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Scaling-up to deliver the Complete Connected Community



Transactional website built with Episerver DXP & React



Faster page downloads



Increase in Google Search impressions



Availability, ensuring maximum income


The Student Hotel (TSH) already had a strong personality, a distinctive tone of voice and a hybrid co-living and working proposition that was disrupting the hospitality industry. But they needed a partner that could translate and deliver a meaningful experience across their entire digital ecosystem.

They needed to redefine their digital experience and overhaul their infrastructure to enterprise-standard solutions, in response to rapid expansion and an increasingly complex product mix. Crucially, the new infrastructure had to be scalable, robust and enable innovative digital experiences that blend seamlessly with physical environments. In turn, driving sustained competitive advantage, resilience and growth.

Community is at the centre of everything TSH does – from how they build properties to how people experience them. From the students that live there to weekend travellers, co-workers, coffee-grabbers, and everyone in between, they are all part of the Complete Connected Community. The experiences driven by the new digital ecosystem needed to reflect this, connecting nearly a million current and former co-living and co-working guests. The aim was to use the best of digital to remove boundaries and create a feeling of community between all those who consider themselves a ‘student at heart’.

TSH hero image


We used our Experience Playbook process to create an inspiring blueprint defining The Student Hotel’s industry-leading digital experience. The Experience Playbook captures a customer-centric yet brand-led and technology-enabled vision. It’s a tool that translates business strategy into meaningfully differentiated customer experiences. As well as providing an inspiring ‘north star’, the Experience Playbook continues to add value as a tool for TSH stakeholders to use with investors and partners as the business grows.

The final Experience Playbook summarised all of our work from the Discover, Define, and Design phases; encompassing personas, detailed user journeys, experience concepts with UI prototypes, as well as the technical infrastructure ecosystem map. It’s supplemented with a design language system and UI toolkit to accelerate the process of detailed designs and ensure a common look-and-feel across all channels and touchpoints – making the digital experience futureproofed for innovation. 

We embarked on an intensive launch program to deliver a complete digital experience designed for the modern digital native. The result is an experience with dynamic contextual navigation, built on mobile-first principles, that supports accessibility in all its forms, and delivers a differentiated brand experience – performing impeccably and reliably at all times. Underpinning the experience is an innovative hybrid hospitality UX that is user-centric and goal-orientated, rather than one-size-fits-all. The site uses a digital design language that can adapt to any device, enabling a consistent look-and-feel no matter the brand touchpoint. 

Supporting TSH’s hyper-growth while inspiring their diverse and future-focused international community, the technical ecosystem architecture is anchored on a headless, omni-channel, multi-language platform. We built on future-focused foundations, uniquely building in Optimizely DXP and React – the first transactional website to do so. Our API developers added additional functionality with by Rufus’ Omnichannel Experience.API. As well as its well-known and easy to use content editing capabilities, Optimizely Customer-Centric Digital Experience Platform was selected for its mature content API that includes A/B testing and personalisation, as well as reliable and available hosting. All of which will help power the headless omnichannel content ambition globally. 

Still, this was a bold and innovative decision; as an industry first there was not an existing React framework available for Optimizely DXP. It required building, from scratch, to support all modern CMS capabilities (e.g. flexible composition of components on templates, inline editing, A/B testing and personalisation). A challenge, but one with unquestionable impact. The headless single page application (SPA), enabled by React, allows TSH to serve the content stored in the Optimizely CMS to any number of front-end channels: website, apps, voice interfaces, hotel lobby screens, in-room TVs – you name it. This futureproofed solution can integrate easily with new technology and innovations. Built on Microsoft Azure, the website can also automatically scale with ease as it handles higher numbers of visitors – crucial as TSH expand across more territories.  

As well as providing centralised and complete control over how and where content appears, the platform also facilitates easy and secure third-party integrations. Integration with the likes of Stakla and Cool Cousin are examples of the digital ecosystem using the best of digital to remove boundaries and create community, delivering a differentiating experience for TSH’s Complete Connected Community.  

The result of our fine-tuning and next generation techniques is a lightning fast and efficient website, SEO optimised, and able to serve content to the TSH community no matter their device. Through this new enterprise website, we’ve delivered the first milestone in The Student Hotel’s digital experience ecosystem. With, alongside it, a strategy to enable the success of platforms to come such as the soon-to-follow app, built on React Native, which will integrate comprehensively with TSH’s on-property touchpoints. 


Mark Liversidge

Chief Digital & Experience Officer, The Student Hotel

"Rufus Leonard had the proven credentials to engineer our core digital platforms to deliver our desired distinctive experience."
"This milestone is the first step in our digital transformation from offering a collection of individual products, to a seamless lifelong customer experience integrating a complex mix of hospitality products, lifestyle services and learning experiences. The solution delivers more than an enhanced brand experience, including significant operational efficiency, scalability and – critical in these times – speed to market.”



If you’ve got the aspiration to deliver something meaningful to your customers, we’ve got the strategic thinkers and creative doers to make it happen. For a little bit more on how we can help, complete the form and we’ll get in touch.


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