Custom web design and digital architecture strategy for ASPIRE – Toronto Finance International’s talent development platform.
ASPIRE aims to attract the next generation of financial services talent by uncovering the diverse, challenging and innovative nature of financial services for students, and facilitating access to opportunities in the sector.
Earlier this year ASPIRE received support from both the Government of Canada and Ontario Provincial Government to fund a three-year marketing campaign and brand new custom website design and contest portal development. Our Toronto Web Design Company was invited to review the project and submit a formal web design proposal for the project.
After a thorough vetting of our professional references and experience in professional website design for financial services, ASPIRE awarded our Toronto web design agency the exciting new website design and development project.
Determining Our Website Design Goals
- Website architecture and user experience design – having survived with a single page website before acquiring federal and provincial government funding, ASPIRE’s website analytics was quite basic. In this case, to successfully design a new website and navigation architecture our experienced web designers had to rely on years of professional experience and knowledge.
- Website user interface design – to complement the redesigned website architecture and provide an intuitive and contemporary user experience with a custom website user interface design would be necessary. The new UI design would also strengthen the growing ASPIRE brand and instil more confidence in students, schools and employers in the financial services industry.
- Custom WordPress development – ASPIRE staff would require unrestricted ability to manage the new website and contest on a day-to-day basis. WordPress was chosen as the content management system given its easy-to-use nature and flexibility regarding design and function.
- On-site search engine optimization – to accommodate the marketing efforts planned for the following three years our web design team was tasked with providing the latest and most significant features in on-site search engine optimization to ensure the new website reached peak performance in relevant web searches.
- Development of the ASPIRE Challenge Contest and applicant tracking platform – once the public facing website was successfully deployed, efforts would be shifted to the design and development of the ASPIRE Challenge Contest platform that allows ASPIRE to accept, review and track student submissions, schedule interviews and share individual feedback with participants.
- Accessible information and resources – operating in Canada on behalf of government agencies for Canadian students, universities and employers, requires absolutely accessibility and inclusivity. The website would be designed and developed to meet today’s accessibility standards, and all information and resources would be available in both English and French.
Our Website Design Process
Our partnership with ASPIRE began with an on-site meeting downtown Toronto to review the goals for the new website design and student contest platform to define our direction and bring all participants into the fold. During our kickoff session, we also helped the ASPIRE team identify key pain points or challenges with the original website. This exercise helps our web designers create a design strategy from the get-go to address and eliminate such challenges later in the project.
Following our kick-off meeting, we invited the ASPIRE team to participate in our famous website design questionnaire to help inspire creative thinking and carefully extract our client’s impression and understanding of their brand. Through this fun-focused experience, both our creative web design team and our client become more familiar, and we are able to begin compiling actionable feedback and direction for the strategy and website design phase.
Following the completion of the questionnaire, our web designers begin analysing top competitor websites to understand industry benchmarks and identify tactical visual marketing points before the creative design phase. During this period we would also dig into our clients’ website analytics, however in ASPIRE’s case, having operated with a single landing page to-date, the analytics data was quite basic leaving our experienced web design company to rely on knowledge and best practices.
Web Design Strategy
Our website design strategy phase is where the new website begins to come alive, and our clients start seeing tangible elements of the project. We kick off the strategy phase with a site mapping exercise based on the initial discovery work and client feedback collected earlier. Viewing the new website navigational structure at this stage gave ASPIRE the opportunity to understand and review our proposed design in a visual context.
The sitemap exercise is an opportunity to bring overlooked information forward for the user as well as address drop-off points discovered in the analytics user flow that often leads to increased bounce rates.
Following approval of the new sitemap is the wireframing stage, which is where the new website begins to take shape in the form of a digital blueprint. Our web designers rely heavily on wireframing to identify all unique page layouts required within the new website without the distraction of polished design. The wireframes also offer both teams a valuable opportunity to review and discuss page architecture to ensure the desired user flow is achieved within the final design. In basic terms, wireframing serves as a master plan for our Toronto web designers to meet the project goals.
To provide ASPIRE with a realistic and true-to-life of our proposed web design strategy, we presented the wireframe design within a digital prototyping tool that allows both our team and our clients to experience the user interface wireframes as they would behave in a typical web browser or mobile device. Once inside prototype, ASPIRE team members could sketch directly on or leave detailed comments on the wires for our design team to collect and respond to in real time.
This type of end-to-end engagement provided ASPIRE with a thorough understanding of our website design strategy and involved all parties in the decision-making process. The most substantial benefit of this workflow is its ability to significantly decrease the need for design revisions during the creative web design phase that follows. Our web design strategy saves our clients time, money and helps us deliver the results our clients have come to value and expect.
Professional Website Design
With a formal approval of the website design strategy documents from ASPIRE our professional website designers were able to move forward with the creative website user interface design. The creative stage is undoubtedly the most exciting as our clients begin to experience the polished concepts that our weeks of collaborative work have laid the foundation for.
