Advance Colleges Trust: WordPress website design & development

A custom WordPress website design for a sixth form college trust

Advance Colleges Trust:  WordPress website design & development
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Showcasing the ACT group

The challenge

We (Feel Created) were tasked with designing and building a custom WordPress website. The website needed to showcase the Advance Colleges Trust (ACT) group. The site also had to act as a springboard for the ACT colleges within the group. The Feel team was tasked with creating a site that acted as a useful resource for staff and students. As our CMS of choice, we opted to use the WordPress content management system (CMS) with the Gutenberg block editing feature to meet all aspects of the brief.

We’re often tasked with creating websites that primarily look good and perform well. Secondary objectives often relate to specific functionality that supports business operations. Each custom project is dealt with on a case-by-case basis. A key driver for clients selecting us is that we don’t use off-the-peg themes and keep plugin usage to a minimum. Each design is bespoke, and the  ACT site was no exception. We designed a site that catered to the trust’s specific requirements. 

The solution:

We focused on bringing together the two separate elements a) showcasing ACT and b) providing categorisation and search functionality for ACT resources in the design and development stages. It was essential to the project that all design and build elements worked together, creating one cohesive website. It was important to the ACT team to be able to update the website post-launch. To keep the resource section current, the ACT team needed a user-friendly CMS, and the answer to this was WordPress.

Gutenberg Content Builder

A flexible solution for content managers

The Gutenberg Content Editor, a feature of WordPress, allowed the Feel team to design and develop custom content blocks (adhering to WordPress coding standards) specifically for ACT. The blocks offered a high degree of flexibility. Content creators could drop in appropriate blocks to support page content while staying within the ACT branded framework.

Gutenberg Content Builder

Categorised and searchable digital resources

Making it easy for users to find what they need

Within the build, we allowed for the creation of different 'Resource Hubs'. The Resource Hubs were designed to contain groups of online resources (e.g. digital lessons and learning strategies), making it easy for users to find their required information. Within each hub, content creators were able to add additional filters to refine by topic (e.g. Maths, English) and target level (e.g. Level 2, 3 and further education). Offering these and additional sorting tools enabled the ACT team to paginate the results effectively.

Making it easy to find lessons was just one part of the challenge. The lessons were created using the Articulate Rise 360 programme, enabling users to create fully interactive online lessons. The programme also offered real-time feedback to students to improve the learning experience. To complete the user experience, we developed a system where users could download a range of resource packs relating to the lesson (inc. general resources and accessibility info). And to facilitate continual improvement at the back end, we incorporated targeted analytics events tracking to collect additional visitor statistics against individual lessons.

ACT College WordPress Project

SEO optimised copywriting

A time-saving content creation measure

We provided copywriting for all the main pages on site. The ACT team was keen to incorporate this service into the build. With no dedicated content writers on-site for the project, it saved the ACT team many hours of copywriting. After initial collaborative discussions, we created the content to capture ACT's copy requirements and uploaded it straight to the development site for review and approval. Seeing the copy placed within the design helped the ACT team visualise the finished result much more effectively than a wordprocessed document.

A streamlined, collaborative approach meant that following early input, the only invested time required from the ACT team was for review and sign off. We’re experienced in working as an extended member of client teams. Bringing SEO copywriting fundamentals to the build, a quick conversation around requirements and a list of key points to include were the only actions necessary for us to get started.

Copywriting services

The result

The bold and striking design of the ACT website draws the eye of the user with engaging, interactive elements. The new design allows for a better presentation of ACT content that serves as a strong introduction to the group. ACT is represented in a clean and modern manner and acts as a springboard to each of the three colleges within the group. Built with performance in mind, the site offers a better user experience and SEO performance.

And both of these factors help to lower the carbon footprint of the build. Lessons are now accessible for users and easy for back-end users to add, and they are readily available regardless of the device type or screen size used. We’ve helped ACT meet its initial objectives, supporting with added value services, such as copywriting, along the way. The result is a standout website, which other educational institutions have highlighted as a driving factor in their initial engagement with Feel Created.

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