Strathcona High School
Mobile-Friendly Site Drives Recruitment
Stand-out sites support school’s historic brand, while engaging today’s tech-savvy students (and their parents!)
In 2011, Strathcona High School’s website was so cookie-cutter, visitors couldn’t discern the site from other schools at the time. Navigation was a mess, the design was poor, and it was difficult for administrators to maintain. They turned to Bright Umbrella to transform their site into an effective recruitment tool for prospective students, as well as a community resource for current students, faculty and parents.
We started by upgrading their content management system (CMS) for better stability and security. From that solid foundation, we created distinctive designs for the main school site, as well as the library site. Later in 2014, we retrofitted the school site for Strathcona’s growing mobile audience.
We were Strathcona’s technology partner for nine years, until the district required all schools to move to the same platform in 2018. During our partnership, we also provided ongoing support and maintenance, including CMS upgrades and security improvements like HTTPS.
Launched redesign to showcase historic brand alongside today’s vibrant learning community.
Retrofit site for mobile, saving $ over a redesign
Installed a comprehensive, cost-effective backup solution for maximum peace of mind
Improved site security with HTTPS using SSL
Increased attendance at open houses
- The new, more engaging design of the site makes it stand out from others in the district, attracting more parents to annual open house events
- We retrofitted the original desktop-only design for Strathcona’s main school site with budget-friendly and mobile-optimized enhancements that appeal to today’s tech-savvy student
26% increase in traffic, 26% drop in bounce rate
- A year after the mobile retrofit, Strathcona saw a 26% increase in users with 9% increase in pageviews and a 15% increase in sessions. Translation: more visitors clicking on more pages and actually sticking around on the site!
- The mobile retrofit also increased session duration by 12% over the previous year — visitors stayed longer on each page!
- Comparing the last three years vs. the first three years we began working with Strathcona, more people linger on their site: their bounce rate went from a bad 67% to a good 41% rate
Stronger brand recognition and better consistency across sites
- New engaging, student-friendly design embraces Strathcona’s brand and sets it apart from other schools in the district
- Brand and core design elements carry through all three Strathcona sites, demonstrating their relationship but highlighting unique content and audience priorities
Fewer headaches for staff entering content
- Site admins can add content to all three sites from a single control panel, increasing efficiency. Content can even be shared between the sites, reducing maintenance and potential errors
- Staff has full control over site navigation, including secondary dropdown levels
- Staff can easily change homepage slideshow, promoting current news and events as needed
- Staff was fully trained in new CMS workflows and has a customized user manual at their fingertips
Better security and stability, less administrative maintenance
- As part of our ongoing maintenance of their CMS, we make sure they always have the latest, stable version — including add-ons — to support site security and stability
- We also implemented version control systems for more efficient and secure maintenance, including software updates
- When staff wanted more control over their hosting, we advised on server capacity and hosting options to give them more ownership and stability
- We implemented an automated CMS backup solution, ensuring peace of mind in the event of a data disaster
- HTTPS ensures any information submitted on the site is encrypted
- ExpressionEngine CMS Development
- Content Strategy
- Information Architecture
- User Experience Design
- Interface Design
- Responsive Design & Development
- Data Imports
- Maintenance & Support
- Hosting & Server Consultation
- Data Import from EE v1
- Security Consultation
- HTTPS Implementation with SSL Certificate
Engaging Design Appeals to Students and Their Parents
Strathcona’s site redesign started with a focus on students and their parents. During our discovery process, we gained a deep understanding of their recruitment goals, as well as their brand and audience. This led to a teen-friendly design carefully balanced with the historic school brand. The site also engages with students through SchoolTube videos, Twitter and Facebook. Another strong recruitment tool is the student portal, which reflects the same brand but in a unique format where students can post their own photos and videos.
Parents love the site too! As Department Head of Technology Kelly Reierson notes: “parents were saying that it was our site that made them want to attend our school open house.”
Goodbye Boring Template! Hello Custom, Brand-focused Design!
New Design Reinforces Historic School Brand
Student Portal Strengthens Recruitment
To further engage with students, Bright Umbrella created a student recruitment tool, My Scona, where students can share their own photos and videos — moderated by school administrators before posting to the live site. The student site reflects elements from the main site, but with a more teen-focused design.
Interactive Student Portal Appeals to Teens, Showcases School Spirit
We also developed a Library site with easy-to-find academic and course resources, to discourage students from “just Googling” and not developing critical research skills. All three sites are interlinked, making it easy for students (and parents and faculty) to navigate among them.
Library Site Provides Resources So Students Don’t “Just Google It”
No More Content Entry Headaches
As unusable as Strathcona’s original site was for visitors, so was their content management system for staff. We developed a custom ExpressionEngine CMS that administrators with very little technical knowledge can use easily. Staff can add news, add a homepage promo, change the navigation and upload videos from SchoolTube. Even more, staff can do all of this for all three of Strathcona’s sites — their main site, their library site and their student recruitment site — from a single control panel.
One Login, Three Sites, Shared Content
Budget-Friendly Mobile Design
When we started with Strathcona in 2009, mobile was just a glimmer on the horizon and our redesign was for desktops. Today, tech-savvy students use mobile for the web almost exclusively. To help Strathcona get mobile-friendly, while at the same time leveraging their original investment, we did a responsive retrofit. Rather than redesigning their site again — which would’ve been cost and resource prohibitive — we applied mobile-friendly enhancements to the existing design (and code base).
Users no longer have to zoom to read text on their phone. The navigation works great on touchscreens. And content is focused for a mobile experience, emphasizing the information most relevant to mobile visitors such as phone numbers, addresses and news. Since prioritizing mobile, we’ve seen a 26% increase in users and a 12% increase in session duration. Translation: more site visitors who stay longer on the site!
Phones, Desktops & Everything In Between
Upgrades, Support and Maintenance for Security and Stability
As Strathcona’s technology partner for nine years, we provided ongoing support and maintenance for their entire site’s needs — from the server configuration to the CMS that runs the site. Previously, their older system left them open to security exploits — one of which occurred during the holiday season! Since upgrading the CMS and moving to a better server, there have been zero security exploits. Regular CMS upgrades, including add-ons, boost the security and stability of all Strathcona sites. It also allows them to save time and money by streamlining the process for future updates.
Carefully Managed Upgrade Process
Peace of Mind with System Backups
It’s inevitable: someone can accidentally delete or overwrite site content by accident. Bright Umbrella helps Strathcona protect their investment with a comprehensive disaster recovery plan, including backup solutions. We implemented a plan that gives staff the most control while minimizing ongoing costs. Now, recovering part (or all) of the site is much easier, letting Strathcona admins get back to business ASAP.
Protecting Strathcona’s Site and Community Members’ Data
As an innovator in education, Strathcona is equally committed to using innovative technology. This includes implementing a trusted SSL digital certificate, ensuring any content shared online is protected — including student posts to the Student Portal. This HTTPS security also impacts their EE CMS, so content entered there is also encrypted. This investment in HTTPS not only improves site security, it reinforces Strathcona’s identity as a school parents can trust. As a bonus, the HTTPS-enabled site is faster and more Google-friendly!