Success Story

Building a Better User Experience for Greater Saskatoon Catholic Schools

Victoria Harkes
Average  to read article
5 Minutes

Introduction

No one creates content only to hide it away. At times, that’s what it felt like for content managers at Greater Saskatoon Catholic Schools (GSCS). Their websites were dated and unresponsive on mobile devices, role-based menu structures no longer made sense for modern web users and the content management system was bulky. The situation was exacerbated by COVID-19 when face-to-face learning was suspended and online communication among schools and their audiences became even more important. They took a leap of faith at just the right time.

GSCS Homepage on Laptop

The Problem

There were two main sources of motivation for this important and timely project: staff needed a better way to manage all of the content on their websites; visitors needed a better user experience when visiting the websites. It was clear that more tweaks and workarounds weren’t going to cut it. The websites needed to be easier to update and better for users to view on their devices to match the level of communication expected and seen on other channels.

GSCS Website on Mobile Devices

The Situation

Astute staff noticed that GSCS had been receiving an increase in similar questions and requests for content, not only from their students and parents/caregivers but also from their own staff. The foundation of the existing websites was Sharepoint, which many staff found challenging to use, particularly those without a certain level of technical knowledge. Inevitably, with each of their schools managing their own content, some fell behind in keeping their sites up to date, and the gaps between schools with more and less tech-savvy content managers widened.

GSCS Calendar Page - Month View

Reports from visitors—including internal users—indicated they had trouble finding the information they wanted. Content was there for the most part, but navigating a dated menu structure was not intuitive for modern web users. At times, matters were made worse when content was outdated. Poor user experience was compounded on mobile devices. The old websites were not responsive, and users had to “pinch and scroll” to view data on smaller screens. With the majority of users accessing information from mobile devices (and growing), user frustrations on mobile devices were bound to grow if changes were not made.

The final push to make a change came with the COVID-19 pandemic. Almost overnight, the need to improve their existing system became urgent. GSCS prioritized the project to develop and re-design new websites for their school division.

The Audience

For this project to succeed the focus had to be on two primary audiences and their needs: the first was the students and parents/caregivers who rely on the websites for accurate, easy-to-find information that could be viewed on any of the devices they used. GSCS needed a platform for their websites that could meet the demands of an increasingly technical and capable audience and be flexible enough to adapt as new devices and expectations around them came on the scene.

GSCS School Homepage on Tablet and Mobile Phone

The second equally important audience was GSCS’ content managers who needed a user-friendly CMS so content management was not taking an inordinate amount of their time, which always seems to be in short supply. The solution that GSCS needed had to alleviate the stress that content managers were experiencing, making the work easier to complete and ensuring their content could be easily managed and updated.

The Strategy

The overarching goal was to launch a set of new, well-designed and accessible websites that were easy to navigate, update and manage.

Objectives:

  • Find and select a platform with an easy-to-manage CMS. Outsource the rebuild to a team with the expertise and experience needed to improve GSCS’ Information Architecture (IA). While an RFP was issued, each of the schools’ departments articulated their website issues and how they wanted to be supported. SchoolBundle was chosen as the best fit for communications and to integrate with other solutions.
  • Examine the existing IA and reorganize the content, making the switch from offering websites driven by the role of the visitor to websites based on the purpose of a visit. Use Google Analytics, requests for content and the expertise provided by the SchoolBundle team to identify the core goals of visitors to GSCS websites.
  • Audit existing content and clean up outdated content, examining pages with a lot of traffic that had not been updated as well as those with little to no traffic and removing unneeded pages. Evaluate the accessibility and purpose of the content on GSCS websites.
  • Launch new websites for both the division and schools before the end of the school year.

The Execution

GSCS knew they needed help to achieve their ambitious goal of launching new websites. An RFP led to finding and selecting SchoolBundle as the best solution for their community.

GSCS School Homepage on Laptop
SchoolBundle and their team of experts fit the bill with their Unified Communications Platform, especially for ease of use of the content management system. It was clear that their previous experience with other Catholic schools helped them understand the need to not only have a high-quality website but to also project our Catholic identity throughout our websites.

- Derrick Kunz, Communications, Greater Saskatoon Catholic Schools

GSCS worked with SchoolBundle to audit and examine their existing websites and then identify the core requirements for their new IA and design.

The Results and Feedback

The good news is that GSCS achieved their goal on time! The feedback they received about their improved websites from their various audiences was positive and rewarding.

Student, parent and guardian visitors have reported being able to find the information they need. Staff were elated with how easy it is to create and share content, no longer needing to keep a manual on hand just to update a website.

- Jim Bennett, Manager of Technology Services, Greater Saskatoon Catholic Schools

One example stands out, like when GSCS needed to communicate with their wider community. Right after launching, staff were thrilled with how easy it was to create a notification and push it out to schools across their websites.

One of the best parts of this experience they reported was being able to launch their new websites before the end of the 2020-2021 school year, allowing staff and visitors to explore and become comfortable with the new layout and platform features before the new school year got underway.

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