College Preparatory School
With a deep history dating back to the mid-1800s, the school’s myriad audiences includes students, parents, teachers, staff, alumni and prospective families. Over time, it’s half-dozen digital properties – designed to make education easier – had become a web of disconnected apps, data, and third-party plugins. Not only was it an arduous experience for users, it was increasingly difficult for the school’s small IT team to manage.
M7 was engaged to unify, centralize, and create a new experience for all the school’s audiences. This took form in two distinct products. First, a redesign of the public-facing website to engage prospective families. Simultaneously, we developed an internal ‘hub’ that combined all third-party applications into a single portal. For maximum efficiency, both sites are managed by a single instance of Drupal.
We started with a competitive analysis of roughly 100 high-school and university websites to understand best practices in the market. Then we interviewed dozens of stakeholders including teachers, staff, and students to create user-empathy and begin solution and feature ideation.
We developed a two product, one platform approach using Drupal CMS for its flexibility and extensibility. The system delivers targeted content to prospective families via the public website, while internal audiences interact with the portal. All content is managed within a single system. Third-party systems use API integration for a seamless experience.
Brand & Identity
A goal from the outset was to create a digital presence that mirrors the school’s rich on-campus environment. We elevated the school’s brand guidelines for the digital environment, leveraged authentic photography, and designed countless visuals to express the school’s identity as a dynamic 21st-century educational institution.
To attract prospective families, we developed a content strategy aligned with the school’s overall communication goals. Messaging, supporting content, and overall flow was designed with a primary purpose: to attract the new generations of worldly, conscientious, and change-making young people.
To keep with the flexibility of a services model, we implemented Elasticsearch, a distributed, RESTful search engine. Combined with Drupal’s Search API enables extensible control over what gets indexed, how users can search the content, and how the system displays results. Also, information and site structures were designed with multiple access paths in mind.
- Direct Path – Via other online and offline channels such as an integrated mass communication system
- Guided Narrative – Through the use of storytelling
- Self-guided – Non-prescriptive ways to find content
- Related Material – Context and taxonomy system allowing surfacing of similar content
We developed a bespoke site taxonomy to assist in the classification and discoverability of content. By creating a deep understanding of the organization and the relationship between different types of content a useful vocabulary / term hierarchy was established.
Unique Experience: Prospects vs Existing Users
Understanding each audience’s needs was critical. Our team developed mind maps, personas, and user stories for each group of users. We defined attributes including user objectives, motive, fears, and trigger points in order to establish relevant features and calls to action.
With so many audiences, it was critical to develop a system that delivers targeted content and a personalized experience. No matter the user role, user interest or group, content is always relevant to their interests an involvement with the school.
A System for Growth
Since digital products continually evolve, we designed the platform to easily accommodate future growth initiatives. We built the infrastructure with a mechanism to measure effectiveness and support iterative changes.
API & Drupal Decoupled
Drupal was the right fit for this project because of its "API-first framework". Some key advantages include:
- Content-as-a-service, decoupled CMS experience for delivering content to remote systems
- A hub for content consumption from multiple third-party platforms.
- Integration with: Student Information System, Learning Management System, Office 365, Single Sign-On System.
- Bulk and real-time data synchronization.
Keeping all school communication internal important, since relying on traditional social media can be complicated. We implemented an easy-to-manage, robust social communication system for sharing, communicating, and connecting.
Custom Drupal Module Development
We’re deeply experienced in building custom modules that any ‘Drupler’ can maintain. Modules created for this project include support for custom Entities, 3rd-party Software Integration, Class Scheduling, Membership, Personalization, Extensions to Webforms, an Announcement Platform, and a Custom Dashboard.