One of our designers, Sarah has recently been developing the latest version of the Denstone College Preparatory School website.

She’s worked on the DCPS account for over a decade and during that time has made her mark on the brand’s development and creative progression. McConnells first began developing brand concepts for the school back in August 2008 before designing the website in 2011 and a web refresh in 2015.

Last week we successfully launched ‘version 3’ of the site. Here, Sarah reflects on how the web development briefs have changed, or rather evolved, over the years:

“With regard to web development and site function, so much has advanced in such a relatively short period of time. In progressing the school’s site, it’s interesting to see the image and function of websites now – compared to the performance and visuals of their 2011 incarnations – in terms of look, feel and operation.
“In the round, one of the most noticeable changes is the evolution of site visuals. In the mid-2000s designers used tables to structure website layouts, including flash and 3D animations. These sites were often extremely busy, with images, links and heavy text all displayed at the same time. The users’ journey was clunky and site speed was slow, not to mention the terrible ranking results in search engines.
“In comparison to what we see on a home page these days, it was most definitely overkill, with many sites looking as though the web developer had thrown everything possible at the page. However, web designers and developers now focus on meaningful visitor journeys that result in measured conversion rates – in addition to displaying more definitive levels of ‘personality’, which of course can only serve to benefit the brand.
“The new Denstone Prep School website certainly exhibits that, with plenty of character and smooth steering, because as we shouldn’t forget, what’s good for the brand is good for the business – especially as statistics show that 40% of users won’t return to a site that presents poor structure or is frustrating to navigate.
“Mention of building business leads me to functionality – another web design area that’s improved significantly in recent years. Back in the day, websites were little more than a contact card or light brochure and not intended to perform as a mechanism that would drive sales or work interactively as a customer tool.


of users won’t return to a site that presents poor structure or is frustrating to navigate.

“This is no longer the case. The latest version of the DCPS website not only appeals visually to current and prospective parents and children but has been built as an instrument. It includes a portal where members of the school community can access event calendars, lunchtime menus, and sports fixtures, reports and team sheets, and even create a place for teachers to post blogs and communications. The site redesign will also present a new alumni page in 2020, adding yet further opportunities for the school to develop relationships and build on its brand – all through a website that can be interacted with, on whichever device suits its users best.

“You see previously the majority of websites were built for desktop computer functionality, before they evolved to switch between desktop and mobile versions depending on what the site understood the user wanted. However, these days the school community, like most other web using groups, finds it most convenient to access the site from well, anywhere, and to enable this, a site must be built to be responsive from the get-go. Happily, software progressions have allowed us to do this seamlessly these days. We know from reviewing the school’s analytics that school users view and use the site from mobile platforms; giving us the knowledge to respond accordingly. Adding to this insider intelligence, we have reports from Google that 75% of mobile searches trigger a follow-up action such as a phone call, store visit, or purchase, providing us with further confirmation that to prove successful, websites must be fully and instantly functional for all platforms – regardless of the device type being used.
“Overall, it’s been rewarding to have had undivided input into the Denstone College Preparatory School website progression; seeing the platform evolve and helping it to move with the times so it serves the client, the customers and of course, the brand.

“‘Less’ in terms of what you see on the outside and ‘more’ regarding what’s happening on the inside is leading the way in web design. It’s an exciting time and speaking as a designer, it’s great to be a part of.”

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