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Harvard Law School

How we built Harvard Law School a website as distinguished as their reputation

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The challenge

In addition to a partner who could shepherd HLS through an 18-month content migration project, they needed a website that fostered departmental governance.

The Solution

Execute a staggered content migration strategy, then design and build a permission-based WordPress solution that gives 30+ departments the ability to create and own content.

The Harvard Law School homepage featuring Loretta Lynch and Barack Obama

Migrating, then redesigning

HLS needed to transition from their existing content management system to WordPress and fast. With little to no editorial tools, a lackluster media management system, and a waiting period just to get page content updated, many departments were thinking of jumping ship. It was easier to manage content on a separate domain with a do-it-yourself system than it was to use the school’s site.

Our teams quickly agreed it was best to avoid a mad scramble to migrate 30+ departments all at once. Further, the staff available to tackle content migration and training varies from department to department depending on the time of year. This meant some departments needed to migrate much sooner than we’d be able to accommodate during a full redesign and build.

An illustration showing the deprecated cms, interim state, and finished replatform.

Letting go of the big reveal

We developed an interim design that closely mirrored the existing layout and navigation, though we like to think it improved on the experience. This allowed us to quickly lay down a framework for migrating all content but postpone most of the design work necessary to repurpose migrated content.

Within two months, we launched our first department. It lived side by side with the legacy system and was similar enough that it didn’t create a jarring user experience. Over the course of a year, we launched a new set of departments every month.

Elements of the hls design system

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