Case Study: Bloomington Public Schools - Drupal 8
From chaotic and disjointed to streamlined and cohesive
Bloomington Public Schools (BPS) has been a client since 2011. We migrated them from SchoolFusion back then and helped them design, architect and develop The Hub, a parent and student portal in 2013. Not only have we been keeping their district and accompanying school websites updated and secure, we’ve been adding features to The Hub. In 2019, they decided it was time to re-architect their district and school sites to be user focused and consolidated under one domain. So we helped them with their strategy, redesigned the site and migrated to Drupal 8.
“We already had a good working relationship with TEN7. They know our organization, they know our systems,” said Andrea George, BPS Communication Specialist. “When that’s the case, you get a different level of collaboration and outcome, versus when you just start to work together. We didn’t know how big of a benefit that would be.”
The redesign was going to be a big job, as the sites had issues on many fronts:
- Content: Things had gone a bit “wild west.” There were 3,000 content items on the site (!), and a large chunk of them were expired news content or dead pages created for one-off purposes.
- Usability: User feedback (parents and staff) overwhelmingly said that it was too hard to find information they needed. The navigation wasn’t intuitive, was different on each school site and was located in different places on school pages, and in general the page designs just weren’t user friendly.
- Search: The search didn’t work well, and was bringing up really old content.
- Design: The sites were over seven years old—a lifetime in internet years—and the design was starting to show its age. Each of the 15 schools lived on its own subdomain, had its own visual identity and there was no visual design relationship between schools, or between the schools and district pages.
Our assignment: cull content and design a user-focused district-wide site
When you redesign legacy sites, the best place to start is with content strategy and a content audit. “Since we were truly starting from scratch, and we were not going to automatically migrate content over, we were committed to looking at EVERYTHING,” said Andrea.
Lynn Winter, our Content Strategist, went through two content purge rounds. The first identified content that should absolutely be removed, like outdated content, and “dead” pages no one was visiting. The second round identified content that could be combined or removed, but that needed BPS review. When it was all over, Lynn and BPS had pared 3000 content items down to about 1000.
To avoid the same content chaos on the new site, BPS wanted to be more intentional about allowing content on the site. Webmasters from each school would be gatekeepers for content, and there would be an approval process for any potential new site content. To assist with this, Lynn ran a workshop with the BPS marketing department to teach them how to rigorously evaluate content, both to determine what should be recreated on the redesigned site, and to help them determine criteria for adding content to the website in the future.
On the infrastructure side, we rebuilt the sites on Drupal 8, got rid of the subdomains they were using and unified the district site and all the school sites under a single domain. We set up the Drupal Group module to provide relationships between the content on the site and group entities. The module also manages permissions and roles for each school, which would help in the future content approval process. We implemented SOLR for search on the back end, with rules to make search results only show current school year content and prioritize recent content. We also added a keyword field to each page, so it could show in results even if a desired keyword isn’t part of the organic page content.
With the content and infrastructure nailed down, the design challenge was: how do we create one design to accommodate the branding distinction of individual schools? We decided the district brand should be the strongest, and we kept a tight shared design aesthetic between the district and school branding. To keep brand impressions consistent between schools, all the schools have a consistent design, with differences occurring in their unique logo, and a distinctive color palette, chosen from the BPS “super style guide” that we created. If a new school is added down the road, they can again choose from the approved palettes. We also made sure that the design was responsive and looked good at multiple screen widths.
The district branding/navigation is omnipresent with a mega menu at the top of any site page. School site navigation is found in a consistently located left sidebar, and navigation options there are related to each school.
A few months before launch, we trained the school webmasters in using Drupal 8’s component-based pages and were there to answer any questions they had on using the new site. Our designer also attended the training to get feedback on whether the content was working as intended with design—and then tweaked the design where it wasn’t.
Outcome: a streamlined, fresh and cohesive site
BPS launched the redesigned district site in mid-January 2020, and they’ve already received great feedback from staff and other stakeholders. “We were worried about how schools would react, but it’s been really positive,” said Andrea. Kate Martin, District Marketing and Communications Manager, added, “They like the use of color. It’s brighter, fresher, and feels more modern. Everyone is just really excited. From a design and style standpoint, the site has achieved all our goals.”