Chowan University is a Christian educational institution founded in 1848 by Baptist families and named Chowan – which means “people of the south” – to honor the Native American Algonquin Chowanook tribe. For over 165 years, Chowan has enjoyed a long and distinguished tradition of faith and education. Prior to 2015, their website was in static HTML, and they had to rely on a web professional outside the organization to add or update any content. Chowan University needed a new website that would give staff the ability to make their own updates and be fully responsive for viewing on all screen sizes. The site would need to showcase the university, serve as a recruitment tool for potential students and link current students, staff and faculty to campus information and resources.
Skvare was chosen for their expertise in Drupal and CiviCRM. Drupal is an excellent CMS for a university, given that it’s robust and scalable, gives users the ability to update content, and is supported by a large open source community.
The main features provided for Chowan University were:
- Foolproof editing abilities on the administrative side requiring no knowledge of HTML
- Mobile-responsive design and clear navigation for users
- Highly organized page and menu structure
- An appealing look to market the university to new students
Versatile content type
Skvare built a Complex Page Content Type to allow Chowan staff to easily author new content that is styled correctly, without needing to know any CSS or HTML. The Complex Page has many different types of fields and layouts that are matched with styling on the front end. The Field Collection module helped Skvare create page sections that can be enabled or disabled by the content creator. On the administrative side, there are ten tabs that appear on the Complex Page Content Type. Each tab links to a layout section, such as a gallery, a column of text with an image, a slider panel, faculty profiles and other layout combinations that can be found on the site. In this way a variety of page layouts can be created from one common, easy to use interface. A page author can add text and images to the layout style that they want to use, and only those enabled sections will be displayed. The Complex Page content type ensures that page authors can add images and text to the site while maintaining a look that’s consistent with other pages on the website.
The Bean module is used to make editing blocks easy for staff. Bean allows you to make block types that are fieldable, allowing staff members to change text or images in the template without worrying about HTML formatting. This module is useful - similar functionality is now part of Drupal 8 core.
The site is fully responsive for viewing on all screen sizes. Senior Developer Mark Hanna used AdaptiveTheme as a base theme to build the mobile-responsive layout. It’s lightweight and features configuration plugins. AdaptiveTheme also uses HTML5 and meets WCAG 2.0 Accessibility standards. Chowan University’s graphic designer provided the navigation elements and page layouts as a basis for the site design.
A custom-built, fully responsive menu is featured prominently at the top of all pages. The large main menu has more than 40 links to admissions, academics, campus life, and resources. Interior pages with additional child pages display menu navigation options in the form of a Hamburger Icon Section Menu. Breadcrumbs displayed on interior pages also help with navigation.
Photo handling and display
The website has many large photos, with a jumbotron image slider at the top of homepage, an additional slider option for interior pages, and many images throughout. The jumbotron at the top of the homepage uses the FlexSlider Field Collection module and the Views Slideshow Xtra module.
To speed up image loading times Skvare used the Picture module, which optimizes images for different devices and resolutions by pairing image sizes with CSS media queries. The Image Cache module, which is part of Drupal 7 core, is used in conjunction to speed image loading and control image size in a consistent fashion.
A mini-jumbotron near the bottom of the homepage features an overlay of text with a colored fade.
There’s a filmstrip slider at the bottom of the homepage, created with the Slick module, that displays social media feeds.
Skvare implemented Personalized URL’s for Chowan University to use as a recruitment tool. PURLs can be used by institutions of higher education to deliver personalized content to potential students. Those students can be assigned a website with their name in the URL that returns information about the college or university that relates to the students’ interests and academic specialization. PURLs can track a user through multiple steps of engagement, leading to higher response rates and accurate reporting.
Chowan University and other educational institutions have taken advantage of PURL functionality developed by Skvare to enhance recruitment efforts.
Chowan University was very pleased with the new website. Unlike before, staff can now make updates on their own. The beautiful design and mobile-friendly layout make it appealing to visitors. The PURLs increased engagement, giving the university another powerful tool to cultivate prospective students.