University of Wolverhampton: WVLife Goes Digital

01 Challenge

The University of Wolverhampton had previously produced an annual alumni magazine, showcasing alumni success stories from around the world, university news, alumni benefits, and opportunities to get involved with their alumni volunteer and fundraising programmes.

Now, they wanted to go digital.

With 98% of their contactable alumni not subscribed to the physical magazine and located in 130 different countries around the world, their high-quality physical magazine wasn’t able to have the reach or engagement it deserved, and that’s where a digital magazine could thrive.

As such, the Alumni Team contacted Brew to design and develop a new alumni magazine web platform for the 21/22 academic year and beyond. It had to be:

  • Visually engaging
  • Interactive
  • Targeted

And that’s not all… Ultimately, it needed to create a sense of community, nostalgia, and belonging, inspiring alumni to keep their details up to date with the university, stay connected, and get involved with current initiatives, students, and fellow alumni.

Client

University of Wolverhampton

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02 Approach

Building unshakeable brand foundations

We began with a brand workshop to understand the full story behind University of Wolverhampton Alumni, giving us insight into:

  • Priorities
  • Objectives
  • Audiences
  • Desired design and tone of voice

Designing a magazine-worthy website platform

Using this workshop’s output and brand guidelines, we launched into the first steps of creating a unique website design for an eye-catching online magazine. This involved a style extrapolation, understanding the client’s expectations alongside current trends and opportunity for innovation – we wanted to push this website as far as we could.

It was clear that the University of Wolverhampton were willing to take risks and push the boundaries of website design – willing to jump in and collaborate at every step in the workshop and planning stage – which meant that the design stages flowed smoothly, and we created a design that really excited the team from the get-go.

Prototypes were approved in record time, allowing us to move onto design mock-ups of key pages and approve user-journeys at both desktop and mobile level before getting to asset creation stage.

Let’s get technical

From a technical point of view, the website was built on a WordPress Content Management System (CMS) using the Gutenberg editor to provide maximum flexibility for content editing across the site. This will allow the team to build pages by combining a series of modules in any order they wish.

WordPress was used as a headless CMS, which means plugins that provide functionality through WordPress to the front-end are limited as the front-end is separated from the system. This setup enables the front end of the website to be built on Gatsby – a modern, front-end build tool that improves load times, general user experience, and integration possibilities.

It also provides a massive improvement on the security of the website as WordPress is not being used to serve the content directly and the pages are all statically generated. This reduces the possibility of security issues – and who doesn’t love that?

Functionality was used to enable a:

  • Rotating carousel for users to flick through different editions of the magazine
  • Tagging system to determine related articles to encourage users to continue reading
  • Separate news feed that sits outside of previous magazine content
  • Seamless publishing ability for the university – crucial for time-sensitive information that can’t wait until the next edition is published.

Personalised content and holistic reporting

The tagging system also enables templated personas to be created using tag combinations and email links to the website. This allows University of Wolverhampton to assign personas to their alumni contacts and personalise email links for them so that when they click through to the website from an email, the article order they see will match their assigned persona.

From a reporting perspective, the website was setup on GA4, Google’s new analytics product. GA4 is the newest version of Google Analytics and it differs from previous Universal Analytics in many ways, most notably that it has the capability to track multiple touchpoints – including apps – to provide a holistic view of user journeys in one place.

Rotating carousel for users to flick through different editions of the magazine

Tagging system to determine related articles to encourage users to continue reading

Seamless publishing ability for the university - crucial for time-sensitive information that can't wait until the next edition is published.

03 Outcome

A website that is already being highly praised throughout the university.

The alumni team can now deliver their WVLife magazine to 100% of their contactable alumni database, encouraging contributors, featured alumni, and honourary doctorates to share within their communities.

We can also give you a few statistics to back up our claims:

Over the course of the academic year:

  • Alumni across 65 countries have accessed WLV Magazine.
  • The website is successfully compatible across different devices, with:
    • 55% of users using mobile to access the site.
    • 43% using desktop to access the site.
  • We have seen students use different interaction features such as scrolling and form submissions.
  • We have seen students access different stories:
    • Alumni Love Stories.
    • Alumni Honoured by Queen.
  • We have seen students access the magazine via a range of different sources, such as:
    • Linkedin.
    • Facebook.
    • Twitter.

They also have an online magazine they’re proud of, with the added bonus of being able to publish individual articles through all communication channels – some news just can’t wait until next year’s volume, you know?

Like what you see?

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