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Rustic Pathways
A site designed to inspire the next generation of travelers

Rustic Pathways is the global leader in teen travel. They partnered with Cantilever to create a comprehensive website combining their many marketing and sales channels into one unified experience.

They send thousands of students per year on engaging, challenging, and inspirational trips around the globe. We first started working with Rustic in 2014, when they engaged us to redesign their main website, which features trips for individual students. Since then we’ve also created new versions of their Group Travel and Gap Year websites, unifying them under a common infrastructure. In the summer of 2018, we launched a new mega-site combining all three properties into a seamless, minimalist design.

Homepage for the Rustic Pathways website, by Cantilever

Discovery First

Such an ambitious project has to start with considerable planning, a process we call “Discovery.” We conducted a two-day workshop with the Rustic team to catalog and organize content across all three verticals, and to brainstorm innovative ways of showcasing that content.

Cantilever Designer JT meeting with clients at Rustic Pathways
Our designer JT meeting with our clients at Rustic Pathways
Cantilever and Rustic Pathways group discovery selfie
The obligatory “discovery selfie“

We left discovery with our heads full of ideas for how to tackle the problems that would come with a website that combines three departments of a large company into one.

How to inspire people without confusing them

We set out to develop a user experience that got people from A to B without getting lost in areas of the site that weren‘t relevant to them. We used some analytics data culled from the prior projects we had done with Rustic to inform how we established connections between the different sections of the combined site.

We created exhaustive documentation and wireframes outlining every detail of our plans. With such an intricate project, we had to make sure every conceivable detail was covered.

Beyond just delivering dry information, the Rustic site has to excite people. Rustic’s programs are astoundingly cool, and their photos and videos bring you right there. To take advantage of this rich visual palate while not overwhelming the user, we opted for a clean, minimalist aesthetic that coordinates neatly with Rustic’s print catalogs.

Advanced Development

For a large site like this, casual frontend development techniques are dangerous. If you don’t write code in a systematized, reusable way, the site will be slower and it will take longer to develop new features. To avoid this fate, we created a pattern library with all common user interface elements, then wrote code for every element of the pattern library before writing the main site code. This approach ensured that our code was encapsulated and efficient.

The client was happy with the editing experience they got with WordPress, their current content management system, but WordPress is cumbersome to develop in. Often, large WordPress sites become messy and hard to maintain. Additionally, the client wanted features like Salesforce integration and user profiles which are awkward to build with WordPress. We wanted to provide them the authoring experience they wanted while delivering clean, maintainable code. So we opted for an architecture that used Laravel, a leading web application framework, connected to a “headless” WordPress backend.

🤔Does your project connect multiple web platforms? We specialize in creative code that merges data and functionality between your site and other services like Salesforce.

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Together, we get the best of both worlds. Code is simple and maintainable in the customer-facing Laravel app, but the client can still use WordPress.

To make the user experience really stand out, we implemented a technique called “PJAX” which makes the site slicker and faster. When users click a link, instead of loading the new page like normal, we fetch only the parts of the page that need to be updated and modify them. What’s more, when a user hovers over a link with their mouse, we pre-fetch the data for that link, so by the time they click, it’s likely that the data is already present, and we can instantly update the page instead of them having to wait for a whole new pageload.

Long-term partners

We continue to work heavily on the site month after month, continuing to create innovative new features and react to feedback they get from users. Our support department tries to be uniquely dependable and responsive, so our clients feel not only that their new site is great, but that it will stay great. We look forward to being a part of Rustic’s exciting mission for years to come.

Client: Rustic Pathways
  • Ty Fujimura
  • Andrew Heins
  • Lara Schenck
  • Ernesto Iser
  • JT Fridsma
  • Chris Pau
  • Rebecca Testrake
  • Adrienne Travis
  • Andrei Scarlatescu
Year launched: 2018
  • UX
  • Design
  • Development
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