Rebuilding the Syracuse University website

A major content unification project, dramatically increased the University’s web signal, boosting search visibility and organic traffic with a fast, mobile-friendly, and accessible flagship website.

A new architecture

The launch of in 2017 was a major update to the University’s flagship website, designed and executed by the Online Platforms team. As a senior team member, I led research and used our findings to design the site’s information architecture. My role in the project also focused on the CMS migration from Cascade to WordPress, a domain migration from to, a new navigation system, technical SEO, page markup structures, and the development of a new analytics platform and metrics dashboard.

Page map of the Admissions browse category on outlining source sites.
A page map showing how five source sites would be combined into a single, SEO-friendly directory of the destination site.

The years before the redesign had seen the creation of many small, independent websites and a movement of content away from the main site ( Syracuse University was fortunate to have two domain names—the legacy of an early presence on the Internet. The project brought this content back home, consolidating dozens of sites into a unified, fast, modern front end using WordPress.

User research

Three people (off-camera) arranging topic cards into groups on a long table.
A card sorting exercise where participants arrange popular topics and tasks into groups. Patterns in the groupings are used to create and validate the primary navigation categories.

We conducted user research to determine users’ top tasks when visiting the site, the assumptions they make about where and how to find content, and their ethnographic contexts when encountering the site for the first time. Our senior interaction designer and I devised a navigation system and site search feature that were both simplified and emphasized, while keeping way-finding a top priority throughout the design.

Widescreen view of site navigation menu in closed and open states.’s minimalist, topic-oriented navigation opens to reveal organized Home browse categories with separate tabs that contain detail for Athletics and Alumni.

The University is academically diverse and decentralized, with many schools and colleges offering concentrations and degree programs to prospective students. For tasks that required filtering information across such a complex set of options, we provided dedicated search controls and combined them with a structured presentation of data, allowing for fast filtering of results by keyword alone, or by academic unit, carefully crafting usability across varying screen sizes.

Graduate Degree Program Finder with active search field above data table.
Program Finders quickly filter options in the table based on the user’s query.

For site search I made extensive use of Google Custom Search Engine’s faceted results to provide a brand-wide public search tool that emphasizes results for common searches while allowing users to quickly filter their results as needed.

Results for “majors” on with promoted result for “Undergraduate Majors and Minors.”
Site search defaults to “All results” but allows filtering by facets related to the query. When searching for “majors”, available facets include Veterans, Academics, Engineering, and Maxwell.

Better measurement

Measurement was another focal point for this project. Analytics tags on the legacy domain were isolated per site, leading to hundreds of siloed accounts scoped to individual administrative units. For I redesigned the tagging system using Google Tag Manager to distribute a global tracker across the web presence, and moved reporting from Google Analytics to a customized dashboard in Google Data Studio. This simplified report provisioning and enabled the inclusion of data from additional sources, including Google Search Console, YouTube, and Google Sheets.

Analytics and XML Sitemaps architecture for crawlers, tag management, and metrics reporting.
A centralized tagging system for global use across the Syracuse web presence that records all sessions to a common data set.

Digital dashboard and SEO

The Digital Dashboard provided the University’s first global reporting system for digital analytics. Our team’s platform operations specialists distributed the container across hundreds of legacy sites, enabling a centralized mechanism for tag management and capturing web session data at scale. I designed the first version of the report to break down acquisition sources, search keywords, campaigns, and site behavior for traffic across the web presence. A filtered list of unbranded search queries was included on the summary screen (i.e. on the first page) to raise awareness of the importance of organic traffic, and to surface content that gained traction with a general audience.

Analytics dashboard showing user acquisition sources, top content, entrance pages, and search terms.
Summary screen from the Digital Dashboard, the University’s first global web analytics reporting system. It provides at-a-glance session metrics, visit sources, and popular content, and automatically compares the data to the previous period based on chosen date range.

Supplemented with data from Moz, the Dashboard allowed the marketing team, as well as stakeholders across the organization, to see the impact of site consolidation on visitor traffic and the increasing visibility of our content in search results. Importantly, this tool enhanced the organization’s ability to measure SEO successes and uncover new opportunities, such as specific majors (e.g. “sport analytics major”) which came to rank at the top of results and won a featured snippet in the first year.

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