Rain or Shine: College of Southern Maryland Redesigns Website to Reach Students During a Tough Year

Beacon Blog Article

By Victor Ayala | Published July 27, 2021 | Categories: Higher Education , Beacon News , Digital Marketing , Creative Design

In 2019, the College of Southern Maryland ("CSM") decided it was time to make a change to their website. It hadn't seen much love since a redesign in 2015 and faced many of the problems that commonly plague college websites: drab design, unfriendly navigation, academic jargon, and more.

They knew they needed an engaging, responsive, and cutting-edge website to bring their diverse audiences the online experience they deserved. After a lengthy proposal process, CSM decided the team at Beacon was the best for the job—and we were!

But no one could have anticipated the challenges of 2020.

What began as a typical (i.e., awesome and industry-leading) higher ed website redesign project quickly became a test of mettle for both CSM's Director of Web Services, Kristen Titsworth, and our own team here at Beacon.

image of puzzle pieces

The Perfect Match

The college was looking for a partner that understood both Cascade CMS and the unique offerings and mission of community colleges, and fortunately, we fit the bill.

"As a community college, it's difficult because our target market is so large," Titsworth said. "When we talk about prospective students, we can be talking about everyone from kids to much older adults. It's driver's ed, workforce training, degree programs, children's programs, and all these other services. A community college is so different from a four-year college, so Beacon's experience was important."

Their hopes for the site included an engaging and responsive design, the latest technology and web trends, and a seamless user experience from homepage to application and enrollment. The project incorporated elements from all of Beacon's service areas: strategy, content, design, web development, digital marketing, and web hosting.

It was a perfect match! We were thrilled to get the ball rolling with our new partner and began work in January 2020. But we hadn't gotten far when the pandemic disrupted everything.

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A Proven Partner in Unprecedented Times

Early in the project, the COVID-19 pandemic moved work from office buildings into private homes. An already small CSM web team saw unexpected changes and challenges; when a colleague had to leave their position to take care of their children, Kristen Titsworth became the sole member of the CSM web team.

As a long-time partner and supporter of our nation's higher ed institutions, we were glad to step in and offer CSM the support they needed to keep things moving and get to the finish line.

"We were transitioning to remote work, developing a whole COVID website, performing emergency communication management," Titsworth said. "All these things took so much time and attention away from our redesign, but Beacon was really helpful as we kept adding things to the project, whether it was content migration, setting up our Google Analytics, or other additional site features."

Despite the initial challenges, our partnership with CSM yielded a new and improved website that launched in March 2021.

Gone are the drab colors, massive lists of links, and unfriendly navigation.

"People are really enjoying the design in general," Titsworth said. "It's so clean, it's very colorful, and it's also great how it's laid out. It's helped us to take a step back and think about what we're offering [our students]. It got us thinking, 'how can we use this great design and all these features to tell a story and get them what they need?'"

image of students on computers

A Lasting Partnership

Since launch, we've continued our work with CSM on some additional projects, as well as our web hosting and web health management services. A recent project included a quick turnaround for an associated subsite, MCET.org.

"With our latest site, we were up against a deadline because a prior content management system subscription was ending. It was very much a last minute kind of thing," Titsworth said. "Beacon built the template, got it to us on a Tuesday, I migrated content on a Wednesday, and we were live by Friday. We're lucky Beacon was able to turn on a dime for us."

Through the ups and downs of the last year, one of the things Titsworth recalls most warmly is our teamwork and collaborative approach.

"A lot of times, you're working with a vendor and some things get lost in translation," she said. "I really liked being able to talk to the designers and developers. I could ask questions and get the answers directly from the experts, like Zed, A.J., Ashley, James, and the others."

Need a Web Design and Digital Marketing Expert for Your Website? Call Beacon!

If you need an experienced, responsive, through-thick-and-thin type of partner for your next website redesign, look no further. Bringing together the creativity of a marketing agency and the technical expertise of an IT firm, we'll make your site the marketing tool you need to recruit and retain the students of today and tomorrow.

Take a look at our work, peruse our services, or call us today!

Let's get to work!

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