10 campuses, diversified educational programs, recognizable brand. Check out how did we plan and implement brand-new websites for WSB Universities.
The main reason for the WSB website upgrade project was the drive to meet and exceed online presence expectations, as well as to adhere to the latest design and technological standards.
From the technical point of view, the biggest issue with the previous website is the fact that there were two websites: one for desktop users and one for mobile visitors. Even though a visitor might not notice and webpages would render properly, the design was not responsive and, on top of that, the mobile site was naturally missing some of the functionality otherwise found in the general website.
Second issue stemming from the one above is the fact that having two separate sites required doubling on work – both content and graphics-wise.
The third issue with the double-website-working-as-one is the back-end administration. As the content required uploading to different websites and lots of personnel were tasked with content creation, managing content across two sites ended up being very frustrating and difficult.
Last, but not least, even though the previous website was set up on open-source Drupal technology, the setup was plagued by multiple Drupal instances, separate version for mobile and desktop visitors and lack of standardization. The result was the inability to upgrade to the newest and most secure Drupal version, lack of optimizations and inability to add additional website functionality.
Given that we examined the Client’s sector and outlined the business needs, we designed and implemented a new, standards-compliant Drupal solution.
The decision to stick with Drupal was based on several factors. One of them is the fact that Drupal is a CMS which means that our Client will be able to easily update website content. Moreover, Drupal handles administration and publishing roles exceptionally well which means that numerous people and teams can work on updating the website with ease.
Secondly, Drupal is very extensible. As the current technological landscape changes quickly, the ability to add new functionality to existing installations is crucial. In comparison with custom-made CMS systems, Drupal is continually improved, upgraded and new features are rolled out on an almost everyday basis. Chances are, that if the Client wants to extend the functionality of his website in the future, he might have a pre-made, plugin-based Drupal solution ready to be implemented, without the need to re-code large parts of the website.
Third, Drupal is completely open-source and thus free of any licensing costs. This allows the administration to properly forecast and stick to website maintenance and development budgets.
Last, but not least, it’s important to point out that Drupal is very secure and security updates are being rolled out on an ongoing basis. Given that WSB Universities has several campuses and thousands of students, data security is a top priority. As one of the most secure CMS out there, Drupal makes for an excellent choice for higher education institutions.
Solution in details
Given that the WSB Universities Group possesses 10 campuses spread across the country, we made sure that we laid out the proper technological foundations on which we built our solution. For the basis of the project, we decided to make a multi-instance Drupal solution based on a single codebase. This way upgrading – such as performing security updates – can be made company-wide in a single swoop.
On one codebase foundation, we deployed individual Drupal instances, each with their database. This was done to allow each university campus to customize their content, all while retaining the overall branding and security level.
The next step was setting up the User Interface. According to the specifications we received from WSB Universities Group, we designed and implemented several solutions, some of which were custom-made. These solutions include CAS logging system integration, listings and modules based on Vue and Elastic Search technologies, content indexing for Elasticsearch, custom breadcrumb modules and full integration with the CRM software which is used internally.
Few key points:
- CAS logging systems allows for dynamic logging of each Drupal instance
- Listings and modules for Elasticsearch greatly improve the performance of searching, by allowing filters to work on-the-fly, while additional pre-loading takes place in the background
- Indexing for Elasticsearch works completely automatically and new content is indexed without any re-indexing input from the author/user. As such, the search engine always has the latest index and works much faster
- Customized breadcrumbs allow for precise UX according to Customer’s desired outcome
- Multi-threaded integration with the CRM system, featuring the integration of prices, listings, and registration forms give the benefits of managing information received from the website by the Customer Service Department or the relevant department at the university.
Aside from the structural changes, we also suggested a few improvements to the administration panel and back-end, which were met with Customer’s approval. One of the ideas was allowing each language version of the website to have a respective layout, bound to that language only. This allowed the Customer to serve a unique and customized experience to each visitor, depending on the language.
Moreover, we came up with the idea of dynamic paragraphs, which allows the website administrator to enter text and have it arranged and displayed properly across the entire page, without any coding done. As the author enters text, it’s automatically broken down to paragraphs and separated by supporting graphics. This was our own, custom-made solution for WSB.
To avoid the dual-website fiasco which we outlined above, the new WSB Universities Group websites are all based on Responsive Web Design (RWD) technology. As such, all users, regardless of the screen size (as long as it’s above 320px in width) have a consistent, responsive and properly rendered website experience. In comparison with the previous website, this was a direct solution to the UI/UX problem our Customer was experiencing.
Realisation in numbers
The entire project was made in Agile methodology: 2 sprints, each lasting two weeks and 8 sprints in total
The entire project took 1700 hours
The team included a Project Manager, Tester, two Senior Drupal Developers and two Junior Drupal Developers
We created 45 views for desktop users and 35 different views for mobile users, making the total of 80 different designs!
We created 24 designs/views for different language versions of the websites
We spent 100 hours on meetings for this project
More than 150 liters of coffee helped us out
The end result was more than 170 000 lines of code...and all this was set up on the latest version of Drupal: 8.
- Drastically improved campus-wide websites security structure
- Easy upgrading for all instances
- Significant improvement in page speed and overall loading time
- Excellent rendering on all mobile devices
- Intuitive website both for end-users and managers
- Advanced roles and permissions panel, allowing for precise website administration
- Optimized search and on-the-fly filtering of results
- Seamless integration with CRM and other back-end systems
- Website functionality upgrades are a breeze from now on
The partnership approach of Smartbees makes our cooperation an effective and pleasant one. That is why we do not hesitate to contract out new assignments to them.
They are good at establishing a strong business relationship with customers.
Smartbees performed a giant experience in Drupal CMS system and helped us to modernize our tender service.