project case study

CKUA Website Design & Development



The Challenge

CKUA is an Albertan institution when it comes to music. The non-profit has changed considerably over the years, however – they’ve gone from a radio station to a hub for Alberta music, arts, and culture. Their existing site didn’t reflect that from an architecture, design, or content management standpoint, and hacky solutions had to be put in place for key functionality like fundraising. We aimed to solve that for them.

The Solution

We worked with the client to deliver them a custom, mobile-first website powered by WordPress. The architecture and design repositions CKUA as that hub for music, arts, and culture in the province – the myriad of content they produce, from podcasts to articles to events to video and more – is organized logically throughout the site, alongside key technical and challenging elements like the playlist and fundraising functionality.

Project Services

  • Agile Approach
  • Discovery Workshops
  • Prototypes
  • User Stories
  • User Acceptance Testing
  • Website Architecture
  • Responsive Design
  • CMS Implementation
  • Performance Optimization
  • Post-launch Support

The Details

When CKUA came to us, they were in a bit of bind. They needed to restart their website design & development project, but only had 5 months left before their grant deadline. Further to that, they had some big, interesting challenges to solve. A few of those challenges included:

  1. Rebuilding their playlist, which integrates data from multiple sources to show a “most recently played” list of tracks
  2. Communicating that they’re more than a radio station – they produce written content, podcasts, video, and more
  3. Having a more effective online solution for the multiple fundraising drives they tackle each year, and
  4. Integrating their livestream into the site.

Given that the project fit right in our wheelhouse – a mix of complex challenges, from design to WordPress development to integrations and other technical fare – we couldn’t wait to start working on a solution.

Not Just A Radio Station

CKUA wanted to make sure to account for their existing, longtime radio-centric users, but also to begin to appeal more to a new generation. They had already been producing on-demand content – video, podcasts, and the like – for a while to move in that direction, but thanks to the restrictive design and content management implementation of their old site, that content was neigh impossible to find. Ultimately, CKUA still came off as solely a radio station.

The solution was discovered through a series of collaborative workshops – including for site architecture and prototyping – alongside onsite user interviews and observation. The site content is structured around three key actions for consuming content: Listen, Watch, and Read. The home page collects recently published content in each of those areas, and when a user dives into one of those top-level areas, they are presented with a powerful discovery interface that lets them sort by category (e.g. Listen > Podcast or Listen > Interview), by Series, or search within that site section. Colour-coding and iconography further group the top-level categories, and altogether a comprehensive re-imagination and display of what CKUA actually offers is achieved.

Alongside the primary objective of showcasing CKUA as a hub for Alberta music, arts, and culture, CKUA had a list of high-value yet technically complex requirements.

Live Stream

CKUA’s live stream is served from a third party platform called Futuri. We integrated the player into the site, skinned it to fit within CKUA’s custom design, and created a dedicated page for users to be able to consume the radio station live on the web. The same page pulls in recently played songs, as users frequently asked “what was that last song you just played?”, collectively allowing users to stream CKUA online as well as via every other method a user consumes music these days.


CKUA’s playlist was the single most frequently used, important, and unfortunately also unstable element of their previous site. Data of what is being played is collated from multiple sources into an XML file. This data is parsed and published on import (with support for automated import as well as manual) into WordPress, allowing the content manager to batch-fix any incorrect issues that may stem from bad data (for example, a DJ forgot to enter the artist name), then publish it to the front-end of the site. The new playlist is a stable, dedicated and optimized collection of CKUA’s radio history that presents beautifully and accurately. It allows for a considerably large amount of songs to be searched through or and queried in a performant manner – seriously, you can go back months and do so super fast thanks to an optimized database table – while also allowing the user to purchase the song through Spotify, Apple Music, or through the Google Play store.

Layout Engine

CKUA publishes a lot of content, and when you publish a lot of content, you require more from your content management system. A restrictive implementation wouldn’t provide CKUA any flexibility, but a bloated commercial pagebuilder doesn’t scale for them either. The result was a comprehensive Layout Engine implementation, allowing for CKUA’s content managers to assemble pages and posts in WordPress, for nearly any content type. You can learn more about Layout Engine here.

campaign mode screenshot

Campaign Mode

A big part of what keeps CKUA operating are donations from their listeners and sponsors. Prior to their new site, CKUA would spin up a separate hacked-together landing page on a subdomain, communicating their donation ask and torching their SEO in the process (as they had to implement a top-level redirect of their primary domain). Instead of that, we built them something we call Campaign Mode. Simply by toggling a switch in WordPress admin, the content manager can load up a new home page layout designed for campaigns and donation optimization. It’s an elegant solution, great for any non-profit, that they used almost immediately after launch.


The client couldn’t have been more excited to get their new site up and running on launch day. They were a joy to work with, from our perspective, and their competency and teamwork is illustrated in the quality and success of the new site. We continue to work with CKUA in providing Managed Web Services (hosting and maintenance), and continually iterating on their new site through our retainer services agreement. Go have a listen, watch, or read!


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