University of Colorado

UX Consulting and Development for CU Advancement

University of Colorado website on a mobile device
67% cart completion rate
Over $1 million raised
70% drop in cart abandonment


CU Page on tablet
A banner from the CU Foundation website
A visual of the donation screen on a mobile phone
Visual of the different funds from the CU Foundation website

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Although we have worked with various divisions and departments associated with CU before, CU’s Central Advancement office is a unique organization. Central Advancement works closely with CU’s four campus Advancement offices and the CU Foundation to advance the university’s mission by assisting benefactors in discovering how their passions create lasting support for the university. Online donations are critical to this mission and provide substantial ongoing support to the university’s students, faculty, research and academic programs.

The goal of the higher education website redesign was to help potential donors learn more about the many ways they can support CU, see the impact that gifts like theirs can make, and ultimately find the department, cause, discipline or program important to them and quickly donate. With more than 1,600 separate funds, the challenge was to make the process fast, intuitive and easy.

True Collaboration

During the UX phase, the CU Advancement team spearheaded most of the hands-on design work. Our role as consultants was to offer ideas, improvements and strategic insight based on a decade of experience building similar products. As with most projects, budget was always a concern, and our job was to make sure the UX decisions made wouldn’t break the bank.

Wireframes for the CU Foundation

Once the prototypes were complete, the CU Advancement team took the lead on visual design while our developers got to work. We built the new Drupal site from scratch, testing and iterating the search functionality real-time to see how the data displayed.

Search Made Simple

Search was the primary experience on the site and was not a simple “search for anything” solution. Classification of the data was not standard, and separate campuses had different names for seemingly similar things (“department” vs. “college” vs. “school”). Likewise, plain-language topics were needed for people interested in subject matter.

The solution we developed along with the CU Advancement team was a tagging structure that would allow multiple funds to appear in multiple searches without being linearly categorized. The resulting search, color-coded by campus, allows potential donors to access the fund they are interested in quickly. 

The cart process was customized to fit CU Advancement’s need to collect marketing data and other donation specific information (memorial information, etc.) and collapse the checkout steps into as few as possible.

The CU Foundation website mocked on a laptop and mobile phone

Continual Support

Immediately following the launch of the new site, CU reached a major milestone, with more than $1 million in online donations in a single month. In that time, the cart performed with a 67% completion rate, far above typical non-profit donation averages. Since then, the website has brought in millions more in donations, cart completion rates have continued to exceed those of CU’s previous giving website, and the cart abandonment rate has dropped by more than 70%.
Work on the website continued through the following year and, in November 2016, the second major phase went live with new additions and improvements highlighting the true impact donations have on the people, programs, and communities that make up the University of Colorado and its four campuses.
Visit the site at, and to all you CU alumni, be sure to donate.

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