SUNY Maritime: Solutions Architecture and Development

SUNY Maritime: Solutions Architecture and Development

Creating a Clear Information Path for Tomorrow’s Maritime Leaders


The first and oldest institution of its kind in the U.S., SUNY Maritime must hold its students to high standards.    

In order to attract its next generation of leaders and minimize website content update costs, the university migrated to a Drupal 7 platform geared for their needs in higher education. But soon after the migration, it became clear there was no strategy behind their website’s user experience, user interface, or information architecture. Site navigation and flow were broken, making it challenging for end-users to locate information that was valuable to them, and complete tasks on the website in an efficient manner. 

Here’s how our Information Architecture Analysis and Usability Audit helped improve the user experience and attract future leaders in shipping, transportation, power generation, government, military and business. 


Students conduct online research to better understand their options. SUNY Maritime’s website needed to make a good first impression and give potential students the information they needed to make informed decisions about their college careers. At the same time, current students and faculty need to easily find information that would allow them to complete tasks. 

The university’s website was up-to-date with a Drupal platform relaunch, but the competing information needs for propsective students and current students and faculty put the website structure at odds with itself. The lack of information architecture made constituents feel lost. With content thrown in without a cohesive strategy, there was no organization, no hierarchy to align interests to the personas who visited the site. It made it challenging and time-consuming for users to locate the content they needed. 

And where there is friction, traffic grinds to a halt.

Getting students and donors to find the right pages would increase traffic and improve the flow of end users to the university’s goals: call to action, donations, and information dissemination for both prospective and current students. Only with a frictionless experience would the university be in a position to draw in future students, reduce administrative overhead for current students lost finding information on the site, and donors who would generate revenue and sustain its programs and administration. 

Facet was able to show the university there were better ways to engage

with their audience, attract, and retain more students and donors


SUNY Maritime’s website suffered from an information architecture that had the structure of a categorical brochure. It didn’t separate information that prospective and current students would need, thereby confusing prospective students and adding friction to the admissions process. Similar issues plagued other personas—prospective parents, alumni and donors were largely an afterthought. 

Facet recommended paths for these personas so they could easily navigate their way to the information that was most valuable to them. That would be the first step towards building a more engaging user experience and driving conversions and micro-conversions across the site.


Tapping into User Identities 

To drive our strategy, Facet first performed an analysis of the core goals for each persona who engaged with the website. It was about tapping into their identity as a web user and identifying the top 5 goals they would have on the site. 

There are prospective students, students, parents, faculty and staff—each with their own inquiries and needs for information. Separating content based on the needs of personas or user archetypes makes it easy site visitors to self-identify with the content they needed to consume—and consume it. 

Making the Case

Facet examined SUNY Maritime’s information architecture, website design and content structure to assess the gaps in the information arhictecture foundations. We also examined other SUNY university websites with good user flow in order to provide contrasting information architecture strategies. 

After pulling together our findings, Facet presented the findings to the university’s Board. We used the persona story maps to tell a story of SUNY Maritime’s users and make the case for better information architecture to meet those user's needs. 

Architecting a Seamless User Experience 

Following the Information Architecture Analysis and Usability Audit, the recommendation was to make SUNY Maritime’s public website focus on information for prospective students, parents and donors, and move all current student, faculty, and staff information into the intranet for internal consumption.

This restructuring of content made it so the site would provide a more seamless experience for potential students and parents to discover information about SUNY Maritime based on their intent as a user, and for donors who wanted to learn about how they could contribute. 

Finally, the implementaiton of this project's findings focused on the university’s goal of attracting for the purposes of increasing admissions and donations. Meanwhile, their current students would have an internal touchpoint of their own that spoke to their unique needs.


In today’s digital age it is imperative consumers find information quickly and easily. Our information architecture analysis and usability study paved the way for content to be categorized and restructured according to SUNY Maritime’s user-archetypes. The institution’s target audience is now able to waste less time finding the content that suits them. As a result of the university’s goodwill of making the site quicker to navigate, users are less frustrated and engagement rates have spiked.


Personas With Less Friction


Projected Increase in Time on Site