As one of the top universities in Saudi Arabia, our objective was to create a beautifully designed, easy to use, secure and scalable website to support the ongoing growth of the University of Dammam. Two of the key requirements were to make the site multilingual and mobile responsive. To launch the site in style, we were honoured to have Prince Mohammad Bin Fahd Bin Abdulaziz Al Sa'ud officially launch the site, which was certainly a first for the team at BrightLemon.
Image credit: University of Dammam
You’re looking for the perfect place to study. You’ll spend at least three years at the chosen institution, and will be there at a pivotal, malleable part of your life. A huge chunk of knowledge and experience is initially presented to us online, whether we search for it, or it finds us. So when it comes to deciding on something as important as university, first impressions and information channels need to be effective. The Saudi Arabian University of Dammam has already cemented a status of innovative and teaching excellence in its 40 years of existence but their reputation wasn’t quite matched online until now...
We held discovery workshops with the University of Dammam to help them define why the project was going ahead. They wanted to raise their profile in Saudi Arabia and internationally, ultimately aiming for higher student enrollment and partnership opportunities: “Like Oxbridge and the Ivy League universities we think that as part of the marketing piece, it is important to tell the history and story of Dammam – the region – as well as the university.”
We also defined who the site was for: prospective and current students, staff, deanships, alumni, and local business. Detailed user stories were created for each - then a sitemap, wireframes and a Pattern Lab live style guide were drawn from them.
Based on our work with the University of Cambridge and early Dammam work, the team put trust in us to lead the project. It was split with (equally trustable!) Inspiral Design, a London agency who specialise in Arabic design. Inspiral were to implement a complete rebrand. We connected and worked together early on; design, build and theming need to be worked on closely, so it was ideal that they are based near us.
In their search for the right agency, Dammam had to consider frameworks for the build. Previously using the Oracle database, the site now works alongside Drupal, which Dammam chose for its flexibility and easy-to-use CMS features. These were strengthened by the Drupal Panopoly distribution we implemented. Our Solutions Architect went over to train the Dammam Uni team how to use the site and upload content, setting them up to use the site, as well as helping with content migration. We also created an online wiki for their reference (since they’re on the other side of the world, we wanted to make sure they were always equipped with the right info, and plenty of it!).
We built the website in Drupal 7; Drupal 8 was released in the same month we launched. The site is multilingual (Arabic and English) so Drupal theming was a very important consideration; we had to make sure the layout and visuals worked when reading L to R as well as R to L. The project challenged our developers to explore Drupal and try out new solutions including the faceted filters we built for the directory which worked between the two languages. Search in Arabic and you can choose to see results in either English or Arabic; very clever!
- Our Director, Leon Tong, and Inspiral Design’s Mukhtar Sanders wrote an article for Creative Bloq, setting site building standards for Arabic audiences.
- Pages are flexible and easily manageable, this is achieved using custom fieldable panel panes. We used Drupal’s Panopoly distribution for the base layout.
- We created a Pattern Lab live style guide early on so there was better visual and UX understanding for Dammam stakeholders throughout the project.