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Aerial shot of Whitgift campus

Whitgift School

Creating a best-in-class, award-winning website redesign 

For over four centuries, Whitgift School has been preparing young men for the challenges and opportunities of tomorrow. But, like many schools, Whitgift’s former website had tried to be everything to all people and wasn’t telling a story that resonated with prospective families.

The site contained too much content, the search functionality and navigation were poor, the CMS was difficult to update, and most problematic — the website was not optimized for mobile devices.

The Challenge: A frustrating user experience

After joining Whitgift in 2018, Director of Marketing and Communications Hina Ghumra, was tasked to appoint a company to redesign the school’s website. A major undertaking for sure, but having recently attended Finalsite University in London, Ghumra knew the importance of addressing the pain points of prospective families, and creating a customer journey that caters to different personas and stages of consideration. This resonated with her and became a major focus of the website redesign.

“Finalsite really gets where schools are coming from and really understands the problems and the issues they face. They are working on technology solutions beyond just the website — they're evolving their product suite and really investing in the overall digital platform.” 

students walking around Whitgift Campus


At a Glance

With its history tracing back to the late 1500s, Whitgift School is known for transforming boys’ lives through the value of education. As a day and boarding school for boys aged 10 to 18 across 45-acres in South London, the school is home to 100 boarding students, which includes 1550 young men and Whitgift’s famous peacocks and flamingos.

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The Solution — Choosing the right website provider

Whitgift put the website out for tender with clear goals in mind. “We knew exactly what we wanted and were able to ask suppliers relevant questions,” Ghumra shared. “It’s important to have clear and agreed-upon goals with your key stakeholders. With parents making an investment of upwards of 80,000 pounds over the lifetime of their child’s education, it’s essentially a luxury purchase for them, like a high-end luxury car brand. For us it was really important that our website looked great, functioned well, information was easy to find, and that the navigation was streamlined.”

Once Whitgift chose to partner with Finalsite, they took a systematic approach to understand their audience, define their strategy, and deploy their site.

Understanding your audience

Whitgift’s Marketing and Communications Consultant Kerry Clayton knew the importance of connecting with current and prospective parents from the 40+ “millennial” generation. As tech-savvy, digitally literate, smartphone users, many expect exceptional customer experience and receiving information when they want it, and how they want it.

The marketing team applied this “millennial” strategy to their website redesign, focusing on a strong visual identity and smooth user journeys. Whitgift also surveyed parents who had just joined the school and 80 percent told them the website had been their primary research tool when considering schools. When prospective parents come to their website with needs and questions, Whitgift wanted to ensure a great user experience through site content, structure, and organized navigation.

“From the beginning, we were very clear about what the differentiators were that we wanted to have reflected in our new website,” Clayton said. “We are an ethnically and racially diverse school, with 50 percent of our students on some form of stipend. We wanted visitors to get an impression of our values and our brand so we used images and stories about our students and staff throughout the website so that prospective families could get a real sense of what life at Whitgift would be like for their son.”

Inspiration for an expanded color palette

With an older, classical color palette synonymous with independent schools, Whitgift recognized early on that if they wanted to create a modern and beautiful site, they would need to expand their color palette. They decided to be bold and created a wonderful array of colors to use throughout their site, an homage to the many different shades and colors found within a peacock’s feathers.

Screenshot of Whitgift homepage highlights

Preparing, editing, and reviewing content prior to launch

While planning, the Whitgift team took every section of their old site and used the nominal group technique to sort content — they put key pages headings onto sticky notes, and grouped and ordered it, visualizing their page structure to determine if it was relevant to prospective parents. If it wasn’t, it was moved into another section or to a constituent portal more appropriate for current parents, current students, or alumni.

Screenshot of Parent portal

Prior to launch, Whitgift’s review and editing process included assigned tasks that rotated through the team, ensuring a fresh set of eyes reviewed different parts of the site. 

They also enlisted several groups of testers that included parents, teachers, and members of the parents’ association, each simulating tasks that a prospective parent would, resulting in some very constructive feedback. The groups also tested and checked the site across the different device types, comparing the mobile experience to what was experienced on a desktop. With over half of their traffic coming from mobile devices, this was a critical step.

Clayton utilized Finalsite’s on-demand training platform and Learning Center to learn best-practices about Posts, Calendar Manager, and other modules that would help elevate content and engage families. “It was absolutely perfect and gave us exactly what we needed to get started and gave us confidence to really start building the site.”

She also stated she never stops learning by reading the Finalsite Blog, reading eBooks and watching webinars, adding that “I still do this regularly to update my knowledge and get inspiration. I find it really, really useful and it just helps me keep on top of best practices.”

The Results - An award-winning website

Whitgift chose Finalsite not only for their award-winning custom design, but also for the powerful software that allows content and page design to easily be created and flourish beyond the homepage.

One of the most popular and impressive features of their new site is the I am Whitgift page, which showcases their community through an interactive and immersive experience.

I am Whitgift Screenshot

As users scroll down the page, expanding words and images share inspiring stories from members of their community. Through photos, text, and animation, prospective students are introduced to current students and can learn more about their academic passions and personal interests.

Custom, filterable content

With over 100 clubs that differentiate and enrich their school experience, Whitgift wanted an easy way for prospective parents to be able to browse a co-curricular directory filtered by age and interest.

Screenshot of Whitgift co-curricular page

Using Finalsite Posts, Whitgift crafted an impressive co-curricular directory that enables visitors to sort and select activities based on the year and category of the club or society. With bold imagery, shading, and colors, parents and prospective students can easily browse and learn more about their extensive programs.

Flexible campaign creation

“We also wanted a website that could help with our campaigns,” Clayton shared. “We wanted to be able to create engaging landing pages and embed forms so that we can drive the best conversions. We needed the platform to be technically strong and easily configurable.”

Whitgift Talent Pool Screenshot

One such campaign created with Finalsite’s content management system, Composer, was a teacher recruitment campaign that included a custom landing page with video content, website notifications, and a form to register for an upcoming webinar. In three weeks they had 60 people added to their talent pool — a previously untapped section of the website that is now getting great organic traffic.

Tools for easy search engine optimization

Tapping into Google Analytics, as well as the metrics provided by Composer’s advanced search feature, the team now makes data-driven decisions to use in its search engine optimization efforts. 

Knowing that 60 percent of their traffic comes from organic search, and 80 percent of searches are unbranded, the team has focused efforts on updating their pages’ title tags and meta descriptions to better answer the questions prospective families are asking and searching for online.

While the team can’t compare year-over-year data because their prior website provider didn’t offer it, the team now knows that they’re seeing lower bounce rates and that the site performs consistently well, especially on mobile. 

Parent feedback on the new site has been positive too, with families commenting that the information is now very easy to find on the website. 

“Being new to the sector, Finalsite brought a lot of knowledge and filled some gaps that I had around the independent school sector,” Ghumra continued. “We believe in long-term relationships and their value, and regular meetings with our Client Success Manager, who guides, supports and encourages us to always be looking ahead to how to make our message clearer to our target clients.”

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