The challenge

Pearson College London is at the dawn of something special in higher education: harnessing its links with businesses to offer students qualifications relevant to the real world. The FTSE 100 company needed a fresh and impactful new website with a great user experience. The challenge was to create a feeling of students being in control of their learning, attract the very best prospects and tie its new acquired school to the Pearson brand.

A brighter future for Pearson College London

Founded in 2012 by Pearson Publishing, Pearson College London has a fast-growing portfolio of courses. After expanding its roster from business to visual effects by acquiring VFX academy Escape Studios, we were tasked to create a future-proof website that would support future acquisitions and demonstrate that it deserves its seat at the table amongst the traditional universities.

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Digital to support business ambition

The solution for Pearson College London needed to be scalable and facilitate the addition of new schools as the college expands over time.

Coupled with this, it needed an elegant way to incorporate its newest acquisition, Escape Studios, into the brand. Escape is Europe’s leading visual effects academy with a well-established identity. Our design needed to satisfy the need for Escape to retain its cutting-edge creative look.

Crafting the experience

Working collaboratively both internally and with the client, we conducted a thorough ‘define phase’ to consolidate the direction of Pearson College London’s growing identity. Workshops to uncover the brand, audience needs, technology limitations, content and art direction fed into:

1) Defining ‘conversion’
2) Creating a seamless user journey regardless of the user’s point in the study life cycle (pre/post-study, alumni)
3) Catering for the expanding business audience, allowing for tighter integration between school and business

The output of the discovery phase came in a bespoke UX package comprised of a persona breakdown, site map and user journey flow diagram that gave us the foundations of the project.

The UX concept: hubs, tiles, filters

Fluid gateway pages were used to direct the user to their destination – covering key areas like study level, discipline and area of interest. Gateway pages used simple but elegant content tiles, enabling Pearson College London to curate the content as well as being attractive calls-to-action for the user. A design protocol ensured the placement of the tiles was in line with our intended look and feel. We wanted to build an online experience so tailored that the user could extract exactly what suited them from their online experience.

We allowed the user to sift out what they didn’t need by clicking on filters at the top of each hub (which contained a lot of information) and ‘pull’ relevant content up to their line of vision. Following the ethos of the college, users would be making the website work for them. For an audience that was primarily mobile, the tile and filter-based solution was a UX dream come true.

Insight - Will it work in the real world?

We alpha- and beta tested prototypes on key audience groups, as well as conducting various guerrilla tests on the desktop and mobile navigation. A key finding was that the first point of entry to searching for a course is by study level and not discipline, providing validation that our UX proposal was in line with the user’s needs.

A free and uncluttered approach

Navigation at the bottom of the homepage that glides to the top using immersive scrolling allowed us to create stunning, bold campaign takeover visuals. We wanted to see how far we could push the bar from the traditional academic website to the glossy, photography-led full screen look associated with consumer brands. After all, Pearson College London is a consumer brand rapidly evolving through acquisition.

Crafted from Pixel perfection from start to finish

As part of our continuous efforts to ensure a smooth and robust delivery methodology to the development team, we created a detailed style guide incrementally throughout the project. The purpose of this was to maintain the fidelity of our designs as the business grows. Using the bare minimum from Pearson’s existing style guide we extended the online brand into a product that was bang up-to-date for the Class of 2015 and beyond.

From the client:

The site launched recently, so results will be published soon. For now we’ve a few words from the client.

“Pixelgroup were the consummate professionals, never missing a single deadline. The intelligence and attention to detail that went into the UX and design process allowed us to put ultimate faith in them to get inside our brand and deliver a spectacular product that we can all say we are proud to have been a part of. Pearson College will continue to reap the benefits for years to come.”

Emma Gray - Head of Marketing & Communications, Pearson College London