Portfolio – ExecOnline Marketing Site
ExecOnline Marketing Site
When I came into my first role on the ExecOnline marketing team at the beginning of 2017, our small but mighty department was in the midst of executing a rebranding – a new logo, new messaging, and a new look and feel for the B2B marketing site. One year later, we did (what seemed like) the unthinkable – another new design for the marketing site. This time around, I was involved from the very beginning of the process. We took into consideration where the previous marketing site had gone wrong, largely due to poor usability, outdated design (especially in comparison to competitors in the edtech space), lack of understanding of user personas, and low conversion rates.
I was tasked with building the initial concept to present to the senior management team – we needed their buy-in to procure the budget to make this redesign come to life.
The elements I felt were of highest priority for the new marketing site included:
- Intuitive navigation to allow users to access pages quickly and easily (and effectively segment our two main audiences, buyers vs. participants)
- Obvious and frequent calls-to-action to generate more qualified leads and drive program enrollment
- A structure that allowed for scalability and growth as ExecOnline built new programs, launched new products, and announced new school partnerships
From a design standpoint, the site absolutely needed a refresh to be more on par with other edtech vendors in the marketplace. We needed a sleek, modern design to build credibility and appeal to our target audience. However, this was not something that would resonate with the senior management team, as they felt the current site looked fine. Though the beauty of the site was a high priority in my mind, in order to gain buy-in I had to effectively communicate that a new design would ultimately drive the types of results that senior leadership would be most interested in, such as an increase in MQLs generated and the number of program participants enrolled.
Although presenting compelling mockups to the senior management team was top of mind, my primary goal was to create a cohesive and memorable user experience. A recurring challenge we face is how to segment the user personas that visit the site; we have considered prompting the user to go one of two ways upon entering the site (i.e. “click here if you are an enterprise looking to partner” vs. “click here if you are a leader looking to learn”). However, much of the difference here has to do with the messaging, and at the time of the redesign we were such a lean team that it made the most sense to keep the site as simple as possible and create an experience that works for both audiences.
The Design Process
The first step in my design process was to build out sketches to illustrate my vision and the user experience. The current version of the site had an extremely long homepage with many calls to action and little information of value above the fold.
My idea was to consolidate; put everything above the fold and limit the calls to action to exactly what we want our users to do – learn more, or convert to a lead.
The nav would include clear calls to action for each user persona: 1) users that are enrolled in a program who want to access the learning platform, 2) users who want to enroll in a program, and 3) users who are HR buyers that are ready to convert and have a conversation.
Initial Homepage Wireframe
I started with the pages that represented distinct concepts as wireframes, and then began designing them as PSDs. ExecOnline’s senior management team better understands and visualizes marketing initiatives when they are as fully baked as possible, so designing the pages and walking them through the user’s journey made the most sense.
School Partner Mockup
The Development Process
After presenting our proposed redesign to the senior management team, we were given the go-ahead and the development process began. I passed my mockups along to our developer, with in-depth specs for each page detailing the important design elements, as well as the functionality we needed on the front- and back-end.
We did face some significant challenges throughout the development process. Despite my instructions, pages on the staging site looked quite different from my initial mockups. After several iterations and many communications between our team and our developer’s team, there were still many differences from a visual standpoint.
In the end, the senior management team decided that the site was close enough to what they were looking for functionality-wise, and we were given direction to go live with the staging site and shift our focus to other marketing priorities. While I would have liked to have seen the designs executed to precision, I realize that tradeoffs are sometimes necessary at the strategic level.
The new design has effectively doubled our amount of inbound MQLs. A big part of this is due to the increased frequency of CTAs across the site to convert users to leads. Enrollment through the website has also seen a significant increase – specifically in terms of our open enrollment accounts, as we have been able to build out dedicated, custom landing pages for each client to point potential participants to.
Additionally, my initial intent for the site’s structure to support product expansion was successful, as we are able to easily implement changes to the offerings on the site. Since the initial launch, we have only needed to design and develop two additional landing page templates, and overall the site scales very well as ExecOnline’s portfolio diversifies and grows.
Opportunities to Improve
One of the main challenges the ExecOnline marketing team faces is our size – the team is made up of the Sr. Director of Marketing and myself. At a growing organization with over 100 employees and 250 clients, this severely limits our capacity to dive as deeply as we would like into research and reporting.
With the initial launch of this site, I would have loved to have been able to do A/B testing of the design, messaging, and calls-to-action. To have insight into what is really resonating with our users and driving the most results would be invaluable, and only improve our ability to effectively communicate with our target audience and provide them with a better experience. Usability testing would also be a great way to provide us with really interesting insights about where our users focus their attention on the page, and the ways in which they interact and engage with our content.
Additional metrics would have also helped us better measure the success of the new design and give us a more solid benchmark to prove that the initiative and investment was a worthwhile one. Also, better measurement could help further demonstrate the value the marketing team can offer the organization – and potentially make the business case for hiring more people on the team!
The unique challenges I faced related to designing this particular site certainly helped to prepare me for future projects that I would be a part of. As a designer, one of the most difficult parts of the process can be receiving constructive feedback on a design that you feel strongly about. However, a big part of the job is being able to sell and position your work to stakeholders involved in the process, while simultaneously understanding and incorporating their feedback.
And, iterations to your work are not a bad thing! Gaining someone else’s perspective, especially when you are so close to a project, can be extremely beneficial in understanding how a real user might interact with your design. I went through numerous versions of each page and, while it might have seemed a bit frustrating at the time, in hindsight I can look back and see why the initial design did not make as much sense, and realize that the right decisions were made in moving forward with the final, iterated version.