Working directly from the final wireframe design, our design team began to work up the new user interface concept that would serve as the focal point for the marketing efforts to follow. ASPIRE’s bold and vibrant brand provided our creative team with the opportunity to create a user interface design that could easily command attention and inspire students and employers alike to take action while browsing the website.
Throughout our creative process, the concept design for the new website unfolded quite quickly and was very well received by the ASPIRE team. Leaning on a quick concept approval, the new visual direction was firmly established, and our web designers focused on carrying the concept and brand work throughout the entire suite of wireframes.
Making the ASPIRE website design project a unique experience for our web design company was their extensive photo library and the ability to avoid stock imagery entirely. Showcasing a new website design that is 100% reliant on custom photography is a rare treat and granted ASPIRE complete control over the presentation of their digital brand experience.
As with our wireframe design, we presented our digital design work within a prototyping tool allowing ASPIRE to engage with the new website design in true desktop and mobile context before the first line of code was written. Providing ASPIRE with this opportunity before requesting design approval ensured that their team held a complete understanding of the new website’s responsive behaviour and set clear expectations for what was to follow during the website development phase.
Mobile Website Design
Following completion of the desktop website design, our team was set to divide and conquer. The desktop artwork was prepared for website development, while our web design team shifted focus from desktop to mobile web design.
Understanding that most students would likely engage with the website initially on a mobile device, but more importantly convert through the student sign up form or enter the ASPIRE Challenge Contest from a desktop computer, later on, we opted to approach the mobile layout second. That said, our approach to a clear and consistent mobile website design remained unchanged from any other project and students would still have the ability to fully engage with the website and contact platform on a mobile device if they chose to.
Following official approval from ASPIRE on the mobile website design, our professional WordPress developers took centre stage as focus shifted from creative design to full-scale coding.
Custom WordPress Web Development
Following the creative web design phase, our web design company transitioned into the fourth stage of the ASPIRE website project – custom web development. During the development stage, our team of skilled WordPress developers worked simultaneously on creating the custom front-end website user interface and creating the hand-made backend content manager. One of our driving principles in website development is to give the backend content editor some extra attention to make day-to-day website management a breeze for our clients. Our talented Toronto WordPress developers achieve this simplicity through a combination of skill and a deep understanding of how WordPress can be customised to suit just about any scenario.
As the development of the new website was underway, ASPIRE was able to channel their focus on creating their new website content for delivery to our team for translation to French before content entry and quality assurance testing. During this quietest phase of the website design project we aimed to keep communication open on a weekly basis while our WordPress developers focused on breathing life into the new website design.
Our Toronto web design company enjoys success through collaboration and communication between our web design and development teams as some firms rely heavily on front-end designers and only introduce the back-end developers later in the project to merely implement the website’s functionality. Our Toronto web design agency is quite different in that we engage our backend WordPress developers from the strategy phase through completion to ensure everyone is invested, involved and focused, virtually eliminating unforeseen obstacles where design meets function.
Relying on our technical-minded team to roll out the new ASPIRE website was critical as we layered Phase 1 (the public facing website) and Phase 2 (the ASPIRE Challenge Contest) seamlessly for a smooth rollout from staging to production.
As our quality assurance process was underway ironing out any wrinkles with the public facing website, we began work on the highly customised content and applicant tracking platform to be integrated within the website. The contest would appear quite simple on the surface. Students would be invited to complete a web form answering a series of qualifying questions, followed by a more in-depth section in which the students would explain an innovative idea to help change the financial industry. Submissions would then be reviewed and vetted by ASPIRE staff before the automated platform took over to arrange appointments for conferences and additional feedback with successful applicants.
Additionally, the ASPIRE team could also track each applicant’s progress through the contest to ensure no entry was missed and that each successful candidate was promoted through each level of the contest in due time.
WordPress Website Deployment
Given the nature of the project it was imperative we roll out the website in two phases. As the public facing website passed quality assurance testing in both English and French it was staged on the new managed WordPress hosting platform before deployment to production.
A couple weeks after the successful launch of the public facing website the ASPIRE Challenge Contest platform was integrated into the website and deployed.
With all new web deployments, we advise our clients to adhere to the ‘soft launch’ approach. The soft launch method allows the website a window to get used to its new home and run on the new production server before launching any marketing efforts drawing traffic to the website. The safer approach gives our website designers an opportunity to carefully monitor the new website and address any last minute issues production wrinkles before fully rolling out for public view.
WordPress Training Demo and SEO Best Practices
The final phase in our website design project with ASPIRE was a crash course in website management. During the WordPress training session, we walked ASPIRE through all the new tools built into their custom website and discussed the day-to-day management of the new website. At this stage, we also reviewed on-site SEO best practices to ensure the web administrators continued optimising the website as efficiently as possible.
About Parachute Design
Parachute Design has been hand-crafting professional website design for financial organizations in Toronto and across North America since 2003. Our professional web design team has the years of experience to create tailored a solution to meet the unique needs of any business. To get a free web design quote for your financial firm or business, call our Toronto web design company at 416-901-8633 or complete our online proposal planner.