Redesigning and Moving a Complex WordPress Nonprofit Website to Managed Hosting

The Challenge

MicroSociety is a Philadelphia nonprofit with a long track record of enabling immersive experiential education in K-12 schools around the world. Their website grew over the years on typical shared hosting to include more than 20 plugins of varying quality, complexity, and security -- all integrated loosely into a commercial theme. This complexity resulted in difficulty in performing content updates, inconsistent branding, and compromised performance and security.

The Goal

MicroSociety needed access to its content and wanted to move to an easy-to-use content management system with a responsive front-end and reliable hosting that allowed for quick and easy content updates.

Our Approach

AG Strategic offered to move MicroSociety to a standards-compliant framework, using Bootstrap 4 and the trusted Underscores WordPress template framework. Also, AG Strategic advocated for the state-of-the-art Pantheon.io managed hosting platform.

On an interim basis, AG gained access to the production server and performed interim updates for security and stability while building out the new site on Pantheon. After a reskin and redesign, including crucial style and design changes needed by the client, AG thoroughly tested the new site in its new managed hosting platform.

Outcome

The new MicroSociety site incorporates an easily updatable theme framework on best-in-class managed hosting  that loads many fewer plugins, resulting in greatly improved performance, brand consistency, and security.

 

Redesigning Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory

THE CHALLENGE

With 8 Nobel Prize winners in its rich history, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (CSHL) stands tall in the field of biological research and education, as the 125+ year old proving ground for innovative research and education programs that have fostered game-changing discoveries and advanced healthcare, modern agriculture, and environmental sustainability.

In February 2017, CSHL asked AG Strategic Design to completely reimagine and rebuild CSHL's public facing website, elevating its web technology and presence to match the world-class status of this organization.  After working with CSHL's internal communications and technology teams for eight months, AG helped launch the new responsive site on the WordPress managed hosting platform Pantheon.io.

Goals

CSHL tasked AG to help it achieve a compelling redesign of its core public facing website while meeting these minimum requirements 

  • Represent CSHL's excellence digitally 
  • Employ an advanced approach to content management and DevOps
  • Make the administrative back-end experience of managing the site as delightful as the front-end experience. 

OUR APPROACH

CSHL is a dynamic institution on the leading-edge of cancer, neuroscience, plant biology and quantitative biology research. Home to a scientific community of 600, with a total of 1,000 faculty, students and employees, CSHL required a web presence that allowed them to focus on conveying their great breadth of work while eliminating any friction in delivering such related content to the web. Thus, AG focused on making the delivery and management of information about the institution's advances as easy as possible.

From a technological standpoint, this made WordPress the ideal choice for a content management system. WordPress's strengths include a well-developed PHP-based core and user-friendly out-of-the-box admin panel. WordPress also remains flexible enough to serve as an enterprise level content management system that can be customized to any institution's needs. As such, this allowed for a highly collaborative and iterative custom design of both front-end and back-end features for the site.  

Further, we wanted CSHL's internal teams to be able to focus on creating and managing content instead of being bogged down managing the servers and codebase that hosted the site.  To this end, we leveraged Pantheon.io's managed WordPress hosting platform. 

Under CSHL's previous content management system, whenever content creators wanted to refresh the design or, in some cases, even update copy, they had to make a change request to a back-end web development team. Frequently, the development team had to push the whole site again any time a change was made. This meant that both developers and content creators were unable to focus on tasks that benefitted the institution as a whole. Specifically, for content creators, this meant creating new compelling content that showcased the institutions achievements and, for the development team, this meant updating product features and making performance enhancements.  Pantheon's managed hosting development, staging and production environments allowed us to separate code from content so that each unit could focus on its core competencies.

OUTCOMES

Over the course of eight months AG reconstitued over 1,000 pages of content, wrote 10,000+ lines of custom code and created 50+ custom layouts. These are just some of the features:

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Compelling First Impressions

With a fully responsive design, the site looks great on any device. 

