Our first big UX project of 2012 was the digital Prospectus for Ravensbourne, a specialist university for Design & Communication, sitting next door to the O2 on the Greenwich Peninsula.

An Academic market place


After a few meetings with the staff at Ravensbourne’s Comms department, it was clear they wanted to think differently about their prospectus. They wanted something unique and clear – after all, the prospectus is a university’s shop front.

So that became the starting point for creating a fresh user experience at rave.ac.uk/prospectus:

The user is a prospective student, shopping around for the best courses.

Therefore, we approached the site like an online store would:

  • help the user find what they want quickly
  • show them other things they might like
  • make it easy to take their items away with them.

It’s that last part that I’ll be looking at in more detail here.

A Course Cart

It’s often likely that a prospective student will only have an idea about the type of course they want to do when ‘shopping around’. In redesigning the content structure of the Digital Prospectus, we linked courses together via common traits and career possibilities. We also linked every course to a career, so that a student could look at things from the point of view of ‘What I Want To Be’ as well as ‘What I Want To Study’, since most 17-18 year olds have yet to figure out one or both of those. So, it’s likely that they’re going to come away from the Ravensbourne Digital Prospectus with more than one course to reference.

When a student likes the look of a course, they add it to their ‘Course Cart’, putting it in their trolley for later. When they’re finished looking around the Ravensbourne prospectus they ‘check out’, as they would in a physical or online shop.

Check this out.

Checking Out

Now, when you’re Checking Out of a shop, you’ve made a definitive choice about what you want to buy. A university prospectus is not a place where students make their final choice – that’s UCAS. We’re helping a prospective student, prospecting for possible choices. So the Check Out needs to do something different according to a number of different user journeys.

The most simple of these user journeys is the downloading of your choices – your own personal Prospectus that only features the courses you’re interested in. This PDF download also comes with further information pages about the university and how to apply so that, really, the student doesn’t have to come back to the site.

Next, we think about what the student will want to do with the courses they’ve added to their ‘Course Cart’. From user research we found that prospective students rarely make the choice alone. They talk to their parents about it, their teachers, and their peers. So the student needs a quick way to share their Course Cart with these different audiences.

Each of these audiences will use different channels of communication, so the Share panel of the Course Cart has options that serve each audience. An e-mail to your parents and/or teachers, social networks for your peers.

Thanks for Shopping With Us

This was only one facet of the site, but defining this approach early on allowed us to retain the user sentiment of a Good Shopping Experience throughout Ravensbourne’s Digital Prospectus.

It worked because the analogy was appropriate to the needs of the user by helping them every step of the way and going that extra mile; and the client by creating something unique that sets them apart from other academic institutions.

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