The Open College of the Arts
A new site for OCA, powered by WordPress, restructures the online learning college’s application process and provides an easy-to-manage platform for daily updates. In the six months after launch, they saw 20.1% more new visitors and 36.4% more enrolments than the same period the year before.View Website
About the Open College of the Arts
Founded in 1987 by Michael Young and based in Barnsley, OCA is the distance learning partner of the University for the Creative Arts, delivering a wide range of online higher education arts courses to students around the world. With an open access policy, the college accepts enrolments every day of the year.
The OCA website had been in use for about three years, and the team felt it was time for an update. Key requirements were for a more coherent design language, a more straightforward and logical user journey, and a change of approach in how enrolments were made. Rather than students signing up to individual units one by one, the new website needed to provide an easier route for someone to enrol in an entire degree if they wished.
Consistency in web design
Inconsistency is an issue that comes to face many a site after years of being managed by many different people – content is always added in a different way, with a wide range of design styles used throughout.
One of our key goals was to standardise design elements across the board – still providing a wide range of flexibility through more than a dozen bespoke modules for our CMS pagebuilder, but bringing a consistency to layouts, menu structures and visual styles that makes the site easier to understand and navigate.
The main focus of the design and build was ease of use – providing clear user journeys for new users and returning students alike.
Driven by ecommerce
We don’t tend to think of enrolling on a university or college course as a commercial transaction, but that’s what it is at its core – the OCA website needs to accept payments in exchange for its services.
The original build used WooCommerce, a powerful ecommerce shop plugin for WordPress. As a WordPress agency, we were keen to retain this functionality to provide continuity for the OCA team in managing the site.
However, the change to focus on full degrees rather than individual units required a much more involved purchasing process. We made use of extensive conditional forms to allow users to select multiple course units, apply premiums based on their locations, and choose from a variety of payment options, such as deposits, instalments and student finance.
Ultimately, this is WooCommerce pushed to its absolute limit for a highly unique and bespoke system.
We’ve already mentioned our bespoke CMS pagebuilder – this allows the OCA team to create new content from a bank of highly flexible design elements, choosing from background colours and text styles, spacings and a variety of functions. These elements can then be dragged and dropped to create a limitless combination of layouts that nonetheless retain that visual consistency
In the future
We’re continuing to offer our support for OCA – we’ve already undertaken a sitewide update to change their fees for the new academic year. While updating content is easy, we’re on hand for more in-depth amends and technical fixes as the site continues to grow and change.
With students enrolling literally every day, we’re already learning more and more about how users engage with the site, and are making changes to respond to this, ensuring that the site continues to deliver.