Adding Some Bark to Penn Vet’s Website Redesign

With two prestigious animal hospitals, a nationally top-ranked academic program, and teams of dedicated researchers, The University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine (or Penn Vet) is a world-renowned institution dedicated to advancing the health of animals and humans alike. Unfortunately, its website had grown dated and needed an overhaul.

Project Background

eCity’s initial involvement with Penn Vet was on a successful email fundraising campaign. After the campaign’s completion, however, it was apparent to us (and to Penn Vet) that their email marketing would be much more effective if users were sent to a website that was better organized and more visually appealing than their existing site. Years of unmanaged growth had resulted in a disorganized, hard-to navigate site.

Penn Vet's former homepage
Penn Vet’s former website

We knew we could help give Penn Vet the modern, easy-to-use site the institution and its visitors deserve.

We started off by conducting a usability study, asking participants to conduct simple tasks on the existing site. These tests not only confirmed that site visitors were having a hard time finding the content they needed, but gave us insights into the top use cases for various audiences coming to the website.

After diagnosing the issues with the current site, we developed a strategy on how to build a website that would fairly represent Penn Vet’s various departments in a cohesive way that also reflected the parent University of Pennsylvania brand.

Research & Discovery

Research for the project was extensive. We completed a deep, detailed discovery phase to understand the school’s business goals, talk to the site’s users, and determine the requirements of what we would build. This process included:

  • A complete site audit to inventory and classify existing content
  • An analytics review of site traffic
  • Interviews with over 25 Penn Vet stakeholders
  • Competitive analysis of 17 other veterinary hospital and school websites
  • Three focus groups conducted with:
    • Ryan Veterinary Hospital clients
    • New Bolton Center clients
    • Referring veterinarians
  • Group stakeholder meetings with a feature prioritization exercise

All of our research culminated in a Summary Findings and Recommendations Report, which identified the major trends seen throughout the discovery process, which informed our development of the new site’s content and technical requirements.

The new Penn Vet website would be easier to use and simpler to manage. It would also highlight Penn Vet’s unique position within the University and better communicate its three pillars of education, hospitals, and research to visitors. It would also better showcase some of Penn Vet’s world-class facilities, like the Ryan Hospital, New Bolton Center, and many research labs.

New Site Organization, Design & Development

Penn Vet new website

Penn Vet’s new homepage

Using the discovery findings as a foundation, the rebuild was a thorough undertaking. We created site maps and wireframes to define the new structure for the site, which now boasts a clean, modern design and a homepage that showcases Penn Vet’s impact on global health. We also provided stunning new photography of the campuses and facilities as well as head shots for the entire staff and faculty.

The new website includes many new features, such as:

  • An events calendar and news section, each filterable by category
  • An archive of multiple print publications
  • Pages for individual research centers
  • Listings of active clinical trials, categorized by animal or trial type
  • Faculty listings that integrate with an external database
  • Photo slideshows displaying photography from around the campuses

To improve things from the administrative angle, we employed a Sitefinity content management system, where Penn Vet admins can create custom workflows and edit page content and templates with ease.

Of course, improved layouts and features mean nothing if users aren’t able to find the site, so we used search engine optimized coding for the URL structures of the site, and SEO best practices for formatting new pages. We also allowed for advanced tracking of site traffic through Google Analytics conversion tracking, goals, and funnels, as well as custom analytics reporting.

We were proud to partner with Penn Vet on this project and are even prouder of the results. A world-class institution finally has a website to match.

You can learn a bit more about our process in our Work section, or feel free to get in touch if you’d like to talk to us in person about how we can apply the same principles to your web project.

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