build a customized platform that works effectively.” Kaitlin Berry, Director of Marketing and PR

Their old website — which wasn’t mobile-responsive, by the way — was holding Cisco back. Despite the site’s myriad shortcomings, the school had established itself as a critical institution in its communities.

So the college calls us. (Because we’re focused on helping higher education institutions digitally transform themselves.)

And we got to work.

Project Goals

Designing a successful website means sharing a great story in an easy way. So our first step was to unleash Cisco’s story. What they offered astounded us:

  • Two separate campuses
  • 3,000+ students (larger than its community college peers in the region)
  • 300+ faculty and staff
  • 3-4% international students, with an eye toward increasing their global reach
  • Diverse academic programs that directly connect to cutting-edge jobs
  • Outsized investments in student support
  • Distance learning

That’s a lot to work with. But with a lot to work with comes a design challenge: What do we focus on?

For starters, the students. 

We believe that the hero of your organization’s story isn’t you; it’s your users. The old Cisco site didn’t feel open or welcoming to these heroes. It felt like it was designed for faculty and staff, not students.

We (strongly) believe that the hero of your organization’s story isn’t you, it’s your users—students, supporters, donors, etc.

A webpage has limited real estate. There’s only so much room to share content. So it was important to boil content down to basics. We helped Cisco turn its attention back to its students — emphasizing the three offerings Cisco’s students care about most:

  1. Variety of academic studies
  2. Low cost
  3. Substantial post-graduation salaries

Or, as Cisco succinctly puts it, “Learn More, Earn More, Spend Less.” 

The new website would be built upon those three pillars. Content that demonstrated or proved these concepts would get design priority; content that didn’t would get less focus.

A Note about Goals

Before your school invests in a major website redesign, you should ask yourself: Why are we doing this? What is our goal?

One of Cisco’s goals, for example, was to counter a nagging perception of the school: that it was small, old-school, out-of-touch. None of that was actually true, of course, but Cisco’s old website reinforced that myth.

In other words, the goals of your website redesign are often to change how the world sees you

But they’re also about being effective. And in Cisco’s case, this meant using the website as a recruiting tool — helping prospective students become enrolled ones.

Cisco College’s website would be critical as a recruiting tool for future students.

Simplifying the Experience

Cisco may be spread across two cities, but its website couldn’t feel like a commute. Before, the Cisco website divvied its messages up by campuses, disciplines, and student types. It was as confusing to navigate as it was to maintain in the CMS. The user journey didn’t make intuitive sense.

So our information architects spent much of their time simplifying the entire online experience — gathering, grouping, and categorizing the steps involved in converting a prospective student to an enrolled student (i.e., one of Cisco’s primary goals). Now, when potential Cisco College Wranglers visit, they have clear and relevant pathways to follow. They get it, instantly.

It was an absolute pleasure working with Mighty Citizen! The team was incredibly responsive to all of our questions, and they helped us to make informed decisions throughout the process. ” Kaitlin Berry, Director of Marketing and PR

Going Mobile

Cisco — like every single organization in the entire world — needed a mobile-friendly website. Students cruise potential colleges on their smartphones, not their laptops. 

Cisco—like every single organization in the entire world—needed a mobile-friendly website.

If you have a website that isn’t (a) mobile-responsive and, more importantly, (b) mobile-friendly, you’re missing opportunities. You’ll never know what you’re missing.

Fortunately, Cisco’s new website is mobile-tastic! 

At Mighty Citizen, we often design websites with mobile in mind first because we find that it’s easier to go from a restrictive size (i.e., smartphone) to a more expansive size (i.e., desktop). When we subject the mobile experience to the same thorough, collaborative design thinking that we give to desktop websites, the results are astounding. (It’s simply not good enough to “squish” a desktop to create a mobile version.)

Empowering the Web Team

For years, the Cisco website had fallen into disrepair. Despite an engaged, eager, and savvy team of marketers and IT pros at Cisco, the technology they were saddled with was difficult. Managing the website was a chore — the old CMS prone to hiccups and errors and bizarre behavior.

We deployed the Craft CMS — one of our favorites. Craft is one of the most user-friendly content management systems on the market, and our development experts love building on the Craft platform. It offers a live preview, simple workflows, and a modern user interface. Now, Cisco’s team has full and instant power over their new website. When something needs to change, it’s changed in a matter of a few clicks.

We also built their CMS using a “modular” approach. Modular design means giving the content manager more flexibility with a series of content modules (i.e., uniquely formatted content blocks) that they can use to construct pages in a way that works for their needs.

For example, if Cisco has 12 content modules, they can mix and match them on a single webpage, then mix and match them completely differently on the next page. This offers plenty of design flexibility to best showcase a page’s necessary content. However, we also provided a style guide to help ensure some level of brand consistency across these modular pages.

Using a modular design allowed for flexibility and empowerment for Cisco College’s web team.

Tracking Success

One of our unofficial mottos is: Research Kills Opinions. That’s why our Google-certified experts work so thoroughly on our clients’ Google Analytics and SEO strategies.

For Cisco, we started by setting up a fresh, comprehensive Google Analytics account. Important website interactions — like enrolling or registering for classes — happen outside the Cisco website on third-party platforms. But before, Cisco couldn’t track what was happening on those sites. They had no idea, for example, if students were “dropping off” of the enrollment process once they navigated to those external sites.

That’s all changed. Now, many of the forms have been moved onto the Cisco site, allowing the admissions and marketing teams to have a crystal clear image of how their site is performing. We also added Google Tag Manager to Cisco’s third-party tools, allowing us to perform cross-domain tracking for additional insight.

The Final Grade

The future of higher education is embodied by Cisco College. 

It’s inspiring to have clients who inspire.

They are helping to provide modern, world-class learning to a more rural part of the state — and, often, ushering their graduates to four-year schools and high-paying careers. They’re adopting and adapting. They’re investing in their students, listening to them, and responding quickly to their needs.

Who We Are Careers

Copyright © 2018 Mighty Citizen. All rights reserved.