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Improving website for award-winning student housing

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Evolving an existing website for student accommodation provider, Host


Host offers hassle-free, all inclusive accommodation to students, ensuring a reassuring and stress-free experience for students at university or college.

Host’s existing website needed to evolve to showcase its properties, presented as comfortable and stylish places to live while also providing an environment that is safe, welcoming and supportive.

We inherited the site, which had been built by another agency, so that we could improve the site through our Always Evolving model.

We dedicated more time up-front to make significant changes at pace, then continued to deliver small incremental improvements over time.

Screenshot of Host's WordPress site showing homepage

What the client wanted

  • Engage with multiple audience personas from students to investors
  • User journeys to navigate audience groups to the correct parts of the site
  • Design and development that feeds into growth plans
  • Different look and feel to reflect different audience groups across the site
  • Launch new investment section

The story

About Host

Host is an award-winning student accommodation provider that has been dedicated to delivering exceptional quality for the past 25+ years.

Boasting accommodation across 18 cities in the UK and Europe, with its next city launching in 2023, Host properties are situated in central locations that are close to campus or right in the city centre.

We started collaborating with Host to evolve their website over time, with web design and development improvements that could feed into their longer-term growth plans.


Improving site speed and performance

We identified areas for key improvement across the site, including how to boost site speed and performance. We created a detailed plan that identified the changes we could make that would have the most significant improvements at a rapid pace.

This enabled us to kick off our work together with well-informed improvements that were high impact yet low effort. To follow, we developed a roadmap outlining how we could further optimise the site over time.

Formatting changes supported our performance optimisation efforts, such as removing elements of the codebase that weren’t needed to run.

These changes ensured the website would stop loading information that was no longer needed, with less requests resulting in significant site speed increases.

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Image optimisation also contributed to speeding the site up, while also having a positive impact on Google page speed scores.

We supported Host to make informed decisions for their site moving forward, such as sharing our recommendations about different image formats for speed and performance.

“Atomic Smash is professional, forward thinking, and a trusted partner to Host.”

Headshot of woman smiling in front of white backdrop

Louise Cant

Head of Marketing & Communications, Host

Engaging multiple target audiences

One of the key goals for the site was to engage with students and encourage them to use Host for their accommodation. However, Host also has other key audience groups that they need to communicate with through their digital platforms, such as universities, parents and investors.

We supported Host to engage with multiple audience personas by creating a different look and feel to reflect different audience groups at different points across the site. Careful planning of user journeys helps each group navigate through the website without friction.

In addition, we launched a new section of the site, specifically aimed at corporate investors and feeding into Host’s longer-term growth plans.


Close collaboration

Through close collaboration with the team from Host, Atomic Smash worked through a detailed initial investigation and followed this with regular meetings, becoming the technical extension of Host’s team.

We also collaborated with Host’s chosen branding studio, using our skills and experience to bring their refreshed brand to life on screen.

“In the time that we have worked together, Atomic Smash has advanced the Host website, leaps and bounds – working with them to advance the website is a great team effort, we are involved at all stages to ensure that the brief has been addressed and tested. ”

Headshot of woman smiling in front of white backdrop

Louise Cant

Head of Marketing & Communication, Host

Woman in light pink blouse stands in front of darker pink background

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Banners to display key information

As a customer-facing organisation, Host needed a way to display important information on their site that was easy to find.

We implemented cross-site banners to show the most important information or time-relevant prompts, ensuring these were positioned prominently for site visitors to find and scan quickly.

The cross-site banners are versatile and were used to display important information during the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as other time-relevant information for students such as clearing offers.

Screenshot of Host's WordPress site showing news and information banner

Keeping the site maintained and up-to-date

Site health and regular maintenance are critical for any website to remain robust, secure and working well over time. It was a priority to keep WordPress core and plugins updated.

Our standard practice includes regular security maintenance, managing plugins and checking things are running properly and smoothly, and thorough testing in staging environments before pushing any changes live.

Screenshot of Host's WordPress site showing wellbeing section

View Host’s website

What we achieved

Implemented designs and user journeys for multiple audience personas

Launched a dedicated section of the site for investors

Versatile cross-site banners to display key information

Regular maintenance for a robust and secure site

Close collaboration to support with technical expertise

Let’s investigate

We’ll take a look under the hood. We also take a step back to see the bigger picture. You can rely on us to discover where your site is hitting its goals and where your users want improvements.

The last word

Atomic Smash is dedicated to providing an excellent service at the highest standard. The teams that we work with are creative and passionate and really know their stuff. I highly recommend them, especially if you are looking for an extension to your current team.

Headshot of woman smiling in front of white backdrop

Louise Cant

Head of Marketing & Communications, Host