The Vancouver School Board (VSB) needed a fresh website solution to better connect staff, students and parents within their district. They not only required an intuitive user experience, but a strategy centred around a powerful back-end engine to deliver content across their family of websites.
Utilizing SchoolBundle's Single-Source publishing solution, a unified communication approach was developed and implementation across the Vancouver School Board's 112 school websites is nearing completion. Better websites and streamlined information have increased communication and collaboration across the school district since launch.
The Vancouver School District is among the most diverse public school systems in Canada with an annual enrolment of approximately 50,000 students in Kindergarten to grade 12. There are 90 Elementary schools, 18 secondary schools and 2 adult learning centres.
The VSB is a large, urban and multicultural school district. They are committed to providing the highest quality learning experience for all students, helping them to reach their intellectual, social, and physical potential in a safe and inclusive environment. The programs and services offered by the VSB address the extraordinary and complex challenges associated with a diverse district. Vancouver schools are involved in a wide range of partnerships with cultural, arts, and service organizations. The district also offers a multitude of services and program options to meet student interests and educational requirements. The goal of VSB is to serve the needs and tap the potential of each student so that they may achieve their unique potential.
With our experience in the education industry—we dove in and quickly got up to speed with the Vancouver School Board's values and pain points. Our role as a strategic partner began with big decisions that go beyond marketing. A plan was put in place to clearly outline goals for the new website solution. Through a series of consultations, several milestones were defined giving everyone a clear path to follow throughout a multifaceted project involving many moving parts.
Thousands of pages composed of events, news, staff, student and parent information required re-working the sitemap and information architecture. Using data gathered from marketing research, working together with VSB and passing on our experience, we consolidated pages when necessary. In turn, this made for cleaner navigation and content organization for site visitors.
We took the time to talk with team members from several district departments to gain a greater appreciation of their previous efforts and investments, current initiatives and future goals. Considering our initial challenge was not only to redesign their websites but also to provide a new content delivery network—we understood that our final execution would only be as effective as our preliminary research. Performing a content audit, personas and user flow mapping exercises allowed us to be confident with our recommendations as we moved forward with the solution.
Before contacting SchoolBundle, the VSB in-house design team had recently re-branded. Everything was new—brand guidelines, messaging and voice. It was our job to pick up the energetic, upbeat new brand and elevate it for digital. We were careful to pay close attention to the details, subtly communicating the values of Vancouver's diverse geography and heritage.
In terms of design for the website, we worked through a series of exercises with the client to get everyone on the same page. As we progressed from sketches to wireframes a visual style started to emerge. Our design team also worked with the district to build an experience that allows site visitors to intuitively navigate each school website. Conversations during design reviews informed our decisions going forward, translating into a universal design across the new digital solution.
The challenge with managing multiple lines of communication across a large school board is no small task. Different technologies and workflows working in parallel to create the same content by many authors were proving to be a large investment.
Every project is an opportunity to become better and smarter. We don’t just listen to our clients; we learn from them. During the design phase, we tested our concepts to ensure that they were both visually accessible and aesthetically pleasing for low-vision users. We ensured that we differentiated beyond colour, from large elements down to the small details.
With the rise of mobile device usage, a responsive design strategy was required. The mobile-first approach organically leads to a design that’s more content-focused, and therefore user-focused. The heart of the site is content — that’s what the users are there for.
Using VSB's own attention to detail as inspiration, we built subtle yet compelling features throughout the school board’s family of websites. This included customized site banners emphasizing key geographic and cultural references to intuitive hover states and scalable menus—all working to reflect the polish and sophistication of the Vancouver School Board.
Working with the Vancouver School Board has been a fulfilling experience. After a few creative exercises and hours pouring over our strategy—the result is a scalable, flexible website with a progressive design. The VSB team really understands its audience. From the start of the project, we've felt welcomed and collaborated as a single team. For a school board like VSB to bring us in as a partner was rewarding.
We were able to bring the full weight of our expertise to the table and they pushed us to do some of our best work. The website's success is a direct testament to our working relationship. With a refined, collaborative process in place, we're excited to continue to optimize and evolve their online unified communication solution.
"With Concept Interactive’s design expertise, both visually and technically, we have achieved our goals for an integrated, robust, and pleasing to the eye web experience for our communities and our internal contributors. Prior to this change, our websites were of poor design, inconsistent information architecture, and definitely not mobile friendly.
With our new websites, we have consistency across sites that are easy to navigate, and look great on a computer and a mobile device. Our communications team members can efficiently post content and alerts across all sites or select sites, as well as into our social media channels, with essentially the same effort as posting to one site."
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