St.Anselm College

Doing More With Less: Benefits of A Design System Audit

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Services

  • Strategy
  • UX

Categories

  • Design System
  • Drupal
  • Education
  • Non-profit

Looking to overhaul a collection of 14 unique digital platforms owned by various departments and partners, the web services team at St. Anselm’s College had their work cut out for them. Before embarking on this massive redesign project, the team asked Oomph to conduct a design system audit. We delivered a streamlined design system with the efficiencies, flexibility, and consistency to better serve the college’s diverse array of stakeholders — all while enhancing the web team’s effectiveness.

The Brief

Saint Anselm College and their web services team were planning to launch a major redesign of their Drupal web infrastructure. Like many institutions, they have a decentralized system where different departments and campus partners are responsible for managing their own content — in some cases, they maintained their own separate sites. Over time, this system spawned a lot of one-off solutions built for individual use cases, with varying functionalities and styles.

This posed a challenge for the college’s web services team, the central group tasked with technical support. They wanted to create a cohesive user experience with consistent branding and a simplified digital architecture, but also had to meet the unique requirements of each department.

Before embarking on the redesign, the team enlisted Oomph to conduct a comprehensive design system audit. Our goal was to deliver recommendations for a core set of design components, allowing the team to develop a unified system for all content creators and begin the redesign on the right foot.

The Approach

The web team had two primary goals: streamline the design system for more cohesive content and easier maintenance, and reinforce St. Anselm’s branding across all digital properties. A secondary goal was to ensure creators would have the tools and flexibility they needed.

To meet these goals, we had to determine which components were used the most frequently, what variations of those components existed, and which ones were essential to the user experience across platforms. Then we needed to create alignment among key stakeholders around which components were the most effective.

Design component audit

Using a combination of automated software crawls and manual audits, we indexed and analyzed design components across thousands of URLs. We performed both quantitative and qualitative data analyses, tracking which pages used each component and how each use case differed. A key focus was identifying the most commonly used component “themes” across the college’s platforms.

We conducted seven virtual workshops, walking different groups through the pros and cons of a design system, and capturing their pain points using the current web platform to communicate with students.

Stakeholder interviews

Having discovered a number of outliers among the design components, we presented the audit results to content creators from various departments and partners. During these in-depth discussions, we sought to understand core elements of the creation process:

  • What were the target audience’s common needs across different platforms
  • Which design components were most effective at delivering content and functionality
  • What made it challenging for some departments to maintain their content
  • Why certain unique use cases might be important
  • How the content creation process could be more efficient

By reviewing the most frequently used design components and assessing the value of any outliers, we were able to whittle the list of components down to the minimum that the creators could effectively use.

Reduced content types from 24 to 10

-58.3%

Reduced components from 38 to 13

-65.7%

From 14 website into 1 platform

-92.8%

The Results

Upon completing the audit, we compiled a list of recommendations that included:

  • Guidance for designing a new information architecture
  • A collection of core design components with various styling options
  • Improved workflows and processes for more efficient content management
  • A consolidated content model with new content types, taxonomies, and design components

By unifying design themes and components across all digital properties, the new system would not only make it faster and easier for authors to create or modify content, it would also provide a more consistent experience for platform users.

Existing conditions on the left, new Content Model map on the right. Reducing the number of content types, taxonomies, and design components helps the college do more with less. Less maintenance and technical debt, less cognitive load for authors to use the system, and less cognitive load for visitors to experience the content.

The Benefits

As for the web services team, they would realize a number of significant benefits:

  • Cost savings for the upcoming design and build projects
  • Lower costs of long-term system maintenance
  • Increased digital ownership, with less reliance on outside vendors
  • Faster timelines for strategic improvements across platforms
  • Less support time required, as content creators would be more self-sufficient
  • Greater ease in creating the help documentation to support content owners

The impact of having an outside team lead tough internal and sometimes political conversations can not be understated. The Web Services team greatly benefitted from having their points of view underscored by a third party who could also keep them focused and honest in their approach. By the end of our conversations, all campus partner teams were aligned in the purpose of the website and ready to embark on the next phase of the project.

Thinking of launching a major redesign project? We’d love to help set you up for success. Contact us today to learn more.