How to create a digital website experience for an internationally respected boys' school which reflects their 'thoughtfully different' positioning and creative approach to education?
City of London School (established 1442), and positioned right in the heart of the Square Mile, is unique in many ways. It has an incredibly strong association with the City of London Corporation, and benefits from being a true city school with its close proximity to world-leading cultural, financial and business operations. With a new Head, the school desired to create a website which really lived and breathed their 'thoughtfully different' positioning. The site itself needed to demonstrate the independence of thinking inherent in the school; not just through use of copy, but intrinsically in the way the site was presented, content used and accessibility on any device.
Unlike many schools, who adopt more off-the-shelf web solutions, CLS wanted a site that delivered everything the school actually required, rather than simply comprising of text-heavy information (which is often barely referenced or indeed found). The new site needed to feel fresh, light, dynamic and crucially, built around the needs of those using it. This means a highly visual responsive design, using both photography and video, to create a media-rich communication experience.
City of London School
During an intense information architecture phase, all the major stake-holders were closely involved and consulted. Every element and function of the site was interrogated thoroughly and set against agreed internal benchmarks covering every aspect of school life, educational aims and objectives; as well as the needs of each key target audience. Primary and Secondary Personas were identified, with exhaustive testing for each persona’s user journey. The task was highly disciplined, and if the journey or the content was felt not to measure up, then it was to be amended or cut.
This same level of constant interrogation was maintained throughout the development and design process. The design of the site has in effect limited structural depth; there are no endless layers of information below further layers. Rather each department is empowered to create dedicated case-studies, galleries, add video and concurrently link to supporting information from elsewhere in the site. There are no dead-ends; the site continually offers further considered information whilst at all times driving the visitor to an established call to action (applying, visiting an Open Day etc).
At Wild Dog we commissioned a photographer to start creating a new library of images, whilst CLS embraced the video arts with testimonials and real-life school activity. The school commissioned a major film company to train the pupils to create dedicated website content; and going forward, a new digital Media Lab has been built in-house to offer video, photography and animation as a standard part of the creative approach for the pupil's and staff’s communication.
The core CMS of the site is built with Joomla, and by adopting open-source, the school isn't locked into using proprietary software; with full training and service support. REST APIs were written to connect the site with a network of back-end CRM, payment, dynamic on-line calendar systems through to intranet and parent portal.
The finished result is a fresh, confident, aspirational, democratic website; one which thoroughly embraces modern media and communication, whilst staying true to the constant values of the school reaching back nearly 600 years of resilience, generosity and independence of thinking. A ‘thoughtfully different’ website for a truly independent thinking school.
Gone is the standard 'About Us' copy on a page of the site. The schools' own Media Lab created the school video which takes pride of place and clearly states it was 'written, filmed and produced by the pupils'. It is this sort of content which really delivers on being 'thoughtfully different', and demonstrates the forward-thinking nature of the school.
The site itself is built with Joomla, meaning everything is open-source, and the school isn't locked into using proprietary software. We trained the team at City of London, so they can quickly and easily update their site, keeping it up-to-date and fresh.
The result is a truly individual site for a truly independent thinking school.
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