Rock Lake Lodge

Rock Lake Lodge

Rock Lake Lodge

I inherited this site from the previous web developer. The site was originally created in Joomla in late 2014, in anticipation of the business beginning operation in Spring 2015.

The site as originally created was text-heavy, with a dated design and few cross-links. The original focus, as directed by management, was on cleaning up the text, filling in the galleries, and implementing hotel management software to assist with the lodge’s day to day operations.

In early 2016, the focus shifted to redeveloping the site with a more professional, appealing design. I was granted full ownership of this process, and proceeded with a redesign leveraging WordPress upon approval of my wireframes. At this time, I also took a capture of the original site structure and metadata using Screaming Frog.

As the deadline for the completed site was short (three weeks from go-ahead to launch), I selected the open-source theme Nirvana as the base and split off a child theme. It provided many of the features I needed for a streamlined main page, including a slider with calls to action, and feature spaces for three major categories of user inquiry, namely information about the business, information on booking, and information on activities in the area.

Most sub-pages include a relevant feature image at the top of the body, and either 1-3 supporting images alongside the text, or custom Packages spaces immediately below the body providing a capsule summary of the business’ accommodation and activity packages. All three spaces (feature images, supporting images and packages) were integrated with Advanced Custom Fields groups bound to custom templates in the child theme. The latter required developing a small handful of PHP scripts to load ACF data into arrays, and iterate through them to echo the relevant parts into the page while applying the appropriate HTML.

I further refined the site design to meet the needs of the Lodge with a child theme stylesheet. My changes ranged from minor tweaks to widgets, to styling the ACF fields tied to each custom template, to adding @media queries.

At this time, I re-wrote all site text to reinforce the focus of each page, and ensure unique content across all pages of the site. I also reevaluated all images, made new selections from the approved list, and re-edited them to match the new aesthetic of the site while capturing the essence of the business and staying true to the owners’ preferences.

I also implemented page by page SEO via the All in One SEO Pack plugin. This is reinforced by alt text throughout the site, schema tagging applied via Google Tag Manager, and careful attention to ensuring responsiveness and mobile compliance.

I optimized and minimized all images with lossy and lossless techniques, including adjusting .jpg image quality and stripping metadata to reduce their contributions to page load times. Scripts and stylesheets kept within the site’s as much as possible for accessibility to minification and caching (applied via Autoptimize and the Wordfence Falcon Engine). The few remaining external documents called on load are a consequence of the theme chosen; I decided to focus on other areas for optimization in acknowledgement both of the time constraints under which this site was developed, and the tradeoffs inherent to using a pre-built theme.

In addition, I implemented HTTP caching via the .htaccess file to further boost the site. This required coordinating with the server-side staff member to have the Apache mod_expires enabled for the server.

For this site, I set up a number of Google Analytics reports delving into referral traffic, SEO, audience and site performance. I also took full advantage of Google Search Console for SEO, site maps, structured data, HTML improvements and so on; this included linking it to Google Analytics. The site also has a Google Tag Manager and Google My Business account associated with it, but I was unable to complete their set up before my departure. Instead, I provided resources and training to my success and Marketing colleagues on this front.

The redesigned site launched Monday, March 7, 2016. At the time of my departure from the parent company, Wild TV, the Rock Lake Lodge site scored 72/100 (speed) and 98/100 (user experience) for Mobile, and 90/100 for Desktop on Google’s PageSpeed Insights. The unresolved issues included external resources that could not be cached, minified or made non-render blocking (jQuery library linked in theme files, Google’s Tag Manager and Analytics linked from head), the server response time, and a JavaScript file served up by the Autoptimize minification plugin that PageSpeed does not recognize as minified.


  • Maintained this site from April 2015-March 2016
  • Original site in Joomla
  • Created full site redesign using WordPress in February 2016, from wireframes to development to copy to image selection to SEO
  • Maintained content and developed new content as required.
  • Managed and curated image selection, including PhotoShop photo edits where required
  • Redeveloped site copy and drafted original copy
  • Coordinated with Marketing on message, social media campaigns
  • Worked with Graphics and Marketing to develop brochures and other promotional materials (provided copy, copy edits, image selection recommendations and general feedback).
  • Worked with Marketing, Sales and Lodge staff to support bookings from a technical perspective
  • Implemented Beds24 channel manager, connected it to, and trained staff members on the use of both systems
  • Researched and implemented best practices for migrating the site from Joomla to WordPress, including mapping the site structure and keywords.
  • Set up redirects in .htdocs creating 1 to 1 links between the old taxonomy and the new
  • Monitored Google Analytics, set up Google Search Console, set up Google Tag Manager, and set up Google My Business
  • Optimized page loads using PageSpeed Insights, with particular focus on image optimization, minification and caching
  • Utilized Google Search Console to improve structured data, submit the sitemap, refine metadata and keywords, and keep on top of issues raised by crawls