When Dean Edward Snyder took over in 2011, Yale School of Management (Yale SOM) ranked among the top 10 graduate business schools in the world. He had aspirations to put it in the top five within a decade. This raised everyone’s expectations — students, faculty and alumni alike. And it shined a bright light on the difficulty and frustration of navigating the loosely connected web services.
Yale SOM needed, above all, a strong application pipeline to attract elite students and executives. But, to pursue a healthy growth of top-tier candidates, Yale SOM also had to connect with its vast constituency of thought leaders, from consumers of conventional business publications to readers of academic literature. In addition, alumni were routinely forgetting their passwords, which suppressed engagement and other problems highly specific to that group. What’s more, Yale SOM’s progressive audience was rapidly adopting new technologies — reflected in a 97% annual increase in mobile traffic. Changes had to be made to stay relevant.
Design systems, a documented and repeatable collection of brand standards and components, are increasingly becoming the standard for managing solutions at scale. With brands reaching out over multiple channels and platforms, a centralized design language is critical to providing consistency and efficiency.
Rooted in the brand work from Pentagram for Yale SOM, we developed the Exfoliation design system: a comprehensive foundation of traditional design and code patterns with a concentration on a clean, minimalist aesthetic and generous use of white space.
For Yale SOM’s flagship site, we focused on the application pipeline. Square360 extended the Exfoliation foundation with a clearly differentiated call to action and sophisticated, micro-applications that enhanced discoverability, accessibility, and presentation. Moreover, we developed a modular, marketing lander application (internally dubbed MML) that facilitates the funnel of potential candidates through a rapid deployment of sophisticated, ad-hoc lead-capture pages connected to keyword campaigns.
The new website got 6 million page views last year and an 83.5% increase of traffic to the online application — +113.5% desktop, +65.4% mobile.
From a confusing labyrinth of systems, Square360 transformed the portal into a unified, productivity tool that offered students a platform for real-time calendar subscriptions, management of internal announcements, collaboration in career discussion groups by topic and focus, and instant directory searching.
To cultivate engagement among the alumni community, Square360 and Yale SOM rebuilt the alumni portal from the ground up. A remodeled homepage tile system for an alumni-centric presentation of news and analysis also gave the highest visibility to the most popular engagement tasks (e.g., searching for classmates and reunions). We extended single sign-on integrations with popular social networks (LinkedIn, Facebook, etc.) to simplify the convenience of maintaining contemporary profile information. And, as our coup de grâce, we revolutionized the alumni search to be more accessible and useful.