When Less Is More: Building Christel House’s New Website

4 min read

Christel House homepage mockup

Picture this: You’re a school with two campuses. Currently, your schools are K-12 all in one building, but you might separate out the high school. Also, you have a program to help adults earn a high school diploma, which operates from both campuses—plus one more. Also, you’re somewhat connected to an international franchise of similar schools with the same name that was founded by a local philanthropist. Visitors come to your website looking for any number of things, from enrollment to lunch menus to employment opportunities.

Can you imagine how your web presence might look, how you’d communicate your organization’s structure to visitors, or how you might manage it all? That was exactly the problem Christel House Network asked us to solve when they came to us for a new website.

The Challenge

Here are the challenges we needed to address when building a new website for Christel House: 

  • Multiple websites: On the previous website, many links would open up a new site and domain entirely, likely built out as the best way to account for the growing and changing structure of the school system and its programs.
  • Fractured user experience: Because links opened a new website, it was hard to understand the relationship between the schools or to orient yourself within your website journey.
  • Inconsistent navigation: The navigation looked different with each new page or site, so it was often difficult to understand how to use or interact with the menus or where to find them on each page. 
  • Difficult to manage and update: Managing multiple websites built on different platforms was a challenge, in addition to managing the calendars, staff directory, student handbooks, and other similar resources.
  • Unconventional school structure: Christel House operates multiple programs and schools across several locations. Furthermore, all of these campuses were not to be confused with an international network of charter schools with the same name and same founder.
  • Upcoming changes: With the possibility of network growth on the horizon, we needed a website that could accommodate continued growth and change.

What We Did

Christel House homepage tour gif

The new Christel House Schools homepage.

Here was our process for building a site that checked all the boxes:

  • Interviewed the client: We talked with Christel House leadership about their current and future needs, pain points, must-haves, and desires. We also asked about who’d be responsible for managing the site after launch and what we could to do improve the process while still keeping it simple and straightforward, using the content management systems they had in place.
  • Audited all sites for content and usability: We collected a list of all pages across all domains and did a content and usability audit to better understand what the content on each page was supposed to do, and how each page actually functioned for search engines and users.  
  • Created a sitemap: Based on what we found in our audit, we put together a list of pages that needed to be on the new website, along with an outline of the content on each page. We also created a sitemap graphic to show the relationship between and hierarchy of all pages.
  • Worked as a team: This project involved an interdisciplinary team across our accounts, creative, digital strategy, design, and development departments.  It also involved a lot of communication, check-ins, and feedback to keep the project moving.

The Results

A walk-through of the CHS website.

Through the work of all departments, along with client feedback and guidance, we were able to accomplish the following:

  • One streamlined website: Under a new domain, chschools.org, we now have 20 indexable pages that address the issues from the previous site. Previously, there were upwards of 160 pages across multiple domains. We condensed these and set up 301 redirects for all previously indexed pages.
  • A framework that accounts for future growth: With the way the new website is structured within WordPress, Christel House should be able to add new schools and programs to the existing website structure without compromising the integrity of the site’s architecture or the user experience.
  • Simplified backend management: With one website that incorporates their existing calendar system, the client can now make and roll out website updates all in one place, all in one platform. 

To see the before, here’s a snapshot of the previous site. Take a minute clicking through the site and its related websites before visiting the new website: chschools.org. Hopefully, you’ll find–as our client did–that the new site offers an improved experience that helps visitors find their way to information, enrollment, employment and more.