The Voice, an initiative of the Athabasca University Students’ Union, has been the official student magazine of Athabasca University for the past 26 years. When The Voice first approached Kobot, they were working with a website that was approximately 15 years old.
Athabasca University is a distance learning institution that provides post-secondary education for students who may not be able to attend a campus-centric institution, or who are just interested in a different approach to university. As part of a institution where few students attend a physical campus, digital avenues are often the only connections that this publication is able to make with its audiences.
Creating better connections
Over its lifespan, The Voice has built strong connections with a committed group of student readers and contributors. Long-term students, usually with their own full-time careers outside Athabasca University, came back year after year to write for or read their favourite column. But a huge challenge for The Voice was that, being part of a distance-learning institution, their website was the only point of contact they had with readers and potential readers. And their website was roughly 15 years behind the times.
- The Challenge Bringing the website into the modern day. We wanted to keep the website feeling like home for the dedicated visitors who come back every week. But we also wanted to create a site that would draw in new audiences, and appeal to people who felt like they were missing a sense of community in their university experience.
- The Solution A totally new design direction. We migrated and archived all of their pre-existing content in order to preserve the magazine's legacy in a cleaner, more user-friendly package. Then, starting with fresh new branding, we worked the site over from top to bottom. Kobot created a stronger flow throughout the site, leading users to more content that might interest them.
- The Results A website that looks great and works great. The site looks clean and modern, so it’s incredibly easy to navigate. And the backend got a total refresh, so updating content is easy as pie, and far more efficient.
Modernize, modernize, modernize
First impressions are important, especially on the web; your organization’s website can lend (or take away) a lot of credibility. Because this website is the only point of contact for The Voice’s audience, we figured it couldn’t be overstated how important it is to make a solid first impression.
With that in mind, we brought the website into a new era in both design and functionality. We designed an entirely new logo that better reflected the magazine’s personality and roots. At the end of each article there are recommended related articles, and of course—responsive design. Students at Athabasca University, much like everywhere else, are likely always on the go. So making the website function well on mobile devices is a definite must.
Build digital bridges
A defining function of The Voice magazine is providing a sense of community for students in a situation where some might feel there is none. For many of the students of Athabasca University, the fundamental community aspect of the normal university experience is missing. So, The Voice provides students with ways to connect and communicate with each other, and show that their experience is more universal than they might think.
With this in mind, we made sure to add in community-building functions. Students have the ability to comment and start discussions at the end of every post, and we made sure to add social sharing buttons for Twitter, Facebook, and Google+.
Make updating easy as pie
One of the challenges that The Voice’s crew faced was that the website not only looked out of date, the backend was a pain to update. The full-time staff member who was in charge of publishing each edition of the magazine would have to set aside a full 8 hours for content input alone. And frankly, who has the time for that!
So, Kobot made updating the site beyond easy. We custom-build the majority of our sites on WordPress, because we feel it’s one of the most-user friendly and adaptable sites on the market. A pretty superb bonus to making content input easier? You can publish content more often. We wanted to give The Voice this capability so they could keep their readers coming back even more than once an issue.
We went from an outdated, user-unfriendly site to a fresh new website that made our online magazine relevant again. This included a new logo as part of our re-brand that also looks fantastic - we couldn't be happier with the outcome of this entire project.
Jodi Campbell, Executive Director Athabasca University Students’ Union
This site was a great opportunity for Kobot to flex its branding muscles. Our work on The Voice shows how we can breathe new life into a brand, while still staying true to their audiences and their intent. This magazine works hard to create a community among geographically disparate groups, so we built them a more effective tool to foster a stronger digital community.
Visit The Voice