Walsall Academy is a secondary school located in Bloxwich, Walsall. It first opened in 2003 and has an enrolment of 1159 students, with 250 students in Sixth form as of 2009.
Whilst at university, I undertook a years work placement at Walsall Academy. During this time, I had the opportunity to redesign and develop the school website. The existing school website was in dire need of an update, it consisted of 43 pages of static HTML files. Even the smallest changes to the website required a web developer and as a result, it was rarely updated.
When working on the new website, the brief consisted of the following key details:
- The Website needed to be responsive and cross-browser compatible.
- Key members of staff should be able to update the key areas of the website when required.
- The website must use to the schools colours scheme.
- The homepage must be able to display blog-style news and the academy’s twitter account.
The Development Phase
During the development of the new website. I decided to add a content management system (CMS) to the website. This would allow me to meet the brief, where staff members would be able to edit the content on the website. Without the need of a web developer.
WordPress is a popular open-source CMS, which means it is free to use. It is written in PHP and uses a MySQL database. It has a plugin architecture and a powerful templating system. Due to its popularity, there are a large number of various plugins and themes available. allowing users and developers alike to customise their websites to meet their needs. However, If you can’t find what you’re looking for, it is also possible to create your own plugins and themes. Using documentation provided by the WordPress community.
For Walsall Academy’s website, I chose to create a custom theme. As it would be easier for me to create the exact look and feel that the school was after. Whilst also meeting the criteria set out in the brief. A custom template was created for the homepage, for example. This allowed me to integrate with the Twitter API. To pull through the Academy’s tweets and display them in a custom format on the homepage.
The Default blog system in WordPress was also turned a news section. Each new ‘news’ post would automatically appear on the homepage once it was made live. This would any ensure that the news post would gain maximum visibility on the site. As anyone visiting the site would see the news post straight away. The homepage would show the latest 3 news posts on the homepage. Though, the users could go to the news page to see all previous posts.
Some of the other news features on the website included:
- A Bread Crumb Trail – A breadcrumb style navigation bar was shown on all pages except the homepage. It allowed users to keep track of their location whilst exploring the website.
- JW Player – JW Player is a standalone HTML 5 video player. It played media across the website using HTML 5 formats. But would downgrade to flash if HTML5 was not supported.
- Twitter / BBC Integration – Twitter and BBC integration had been added to the homepage. It helped keep users updated on the latest news. Relating to Walsall Academy and education in general.
- A Fully Responsive Design – The website worked just as flawlessly on mobile, as it did on the desktop. Media queries had been used extensively to ensure a smooth experience. Between the different resolutions.
The Walsall Academy Website was designed and built-in 2012.