Windsor Academy Trust
Windsor Academy Trust is a family of schools covering education for children from 2 to 18 years old.
The Trust website, and each school website, were all previously designed and delivered by separate suppliers. Bigfork were appointed to create a new look and platform for all the websites to bring them all under one roof, and to give them a consistent style.
Twelve websites (and counting) needed to be created as part of this project, all of them with differing amounts and types of content. Some websites were straightforward information websites, others needed more advanced functionality including integration with their job vacancy API and online applications for sixth form students.
All the websites needed to follow the Windsor Academy Trust branding. At the same time, each school had existing branding and needed to have its own identity. We explored different options and the solution we agreed with the client was:
- A standardised banner in the Windsor Academy Trust branding at the top of all websites
- An overall design that incorporated elements of the Windsor Academy Trust brand such as the angles from the logo and grid formats used in prospectuses at the time
- The look of each site would be adapted for the school by including their logo and replacing the Trust colours with the school colours
This worked out really well, with all the websites having a consistent look and feel, as well as showing off their own personalities.
As well as branding and design, user experience was key to the success of the websites. We knew from the planning stage that some of the websites would have a lot of content. A big part of our job was optimising the user experience (UX) and creating the websites so content could easily be found. We achieved this by designing navigation tools such as:
- Drop down menus to keep the main menu bar tidy
- Search bar with automatic suggestions as you type
- Breadcrumb trails to quickly navigate back within sections
- Portal pages to help break up larger sections
- Strong calls to action throughout to guide people
- Fully optimised for search engines so people can find content direct from Google
Combined with a clear and consistent design, these things help to make the websites easy to navigate and the content easy to discover.
SEO and migration
An important part of the project was moving each site to its own domain name. As part of this, we planned the SEO migration strategy including adding 301 redirects to all URLs and managing the changes of address through Google Search Console.
We also set up Google Tag Manager and Google Analytics to track website activity, including extra events for scroll depth, form submissions, and online applications.
To make sure the websites would work, we started by planning the specific types of content they would need, both now and in the future.
Rather than build fixed page templates, we created reusable “content blocks” such as text columns, social media feeds, galleries, forms, and feature boxes. These blocks allow the Trust to piece together pages as they see fit, like website Lego (and just as easy to use). This makes the website content and layout totally flexible, while always staying on brand. This approach also enables us to create new blocks at any time so the websites can continue to evolve.
We used Silverstripe CMS4 to build the website as its content block editor was perfect for this project. It also ticked all the boxes for security and ease of integration with APIs, plus no reliance on plugins meant no extra costs.
Nearly two years, a whole lot of content, and twelve websites later, Windsor Academy Trust’s digital presence is going strong. The client is very happy with the new designs, the flexibility the CMS provides, and the ongoing support from Bigfork.
We still work with the Trust to constantly add new features including extra content blocks, design updates, and making sure they’re up to date with the latest SEO best practises including the recent addition of schema for job listings.
- 1 August 2020