→ A high-value rebuild for The Rocky Mountain Collegian at Colorado State University
When we started working with The Rocky Mountain Collegian, the independent student newspaper at Colorado State University, their network of web sites was suffering through daily server crashes, and their team of journalists was coping with a challenging content management solution and an outdated, mobile-unfriendly design.
“We had been using technology and an architecture that was seriously out of date and in the digital world, like ancient,” said Pete Waack, CEO of the Rocky Mountain Student Media Corporation, which operates Collegian.com and a number of other sites related to CSU’s student media outlets.
“It was incredibly difficult for a company of this size, especially as a learning institution, to get the students involved and make even the most minor updates on the site.”
After a series deep brainstorming meetings with the company’s stakeholders, we proposed a comprehensive plan to solve the site’s performance issues and introduce a new, high-end, mobile-friendly design that would integrate seamlessly into the 12,000+ articles currently published on the site. Our work has included:
- Migration of multiple web properties, including Collegian.com and KCSUFM.com, to a stable, secure, high-end hosting solution
- Addition of security plugins and firewalls to eliminate brute-force attacks from foreign hackers that were crashing the old site on a regular basis
- Customization of a commercial WordPress theme to fit The Collegian’s unique design and content goals, and integration of that theme into the site so all 12,000+ articles now look beautiful on both desktop and mobile devices
Thanks to our performance improvements, the site’s viewership increased by 40% nearly overnight. For an advertising-funded site, that’s more than just a statistic – it is a direct boost to the company’s bottom line.
“Our advertising impressions have already grown by 40% – and I attribute a lot of that to the stability and the speed of the new web site.”
Beyond the huge financial benefit we delivered with the hosting migration and performance improvements, we’ve also helped The Collegian move to a high-end, modern design. We rolled out a theme customization based on a commercial theme from StudioPress that has dramatically improved the site’s visual appeal – and made it compatible with all major mobile devices.
As part of that process, we totally overhauled the WordPress system Collegian was using – keeping all the content, but eliminating dozens of unnecessary plugins and functionality that were bogging down the site and the journalists who were managing it. We simplified and improved editors’ ability to easily update content on key pages, such as the home page and other section front pages, reducing the time they’ll need to spend “hacking” the site to make it look good.
“From a content production standpoint, using a system like WordPress that’s customized toward our needs is going to be a huge time savings for our digital staff, and even the reporter who has an article that they want to put up.
“It was very cumbersome and time-intensive before, and often we would have to wait for the professional webmaster to help us do something if we wanted to just add a little bling to an article. So removing the need for being able to code or even understanding code is going to be an incredible time savings for our staff here.”
Perhaps most importantly, we’ve built a long-term relationship with Rocky Mountain Student Media Corporation that gives them a trusted ally to handle their technology needs and business goals from here on out. That’s especially crucial at a company with very high turnover among student journalists. And even though our WordPress Assurance support and maintenance program is a huge improvement over what they had before, it’s also a cost savings compared to trying to keep a web developer on staff in-house. They also now have the professional support that will allow them to give student webmasters more control over the site in the long-term, knowing we’ll always be there to (literally and figuratively) back them up.
Of course, our favorite part of every project isn’t just what we get done, but the relationships we build and the ways we improve our clients’ daily lives. We’ll let CEO Pete Waack take it from here:
“The ease of use really comes from working with you and your crew. We’ve got a lot of people involved in this upgrade. We’ve got a lot of different conversations going, a lot of different ideas going. And it’s been super easy and you guys have been super responsive on that.”
“You guys are always saying, ‘This is how we can get it done.’ And that’s totally the attitude I want to instill in this company. Having a key outside partner modeling that attitude for a healthy, creative and fun company like that, it’s just been incredible support for me.”