Ucla Extension

Case Study

UCLA Extension Engages Xcelacore to Improve Site Enrollment Through Search Revamp and Site Optimization

Background

UCLA has one of higher education’s elite brands. For nearly a century, the school has produced some of business’ elite, science’s laureates, music and film’s innovators, and sports elite. The UCLA Extension is the university’s global continuing education arm, and the path for thousands of students to start or explore new careers in some of the most intriguing and high-growth fields.

As UCLA Extension grows, so too does the demand for its online presence. Two areas where they knew they needed focused solutions were in online enrollment conversions and search. To truly grow and improve its online experience, UCLA Extension sought the expertise, strategic planning, and implementation of both crucial projects from Xcelacore.

The Search Revamp Project

After an intensive deep dive into the business requirements and user expectations with key stakeholders, Xcelacore proposed a highly reliable, scalable and fault-tolerant search solution utilizing Solr/Apache Lucene.  This cloud-based system provides distributed indexing, replication and load-balanced querying, automated failover, and recovery.

The process

At its core, Xcelacore’s primary goal is to strategically solve business and marketing challenges with technology solutions. To achieve that, Xcelacore executives invest intensive time into clearly defining problems, expectations, and outcomes with key stakeholders. In addition, Xcelacore delves into analytics and consumer information to fully inform the requirements and have the greatest impact on performance.

Although Xcelacore works on more than technology solutions, we utilize an Agile Development Process. At its core, this means that the delivery of a project is broken down into specific time periods (typically two weeks), with specific deliverables. In addition, this methodology provides our clients with a clear method of monitoring delivery of projects, finances, and quality against the overall project expectations.

For this project, Xcelacore used Agile methodology for all phases of the project including requirements gathering, development,  performance, usability, and integration testing.

 

The features

After a thorough exploration into user data, stakeholder input, and business requirements, the following feature requirements were created:

  • Improve search functionality & capabilities including branded and user friendly UX/UI
  • Ability to create custom search terms that are unique to their own industry
  • Highly responsive, reliable, scalable and fault tolerant search solution
  • Auto suggest search terms while user types in the search box
  • Ability to apply multiple filters
  • Search courses by Title, Description, course numbers, instructor name and more
  • Spell checking using Solr and suggestion like “Did you mean …?”
  • Mobile optimized search results page with ability to easily apply additional filters

 

 The Result

Xcelacore researched, defined, implemented, and delivered a highly functional, variable search engine that dramatically improved the course discovery process for prospective students.

 Testimonial

“Xcelacore does great work with integrity.”

– Radhika Seshan | COO and Associate Dean

“At the project kick-off meeting, Xcelacore partner mentioned the new search will be a game changer for UCLA Extension, I am very excited to say that they have delivered on their promise.”

– Wayne Smutz, Ph.D. | Dean

 

The Site Optimization Project

With a switch from a homegrown platform to a third-party SaaS solution earlier in 2016, UCLA Extension saw a measurable drop in online enrollment during the second quarter. Was it due in part to the platform switch? Or, were there breaks in the user experience that were causing fewer enrollments? Again, UCLA Extension turned to Xcelacore to define the problem and offer solutions.

The Process

Xcelacore employed two paths for helping to define the potential problem and offer solutions. One, Xcelacore professionals dove into the site analytics to define breaks in behavior before the platform switch and after. Although the experience between the two platforms wasn’t parallel, a pattern of behavior began to emerge based on the deep-dive into analytics. Second, Xcelacore utilized drew on more than 20 years of e-commerce and online experience to identify breaks in the intuitive UI/UX path which were then underscored by behaviors gleaned from the analytics.

Xcelacore provided a step-by-step page analysis and recommendation for optimizing each step in the enrollment process, with the ultimate objective of increasing conversions.

The Features and Results

Based on the recommendations, UCLA Extension was able to positively impact the conversion path by implementing the following:

  • Shortened the enrollment process by three pages
  • Optimized navigation by refactoring home page and course pages based on user behaviors
  • Optimized content based on user behaviors, including course and program discovery
  • SEO including page titling and tagging for increased organic traffic