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Cross Promotion

Cross-promotion of various types of content where virtually any piece of content could be featured in other areas of the site at the click of a button with a customized WordPress administrative panel.

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Related Content

Related Content feeds that help visitors continue on their user journey by surfacing content topically relevant to pieces he or she might already have self-selected

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Faculty Profiles

Faculty profiles integrated throughout all content-types and pages.  This allows content producers to connect profiles to pages that promote each faculty member's research focus areas, publications or other interests

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Newsstand

A completely re-imaged Newsstand section of the site integrating dynamic content such as videos or podcasts

What this equates to practically is a system that elegantly pulls together content and resources from all areas of the site and covers the breath of work of the institution in a very easy to administer way and, more importantly, compelling way.

Agile WordPress Rollout

PolyCore Therapeutics is a pharmaceutical start-up specializing in Parkinson's disease and other central nervous system diseases.

PolyCore approached AG Strategic with a request for a quick turn around for a public website to satisfy a very important need: the firm's co-founder was selected to present at a conference highlighting PolyCore's work in two weeks time.

AG Strategic rolled out a responsive, Bootstrap-based site using managed hosting platform Pantheon. AG Strategic built a modern and compelling WordPress site using an agile development process to meet the deadline within one week from receipt of site content to launch.

Research, Strategy and Future Web Planning for a Leading Biological Research Laboratory

The Challenge

With 8 Nobel Prize winners in its rich history, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (CSHL) stands tall in the field of biological research and education, as the 125+ year old proving ground for innovative research and education programs that have fostered game-changing discoveries and advanced healthcare, modern agriculture, and environmental sustainability.

A leader in scientific discovery and biology education, CSHL retained AG Strategic to elevate its web practices, technology, design and teams to match the world-class status of this organization. 

Goals

CHSL engaged AG Strategic to conduct an assessment of our public website technologies and practices, with a specific interest in content management, custom web content, and how well it was positioned for future growth and flexibility and a strategic responsive redesign.

Our Approach

AG Strategic, on three separate visits, conducted extensive interviews with division directors, stakeholders, and senior leadership.  In addition, we analyzed a disparate set of content management approaches -- ranging from PERL to .NET to PHP on both IIS and the LAMP stack.  Additional outside informants at colleges, universities, and top tier peer research organizations helped establish a baseline for best practices.  After thorough background research, AG Strategic prepared a sourced 34-page report, Executive Summary and extensive high-level presentation for CSHL President Bruce Stillman.

Outcomes

Creation of New Web Team and Processes

  • AG Strategic’s findings will be used to plan for the creation of a new web team to implement lean and agile development processes and embark on a phased multi-year plan to harmonize web design across divisions using a responsive approach.

Content Management System Recommendations

  • AG Strategic’s report also detailed some best-fit recommendations for open-source CMS implementations, based on internal staff skillsets and internal culture.

Technology Stack

  • AG Strategic's recommendations will be used to support the implementation of industry-leading backend solutions to support CSHL's web presence.  

A Bootstrap-based Responsive Redesign of a Tables-based Website

The Challenge

A previous website redesign for a leading children's hospital had partially implemented a responsive approach by using tables for layout, thus limiting use of CSS frameworks that use modern grid-based layout approaches. AG Strategic was retained to responsively redesign the site under a modern framework and manage the implementation.

Goals

Efficiently manage the web production of a responsive redesign framework for the site. Create a modular, modern CSS framework to allow a variety of page layouts. Retain the existing top-level navigation structure.

Our Approach

AG Strategic designed and provided the following design assets:

  1. Over 20 modular CSS components based on the Bootstrap 3 framework,

  2. Custom code to collapse local section content to a hamburger menu at mobile without conflicting with the existing megamenu,

  3. A responsive, prominent “Donate” button to aid fundraising goals, and, finally,

  4. An online code repository and style guide for in-house developers to use during CMS integration.

Outcomes

Fully functional bootstrap framework pages and custom styles that will be used to redesign the site for an upcoming campaign.