Harvard Law School
In addition to a partner who could shepherd HLS through an 18-month content migration project, they needed a website that fostered departmental governance.
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.
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.
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.
Surfacing content in a stack of 5,000 pages
Higher education institutions typically have a lot of web content to support, and the world’s largest law school is no exception.
HLS’s content creators needed users to be able to make sense of the thousands of pages available to them by surfacing groups of links related by department or intended audience. This meant not only eliminating pages whose sole purpose was hosting a list of 30+ links but also displaying related links in meaningful groups that allowed for contextual descriptions and scannability.
Empowering departmental governance
Harvard Law School is composed of many unique departments, each acting as its own small business unit. It’s important for the director of each department to own their content, and their content creators expected a clear division between departments.
We built a unique content strategy and permission-based solution that gives departments the ability to both create and own content, so it’s clustered in a way that’s easy for creators to locate and share with the rest of the organization where appropriate. This resulted in a digital strategy that maps directly to the org’s structure.
A design-forward website gives Harvard the ability to weave a compelling narrative around the university’s community, academics, and research.
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