Responsive Design in Higher Education: How Do We Do It Better?
by Chris Hartigan
At our higher education Meetup last week in Atlanta (http://higheredmeetupatlanta.drupalgardens.com/#), Savannah College of Art and Design (our host school) presented their new Drupal web site and talked about how it’s impacting their overall business. The assembled group was impressed with what they saw. www.scad.edu not only adheres to the sleek and progressive design standards that one would expect from such an institution, but it is fully responsive at its core and takes advantage of Drupal’s Panels Module in a way that creates a truly unique and sophisticated browsing experience. See examples of SCAD's standard vs responsive homepage and standard vs responsive programs page here:
For a web site to be responsive it has to deliver an optimized browsing experience across a multitude of devices, from desktop/laptop to tablet to smartphone, which SCAD's site certainly does. Want to see responsive in action? Go to the site (www.scad.edu) and grab an edge of the side window with your pointer and slowly shrink the size of the window. You can see how the panels, images and content respond to the changing screen size with fluidity. For a relative technophobe like me (relative to most of my Acquia colleagues, that is), it’s like a magic show!
Last month we blogged about how responsive was still the subject of too many “how do we” conversations in the higher education space and not enough “what does it mean” conversations. SCAD’s presentation was a little of both, almost like a “how do we do it better” discussion. The other schools in attendance were very interested in how SCAD used Panels and incorporated Panels into their theme which was again built on the natively responsive Drupal7 platform (they made a point of stressing that there is no add-on mobile/responsive component - the site is responsive because of what it is, not because of what was added to it). But at the same time they were interested in how the new responsive SCAD sight, and the efficiency that SCAD has in managing the site delivered through Acquia’s Cloud Enterprise platform, has allowed the SCAD team to be less reactive and more proactive in thinking about how design elements and site performance are impacting engagement on the site from students and prospective students and following that through to overall goals such as student enrollment and retention. The SCAD team was clear: with the new Drupal site and the Acquia platform supporting it they spend a lot more time looking at analytics and talking about business drivers than they ever have before.