Universities are Prioritizing Web Performance and Operations During an Uncertain Return to Campus

Leading higher ed institutions drive digital experience innovations with Pantheon

August 27, 2021 2 min read

SAN FRANCISCO (August 27, 2021) — Colleges returning to school are relying on Pantheon, the leading WebOps platform, to deliver online learning and keep students up to date of changing restrictions in the face of the coronavirus delta variant. 

With inconsistencies between states and changing guidelines around masks, vaccinations, and social distancing, universities are prioritizing their websites as information hubs and vehicles for online learning. Pantheon makes this possible by offering a SaaS platform that keeps websites performant through traffic spikes, and that makes it easy for web teams to quickly update messaging and functionality according to what's happening in the news and on campus. 

For the Harvard University's Public Affairs and Communications (HPAC) team, who run the Harvard University homepage and The Harvard Gazette on Pantheon, website operations and performance are key as they strive to defy expectations of a typical homepage experience. 

“We tested everything that we thought was good with users to verify that this is what they meant by ‘best-in-class’," said Aaron Baker, Associate Director of Content Strategy for ​​Harvard University Public Affairs and Communications. "We arrived at this idea of a homepage takeover, where we just threw everything out."

During the recent redesign with digital agency Modern Tribe, the HPAC team wanted to not only make the homepage more engaging and appealing to thousands of unique visitors, but to serve the changing needs of future students, current students, alumni, faculty, and researchers across 12 different schools while retaining and elevating the prestigious Harvard brand. 

"People think about Harvard as a single college (...) but it’s really one of 12 different schools [with] about 36,000 students," said Baker. "Through this process of redesigning our website, we learned a lot about what users expected from us, and that was really important."

The small team of just five web professionals sources content from across the university and pulls that into a specially curated, dynamic, and responsive homepage experience. All this is possible through the adoption of WebOps practices, including automated and manual testing, strong collaboration between the HPAC team and the rest of the digital organization, and maintaining solid website infrastructure that delivers edge-to-edge images, animation, and video — all without compromising performance. 

The Harvard homepage is just one example of leading universities across the U.S. discovering new ways to engage students and offer remote and hybrid learning models. Other universities including Oregon State University, Stanford University, Yale School of Management, and Massachusetts Institute of Technology are all relying on Pantheon to navigate uncertainty as schools return for the 2021-22 learning year. 

About Pantheon

Pantheon is the platform for websites that deliver extraordinary performance, running sites in the cloud for customers including Okta, Google, Home Depot, Pernod Ricard and Doctors Without Borders. Modern organizations choose Pantheon to empower their digital teams to continuously optimize and innovate to deliver more engaging digital experiences. Using Pantheon’s WebOps platform, developers, marketers and IT are empowered to work together to develop, test, and release website changes quickly and reliably, knowing their sites will remain stable and secure – even during the biggest traffic spikes.

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