Case Study

University of San Francisco

Asset reference



With greater reliance on remote recruiting, USF needed to create a stronger web presence to attract the right students.


The University's previous websites were siloed and decentralized, relying on outdated technology.

Our Solution

Drupal, Acquia Cloud Platform


Early reporting shows that graduate and undergraduate applications have increased by double digits. 

The Client

The University of San Francisco (USF) is a premier Jesuit Catholic urban university located in the heart of San Francisco, with more than 10,000 graduate and undergraduate students. Its lofty mission resonates with the aspirations many share today: to promote the common good by addressing inequities and creating a more humane and just world.

The Situation

Like other universities, the COVID-19 pandemic led USF to rely on remote recruiting. But USF's website content didn't reflect its spirit and did little to encourage prospective students to explore and ultimately take action. USF quickly realized it needed to create a stronger web presence to attract the right students and meet the needs of other key audiences, including alums, donors, employees, employers, and visitors.

The Challenge 

USF is made up of five different schools. Each had been relatively autonomous in creating and managing its web presence until the school centralized website support services in 2019. This presented a formidable task: Taming thousands of pages of sprawling content and corralling five child sites. While USF had taken steps to centralize web content, each school still had dedicated web producers who answered only to that school's dean. The result was an inconsistent experience that worked at cross purposes to the school's objectives. USF wanted to leverage its new in-house team while still offering its stakeholders the autonomy they were accustomed to.

Lastly, the technology was outdated — the Drupal 7 system USF had relied on was reaching the end of life, and they needed to migrate to Drupal 9.

The Solution

USF partnered with Digital Pulp, and together, they worked through a discovery process that engaged dozens of senior leaders, communicators, and audience members at USF. Their input drove a streamlining strategy focused on clarifying the brand and simplifying the user experience. 

Based on the discovery, Digital Pulp crafted editorial guidelines emphasizing USF's core values, focusing on its identity as a center for discovery and a force for change rooted in the Jesuit tradition. These guidelines ensured that the website's content honors USF's commitment to fostering authentic relationships, questioning conventional wisdom, and empowering informed action. Paired with the expression of the school's ethos, the guidelines also showed communicators how to talk about the real-world student experience at USF and its impact on student outcomes.

Within the new Drupal 9 architecture, Digital Pulp transitioned from Panels to Paragraphs, for its more flexible, modular approach to content creation. This shift allowed for better management of reusable components and a more streamlined editing experience. Additionally, the team implemented a Pattern Lab-based component approach, empowering each of USF's five schools to create custom page layouts that catered to their specific needs while maintaining a cohesive design language across the entire website.

The final design captured USF's unique brand, emphasizing the San Francisco advantage, the school's signature Engaged Learning approach, the University's commitment to fostering leadership and success, and its Jesuit passion for justice. 

The Results

Early reporting shows that graduate and undergraduate applications have increased by double digits. And the new site's simple user journeys allow prospective students to easily explore programs and apply while experiencing the distinctive qualities that set USF apart. The platform's component-based system enables each school to tailor pages to their needs while maintaining a cohesive university identity.

USF now has better analytics tools to understand its new marketing platform's effectiveness. USF can now view data from the website and Admissions systems in a single dashboard — a first for the school and often an elusive goal at large schools where data is siloed and tightly held. By pulling in all the data that matters, this comprehensive reporting offers managers a snapshot from a broader landscape, laying the groundwork for optimization that measurably impacts enrollment results. 

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