Feature Friday: The New School's Lightning-Fast Website Launch

Growth doesn't always involve growing pains. That was the experience of Liz Anderson, Director of Development at the New School, in Fayetteville, Arkansas, an independent school of more than 400 students that focuses on STEAM.

New School Website on Computer

Liz arrived at the New School just as it was starting to experience an adolescent growth spurt. Founded as a preschool in 1971, TNS's board of trustees commissioned a feasibility study that led to the decision to add an upper school to its preschool and lower and middle schools.

Adding a high school meant lots of changes at TNS: constructing a new building to house the upper and middle schools, a makerspace, a robotics lab and woodworking shop among others.

Along with a huge investment in the school's physical plant, TNS also needed to devote substantial resources to the school's digital plant.

"With so many change going on, the website really couldn't remain the same," said Liz.

It was time for a change.

In Anderson's words, the site needed a more grown-up look. And, it needed to grow up fast! The new high school admitted its first ninth graders in September, 2016.

Spoiler alert! Anderson reports that updating the website was the smoothest, fastest web design project of all those she's been involved in. The project kicked off December 5, 2016. Less than eight weeks later, on January 20th, the new website debuted. That's including a two-week holiday break. Happy New Year indeed!

What explains the lightning-fast transformation?

1) Relationships

The New School already had a key relationship in place. As a Finalsite client since 2014, TNS already had one redesign with Finalsite under its belt. Liz says that sticking with its trusted provider helped smooth the path to a more sophisticated site aimed at a secondary school audience. In addition, when Liz needed a hand getting up to speed in Composer, Finalsite staff was there for her.

2) Well-Defined Roles

TNS had three staffers dedicated to the update—Liz, who oversaw the project and took the lead on content; Website Coordinator Mary Kim Harp, who handled the content migration and other back-end work; and Keith Cameron, the Director of Academic Technology. Cameron handled the portal set-up.

3) Commitment

The TNS Board of Trustees and Head of School were willing to invest in the school's online presence to make sure it reflected the school's new academic priorities clearly and well. And on a practical level, the school had staff who could devote time to the redesign in a single, immense push.

With the right elements in place, it's possible for a school's website to avoid that awkward, adolescent phase and leave all that to the teenagers.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Sarah Van Tiem

Motor City Girl who: reads, writes & loves her three kids unreservedly; Also loves gardening, swimming & her Electra Townie. Editing enthusiast. Believer in magic, all types.

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