User Research for Garrett-Evangelical

A scientific approach to user experience research turned Garrett-Evangelical’s new website into a high performing admissions tool.

Launch Website

Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary is among the nation’s top graduate seminary schools. They had a new brand, but updating their logo on the website was not enough to make the site work for them. The university asked Glantz to redesign and redevelop their website so that it:

  1. Generates more applicants
  2. Generates more donations
  3. Increases alumni engagement

Each goal spoke to a different type of person visiting the website: a prospective student, a potential or current donor, and alumni. Crafting a website that suited each of them required a research-driven approach.

Step 1: Identify what we *think* users need

We started with hypotheses about what content and functionality the audiences would need. Using Garrett-Evangelical’s recent market research, we crafted user stories for each type of website visitor. User stories are short, realistic descriptions of how a person might use a website to complete a task, such as researching degrees offered at Garrett-Evangelical.

Each assumption was vetted with the Garrett-Evangelical team and edited to make sure that the hypotheses rang true. 

Step 2: Bolster and debunk (!) our assumptions with research

Our user stories, or our hypotheses, were our starting points for deeper inquiry. We began with a series of interviews with Garrett-Evangelical students, admissions staff, and alumni. In each conversation, we uncovered insights about how people use the website. We also learned about what types of information is valuable or expected on the websites. International students, for example, expected to find detailed information about visa applications and directions to the university from the airport.


Screen shot of Garrett-Evangelical's international student resources page with frequently asked questions

We supplemented this first-hand research with qualitative studies from respected research firms. We also incorporated data from a survey executed by Garrett-Evangelical’s marketing team.

Step 3: Organize the information and craft a user experience

With these insights, we reorganized Garrett-Evangelical’s site architecture to make information findable. The main menu categories were reduced to five and re-ordered to give the Academics section prominence. Its position directly responded to student and university priorities. Students said their first priority on the site was to verify the school offered their preferred course of study. University staff touted the seminary’s reputation for academic rigor.

Step 4: Test and Iterate

Our research gave us confidence in our proposed information architecture and wireframes. Yet some decisions begged for confirmation. We needed to do further testing.

Testing with real website visitors allowed us to answer remaining questions before moving into development. We turned our wireframes into a robust prototype and asked recent college graduates to use it to research the university.

In particular, we focused on university housing, another important input to a student’s decision to apply. The test validated the Housing page’s placement in the menu and informed the page’s content and layout.

Invest in research to reach goals

At Glantz, we believe research-backed and human-centered designs result in high performing websites. Our partnership with Garrett-Evangelical helped us understand their website visitors and craft an experience tailored to their needs.

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