Polaris is a Multi Academy Trust developed by Rastrick High School in Brighouse, West Yorkshire. The Polaris Trust is centred on providing children with the very best education through supporting staff with high-quality training and development opportunities. Polaris offers guidance, support and challenge to students, leaders, and staff through support and collaboration with partner schools.
The Trust provides an infrastructure for schools that enable the best procurement and support services are utilised to enable more income to be used to support and challenge the students in the Trust schools.
Polaris’ mission is to support and nurture each school’s individual identity and ensure that every school’s individual DNA is used as a platform to secure and build on the enjoyment and academic success of the children in their care.
During our design consultation, Polaris explained that they were looking for website designers to create a new website as an online presence for their Multi Academy Trust, a digital space where they could showcase their services and highlight the support they provide to schools, leaders, teachers, and students. They wanted the website to include a backend members portal for the site to allow each school to have their own landing point to access resources and documents. Polaris wanted the members portal to be separate from the main website and wanted the portal to feature different user-roles with specific permissions. They also wanted to include a function to set content restrictions for resources and documents, limiting access to approved users.
Polaris explained that many of their users may be inexperienced, so the portal needed to be user friendly and easy to navigate. They wanted us to design a simple and easy to use interface. The portal’s navigation needed to be intuitive, so that new users who sign up to the portal would not require special training and could learn to use the portal quickly.
Polaris also wanted us to create new brand assets that would be incorporated into the website design. They wanted help to create new designs, graphics, colour schemes and relevant images, to develop their brand identity visually. Beyond a Polaris logo, the trust did not have brand assets, and requested that we research and develop new ways to implement their brand and include these new design ideas in the website design.
We concluded the design consultation by clarifying deadlines for the project and establishing a timetable for the stages of the project. Polaris clarified that the main website (not including the members portal) should be the priority and must be ready to launch for the beginning of the new school year, September 2021.
Following the design consultation, we reviewed the design brief, created a list of priorities, and developed a plan of action for creating the website.
For the first stage of development, we prioritised developing the Polaris brand visually and focusing on the Polaris main website, as the site needed to be up and running before the new school term started. The Polaris logo features a multi-coloured star shape. We used this shape as our starting point to develop additional brand assets. We analysed the colours within the logo and created a complimentary colour palette with colour values to allow us to develop the website style and create further graphics. We developed a suite of icons, coloured waves, and custom-coloured separators to create section breaks throughout the site. Polaris can use these brand elements on new document designs and digital branding.
We shared and discussed examples of Multi Academy Trust websites and brand styles with Polaris so we could get a better understanding of the style and look for the website and members portal that they wanted us to design. We began by creating a range of different page designs and arranged mood boards that included graphics, images, styles, and colours. We presented and discussed the designs with Rastrick High School’s marketing manager and secured Polaris’ approval for the direction they wanted to proceed with. Following approval of the designs, we began building the website, adding approved content and brand designs, and refining the website layout and page designs. We limited our use of animation, motion, and scrolling effects on the site to present a more professional and conservative look. The website is intended to showcase Polaris’s services and the work they do with schools, and to provide a digital platform for their members. We wanted to centre the key information and minimise possible distractions.
The second stage of the website development involved creating the members portal. The portal will allow the creation of multiple users and user roles, with varying capabilities and restricted access to selected content. The portal design is intended to complement and integrate with the main website design.
We developed the Polaris brand identity by selecting and refining a colour palette based on the colours that feature on Polaris’ logo design. We also used the Polaris logo design to inspire additional graphic designs and branded ‘licks’ that we would employ as new brand elements across the website. We also designed a series of unique icons and curated relevant images that would help tell the Polaris story on their website.
Once we received the website content from Polaris, we began to plan the layout and navigation of the website. We produced a wireframe that included the main site navigation. The wireframe enabled us to visualise the design of the website more clearly. It also allowed us to visualise the adjustments we needed to make to ensure the site is accessible on all devices, and to place images and make style and layout decisions. We shared and discussed the wireframe with Rastrick High School, clarifying the website navigation, user interface, and design layout. We also discussed imagery, style, and layout designs. We incorporated feedback into revisions and agreed on a final design and layout for the website.
We used the Polaris logo as a focal point on the page hero-headers to create a custom hero divider that strengthens the brand and adds a unique style. We designed additional graphics, including custom section separators with blended rainbow colours to compliment the blended colours within the logo, and unique custom icon designs and gradient buttons that are featured throughout the website. We also designed two distinct post style templates, one for blog posts, and one for posts from staff members.
We then submitted the website design to Polaris for final approval. Polaris approved the main website design, and the site was ready for launch in time for the new school term. Once the main website was successfully launched, we then focused on developing a design and layout for the members portal that would align with the design for the main site.
The purpose of the members portal is to provide a digital space for Polaris’ members, as a point of access to documents, agendas, and resources. The members section will act as a secure space for documents accessible only to assigned users with specific role types. Polaris wanted us to create special user roles for teachers, for governing bodies, and for directors of the trust. We began the membership section design by creating layout designs for a log-in page, account and profile pages, portal pages and custom dashboards for each user-role. We added content restrictions to each portal page to align with the user-roles and their permissions. We also created each user role and assigned agreed capabilities, determining what each user type can do and see in the portal.
We created a custom dashboard for each user role, so that when a user logs in, they are automatically directed to the dashboard assigned to their user type. We created special user roles for teachers, trust directors, and governing bodies. Trust director users, for example, had additional permissions not available to other users. We created dashboard layouts for teacher, trust director, and governing body users, that included their additional permissions, whether that is the ability to upload documents or the ability to view or edit restricted documents.
Once we had completed the members portal design and layout, and set up user roles and permissions, we created test-user accounts for each user-role and conducted thorough testing to ensure the members portal was functioning correctly. We tested user roles, user role permissions, and restricted content to make sure that the content permissions and restrictions were functioning as we intended for each user-role.
We fully tested the portal and were confident it was working as it should. We then presented our members’ portal design to Polaris for their feedback. They approved the portal design, and the members portal was ready for launch.
Before the portal launch, we created an account for Polaris’ existing members, and assigned them a username and appropriate user role. We designed an email template and sent an email invitation with a link to the portal, welcoming each user to the new members portal and providing them with their unique log-in details. Each user received a branded email with their username and password with instructions for how to activate their account.
The Polaris members portal launched successfully and now hosts over 40 active members who use the portal regularly.
“We have worked with many marketing agencies and whilst some have been disappointing, Grinning Graphics have been ‘overwhelmingly fantastic’ to work with. They really helped with our creative and digital projects from initial brief to the final product. Great that our project was coordinated by 1 account manager who ensures attention to detail and that deadlines are met. Thank you”