Rethinking a university convocation website

Client: Employer – uOttawa, Registrar
Relation: In-house. Web Content and Production Supervisor
Work: Large events website as a service redesign.

I redesigned the uOttawa convocation website. After three years of migrating other sites, I finally got to slay the FAQ sections, eliminate redundancies and iron out user journeys. After a content audit, I made the content modular to enable batch updates between operations cycles. Our team knew it was time to have a fresh start for the website.

After presenting the pages mockups to the clients and stakeholder, we ended up with a site that had a clear segmentation of with a one-stop page for each convocation journey. Clients were happy and I was able to remove a lot of friction for graduates and their celebratory event.

Rethinking a university convocation website – Blog post

Just to show you how a convocation sites can get real fugly real quick, you typically only need one click past the shiny landing pages to enter the labyrinth of user frustration:

Sure the information is there, but you will notice that each user journey’s information is slew all across the pages. I’ve been there first hand. What will happen is a friction-full registration process and then a relatively smooth event.

I can completely empathize with event managers when it comes to platforms. They are aware of logistics and the granular details that come along with the gigs. Unfortunately, this usually means that their focus is primarily on operations, which then creates a digital-second outcome.

Understand the business

In terms of lessons learned, to have a successful convocation website, you need to understand the operations and business. This involved a lot of questions and details that relate to content strategy, but also determining the importance of information. You can then determine which information targets which users.

Keeping it simple for users (can be quite complex)!

Content audit – Count the duplicates

In this redesign, we had diploma related information that was sometimes applicable to undergraduate, masters and doctorate students. In other instances, some information only applied to undergraduates, regardless of if they attended the event or not. We had guest ticket information in general information sections, profiles, events pages.

To remove the redundancies. I created a content audit with a new structure in mind that revolved around the business and core activities.

Having your nose in digital content daily can sometimes take your focus away from holistic user experience and focus too heavily on digital. I realized quickly that some information on the site often trivial to users or simply displayed to everyone when its target was a very specific audience.


After presenting the pages mockups to the clients and stakeholder, we ended up with a site with the following elements. The dreaded catch-all FAQ was eradicated and its content disseminated as necessary.

Clear segmentation of audiences

This makes easy for students to self-identify according to their scenarios. Content is organized in a sequential order. Our team started the habit of adding image banners that represent the audience’s experience.

To acquire the images, we had to do a bit of file-hunting and photo-requests. Ask your clients to take events photos and do be specific about what you are looking for. Wide photos work best for websites/editing.

A screenshot of the Undergraduate student attending Convocation page.
This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is convocation-undergraduates-uOttawa.png
A screenshot of the Undergraduate student attending Convocation page

One convocation ceremonies page

This page is the one and only reference for the schedule of ceremonies. By centralizing all the dates and times in one location, it reduces update times (instead of updating multiple locations/content groups).

I also dissected what was originally a big table of events into Faculty specific drop-downs. This means that students/parents/guests can find the ceremony quickly without having to parse through the data. It also eases accessibility as you can skip straight to the Faculties instead of having to scan a complex table.

Logistics were placed underneath the ceremonies schedule. Anything to do with the day-of relevant to all audiences was centralized there.

Screenshot of the Convocation ceremonies
page with a tab opened.  (Background is fixed on the site)