Guest Blog: Webdesign Case Study

Part of the power of AMA is the potential to share case studies, successes, tactics, and processes with one another so that the marketing community of Portland as a whole can benefit. Today we’d like to share a case study with you of the award-winning web development work that digital marketing consulting firm, GRAYBOX, did for their client, Portland English Language Academy (PELA). Their work was recognized for excellence in website design and development in the education industry at the Davey Awards this past year.

Background Information

Portland English Language Academy is a school where international students come to the US to study English on a short-term basis (generally about 6-12 weeks). Their online presence is very important in growing enrollment because students rarely visit the school first before enrolling, and nearly all preliminary research on the school is done online.

Target Audience

Worldwide audience aged roughly 18-40 with an emphasis on countries that speak Chinese, Korean, Japanese, Thai, and Spanish.


Increase number of applications by prospective students.


  • Increase awareness
  • Frequently a long decision-making process of audience when deciding where to enroll
  • Audience lured by famous US cities like NYC or LA instead of Portland
  • Audience’s primary language is not English
  • Existing 5+ year old website was not mobile optimized but the audience was accessing it largely via phone

Methods and Strategies

  1. Brand Definition

GRAYBOX dove deep into PELA’s brand to identify the school’s unique selling points and understand the audience’s decision-making process. One of PELA’s biggest challenges is to convince their prospective students to come to Portland to study when there were so many other schools in big cities like New York City or Los Angeles. Once it became clear how the existing visual expression of the brand was incongruous with who PELA is, GRAYBOX’s strategists and designers got to work redesigning the logo and overhauling the website.

  1. Wireframing & Design of Responsive, Multi-Lingual Website

Largely consumed on mobile, the website needed to be intuitive, welcoming, and to feel fresh and fun. The user insights uncovered in the brand definition phase directly informed the structure and content types for the website. Through wireframing GRAYBOX was able to work closely with the client to craft a digital experience that told the story of the school and highlight top selling points for the company and city of Portland.

GRAYBOX’s team wanted the website to be flexible and evolve with the school as they grew. GRAYBOX created a modular structure for the site that is based on content types such as testimonials and teacher bios. This enabled us to easily shuffle content placement and presentation to craft a compelling user experience. The new website also integrates new student applications with digital databases at PELA, helping to streamline the intake process.

  1. Marketing

Once the brand and website were dialed in, they needed traffic. PELA engaged GRAYBOX to help them reach enrollment and sales goals through strategic marketing. GRAYBOX developed a marketing plan built around their budget and designed to focus on the school’s growth goals. Tactics included SEO and digital advertising campaigns, measuring results, adjusting efforts, and repeating to continuously improve conversion rates and ROI. Efforts targeted audiences who spoke the languages that PELA wanted to attract and GRAYBOX conducted A-B testing to continuously refine and improve creative. Efforts also included a drip email marketing system to automate follow-up with prospective students after initial contact. The team ran multi-language ads as well as a content-focused Facebook campaign.


PELA’s visual identity is now an authentic representation of their brand. The new logo feels fresh, collaborative, welcoming and modern. The new WordPress site is responsive for an optimal mobile experience and paints a vivid picture of the school’s high quality staff and facility. Enticing imagery and copywriting give the user a glimpse into the fun, young, vibrant culture of Portland.

From a traffic perspective, the website achieved:

  • 30% more site visits
  • 629% more mobile traffic
  • 107% Increase in number of applications
  • 147% increase in rate of converting visitors into applicants


GRAYBOX is a digital technology consulting firm proud to serve businesses in Portland and nationwide. They help businesses solve technical challenges, reach target audiences and optimize operations with elegance, utility and expertise. They want to be your partners to success in a digital-first world —  captivating customers online and off with measurable results. In 2016 GRAYBOX made the Inc. 500 list as the 2nd fastest-growing digital agency in Oregon and were named 9th fastest-growing private company by Portland Business Journal. Inc. Magazine also named them the 5th Fastest Growing Private Company in Portland.

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