Standford Sunset

A Fresh Face For The Farm

We worked with Stanford University Communications to redesign as a distinctive and inviting front door to a dynamic and pioneering institution. The home page, and a compact set of overview pages, must welcome visitors and direct them to the best destination among dozens of separate websites.

A screenshot of the old Stanford University home page

The previous home page led with an assortment of news stories, and no message.

Universities face particular challenges communicating online. While each is a unique institution, they all share a common set of constituent parts, give or take a medical school or a rugby team. Admissions. Academic departments. Student life. Research. Public events.

This common structure combined with a need to represent diverse concerns results in a notable sameness across sites. Without looking at the logo it can be hard to tell one university from another.

A screenshot of the new Stanford University home page

We designed the home page with change in mind. A system of flexible content blocks gives the communications team a lot to work with.

Clearly Stanford, the new site opens with the confidence of a single vibrant image. As you scroll down the page, the curtain slides up to reveal news and announcements.

It’s easy to talk in impressive generalities. Stanford is awash in superlatives—the most selective undergraduate program in America, origin of world-changing technology companies, also home to a leading hospital and medical research center. But the unexpected details are what makes Stanford interesting.

Talking to staff and students gave us the insights we needed. We heard stories about the vast opportunities, the unparalleled community, the commitment to service, and of course, the beautiful campus in the West.

We sought out the particulars that set it apart and created a system to incorporate these into a meaningful whole. Everyone should get where they need to go, but maybe we can catch their eye with something neat along the way. And for the benefit of the Communications team, we designed a flexible system of modular elements that can accommodate changing seasons as well as changing strategy.

Rather than a news carousel, a pleasing, scannable hierarchy gives each story room to breathe. Events follow, offering a taste of the full calendar. The rest of the page reflects the order of the main navigation. We pushed information forward to make the home page a useful resource in its own right, and to reinforce the message that this is a deeply interconnected institution. The next level of pages continues the story and serves as a directory to everything Stanford offers.

It’s not enough to offer visitor information, we want to entice everyone to see Stanford for themselves, and then offer ways to experience the campus immediately from wherever they are. For those who do visit in person, parking information is very popular, and very necessary.

An image of the Dish and the navigation to visitor information

We can’t control the weather, but we can subtly acknowledge it’s an advantage.

The second tier provides context for the many potential paths. Clean, scannable directory lists live alongside contextual information that offers an immediate sense of the work and where it takes place. This is a very small site that does a big job to bring Stanford University to the world.

A screenshot of the Research landing page

The Research landing page offers a look at a selection of the facilities where the work happens, reinforcing the sense of place.

We collaborated closely with the delightful University Web Communications team throughout the project. Working from our prototypes and documentation, they built in Wordpress and launched the site.

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Hero image: Waqas Mustafeez on Flickr