What’s So Cool About Manufacturing®
MRC's annual What’s So Cool About Manufacturing® contest is a win-win for the sector and for middle school students across the state. By overhauling its website – including online voting functionality – Hammer Marketing keeps it going and growing.
For over 30 years, Manufacturer's Resource Center (MRC) has helped small and mid-sized manufacturers become more competitive, adopt lean and agile processes, strategically grow their companies and invest more effectively in their existing human capital. One of their premier initiatives, Pennsylvania's annual What's So Coll About Manufacturing?® (WSCM) sends middle schoolers behind-the-scenes of manufacturing facilities - then asks them to turn those visits into two-minute, self-produced company video profiles.
Students’ goal? To earn the most votes and take home the coveted Viewers Choice Award.
WSCM’s goal? To grow the manufacturing sector by awakening middle schoolers to its merits – and to grow students’ digital storytelling skills along the way!
By 2022, the original What’s So Cool About Manufacturing?® website – built by Hammer Marketing in 2013 – had reached the end of its run. Functionality and speed were lagging. The problem was most noticeable on the voting page, where student video submissions (hosted on YouTube) began loading when the page opened, slowing and jeopardizing the voting process. This problem was especially pronounced in regions with larger schools or more participation, which have up to 30 videos on each voting page.
Beyond voting integrity, slow load and site speeds can lead to higher website bounce rates, a decline in SEO rankings, and user dissatisfaction – serious risks for What’s So Cool About Manufacturing?® as a whole.
MRC engaged Hammer Marketing to enhance their site, with a focus on improved video voting pages. Eager to get it right from the start, Hammer Marketing’s Senior Designer Kyle Huntzinger embarked on stakeholder interviews to glean a clearer and broader understanding of hurdles site-wide – and specific wishes and needs for the website’s next iteration.
Interviews and research with the WSCM team revealed that front- and back-end user experience, site navigation, and mobile friendliness all needed an overhaul to accommodate not just voting, but larger navigation and design concerns. Our team got to work.
To start, Kyle worked up wireframes of key pages for the forthcoming website. Knowing the importance of appealing to middle schoolers, site aesthetics include ripped paper, doodle icons resembling school notebooks, and collage-style imagery in the spirit of a decorated locker. WSCM’s bright color palette is woven throughout it all.
With a look, feel, and sitemap in place, Senior Developer Lee Gustin dove under the site’s hood.
Lee focused on a plan to make the voting experience more responsive, consistent, and reliable – today and as the initiative grows. He adjusted back-end code so that previews of the students’ submission videos appear immediately, but videos don’t actually download until a user presses “watch.” Now, a page doesn’t have to load in its entirety before users can vote – a huge win for speed and user experience.
Lee aesthetically incorporated Hammer Marketing’s custom modern base theme and a few more enhancements:
- The revamped homepage allows What’s So Cool About Manufacturing?® staff to easily update content as-needed.
- The reskinned website video library – which houses student submission videos as far back as 2014 – now matches the new site aesthetically and functionally.
- Easier navigation helps users more readily find what they’re looking for.
The new What’s So Important About Manufacturing?® website went live in February of 2023. The newly optimized website culminated in the 10th Annual Awards Ceremony where over 33 middle schools and multiple manufacturers from Carbon, Lehigh, Monroe and Northampton counties participated. With the ease of voting and streamlined user experience, WSCM can expand and encourage more students to consider careers in manufacturing.