Varsity Spirit

The premier brand in cheer and dance.

The team at Varsity Spirit came to us with a unique and complex challenge when it came to their website redesign. Their business has many unique entities, run by different teams, with widly varying goals and their new website needed to adapt and work seamlessly between all of them. My design solution not only had to serve their current business needs but also be flexible enough work with the unknowns in the future. To accommodate the various needs of stakeholders I created a flexible design system that allowed their team to build and customize pages as their needs changed. I also added in a layer of personalization throughout the site that made every experience feel tailor-made for that user. This project was a creative challenge that turned out to be a huge success for their business.

Step One

Project Discovery

Because this project had so many moving parts, a detailed discovery process was necessary. In order to gather all of our requirements, I traveled with my team to the Varsity corporate offices in Memphis, Tennessee where we met with the project stakeholders and held breakout sessions for all of the different business areas within the company. Our broad discussions outlined the scope of work for this project as well as the importance of flexibility and opportunities for the future growth of the site. In our breakout sessions, I was then able to drill deeper into the specific goals and needs of each division.

One of the most important things we needed to nail down was who were all of the personas using the website. We settled on our core user types: Athletes, Parents of Athletes, Coaches, and Gym Owners. Within that set of personas, they were also split into 2 clear buckets: School (high school and junior high cheer and dance teams) and All Star (private dance and tumbling gyms). We found that their goals within the site were vastly different for each persona and layered into that – the vibe of School versus All Star was completely unique. Because of these discoveries, we knew we needed to create a uniquely personalized experience for each user.

Key Areas of Business

  • Camps & Competitions: Many varieties, held annually and run by Varsity’s Legacy and All Star Brands. Major source of revenue.
  • Brands: Subsidies of Varsity Spirit that maintain their own personality and run a wide variety of events for both School and All Star teams.
  • Fashion: Varsity is the leader in cheer and dance uniforms, shoes, and accessories nationwide. Major source of revenue.
  • Varsity TV: Live streams and commentary on Varsity camps and competitions, runs as a separate web entity but needed to be woven into the new site.

Additional Business requirements:

  • Ads: Varsity needed a system of internal ads they could strategically place throughout their site. These ranged from new product releases to camp signup announcements. These were a key component I had to keep in mind when crafting the design system.
  • Contact Routing: The goal was to create one singular contact form for the whole website that would route form submissions based on a series of self-identifying steps.
  • Salesforce Integration: All Camps and Competitions lived within Varsity’s Salesforce instance, so we needed to be able to dynamically pull out the information as real-time data and display it on the new website.
  • Permission Levels: The backend of the website needed a series of login permissions that gave certain tiers of users limited capabilities. For instance, a super admin would have access to an entire brand or even the entire site, whereas the marketing team for that brand may only have access to add or update blog posts.

Step Three


Varsity told us from the very beginning that they wanted to start from scratch in terms of their content. With this in mind, I knew I would be starting wireframes from a nearly blank slate. Having spent so much time immersed in their business with the Varsity team, I was confident I could put together the pieces to create their vision. Keeping in mind that content would be created simultaneously with design, I created 2 phases of wireframes. Phase 1, or what we called lo-fi wireframes, was the shell that the content would live within. I would make the suggestion of content and media types and how they would flow on the page but they were created using dummy content. Phase 2, hi-fi wireframes, is where we worked in tandem with the Varsity team to take their new content and work it into the we had created – essentially turning the lo-fi wires into hi-fi wires with the addition of real content and the resulting tweaks. Since I knew this site would need to be modular and set up for growth, my intentions with the wireframes were to capture the goals and elements of each page in the lo-fis then use the more rubust hi-fi wires to start making connections and calling our similar page elements and funtionality. This exercise is what became the beginning of our design system (more on this below).

Step Four


Because we had so many unique personas coming to the site, we wanted to make sure the experience of the site still felt personal to each user. In order to do this, we created areas of dynamic content that would swap out depending on who was viewing the page. For example, news and video feed modules would filter to show only content related to the persona. Promotions could be specialized to target specific personas. Link outs for sign-ups and other transaction could skip a step in the conversion funnel by already knowing the user so they do not need to self select, removing any additional friction to finishing the transaction. Below is an example of one of the pages of the website wireframes that would be utilizing personalization. The areas color coded in pink signify the modules that were going to be personalized.

Step Five

Flexible Design System

Using the wireframes discussed in step three, I set out to create the design system. The wireframes laid out all the elements and functionality I would need to include in the system, but keeping it from becoming bloated and redundant was the real challenge. In many cases, sections in the wireframes would function similarly but not exactly. By comparing all of these instances I was able to adjust certain modules so that they could be more universally utilized.

Once all of the modules were set up, it was important to put together documentation explaining where certain modules would be used and how they would function. This documentation was both for our internal team to help facilitate the build out of the site in development and for the Varsity team to take as a living document in their website wiki as a reference for them when doing any future build outs or new pages. Below are a few examples of universal modules that were used for multiple purposes across the site.

Step Six


Because I had done so much of the UX and organizational legwork up front, the design portion of this project was really about bringing the vision to life. To help in this process, Varsity supplied us with thousands of beautiful images full of life and energy that helped bring the entire site together. Images were one area that was really sensitive to them and organization was key. Because different segments of their business had such different looks and personalities it was important that the design reflected that. For example the School side of their consumer base (junior high and high school cheer and dance teams) had a more traditional vibe and were closer tied to sporting events like basketball and football. On the opposite end of the spectrum are the All Star teams who are much more fashion driven, prefer glitz and glamour, and were more focused on the competition side of cheer.

Step Seven

Promotional Graphics

The team at Varsity enlisted us to create fresh new banners and promos to go along with the launch of the new website. Moving forward, these would replace their dated promos that lacked brand cosistency and visual impact. I also used these initial designs to help create Photoshop templates to pass on to the design production team within Varsity so they could quickly create new graphics as their seasonal focus shifted throughout the year.