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5 Award-Winning Website Redesign Tips from Nanjing International School
Connor Gleason

After launching a new website for Nanjing International School (NIS), Head of Communications and Marketing Kyle Bueschlen shared his advice for schools embarking on a website redesign project. 

NIS, Nanjing’s oldest international school and China's first IB Continuum School earned Gold for the best website homepage and homepage redesign at the recent InspirED School Marketers Brilliance Awards – the only US-based, global marketing and communications competition exclusively for private and independent schools.

Here are Bueschlen's tips for an award-winning school website redesign:

1. Plan ahead and stay organized

A website redesign is the most complex, resource-intensive, and time-consuming marcom project for a school. Plan accordingly and keep your deadlines very realistic. Don’t just push to have it done; this is a signature achievement for any marcom team.

2. Don’t decide by a committee

A website project can easily fall victim to too many cooks in the kitchen. The website's design is best left to marketing, with collaboration and approval by senior leadership. While the content for each department should follow specific guidelines and an overall strategy, the build and content input phase is a better time for collaboration with multiple non-decision-making stakeholders – once the design is finalized.

Keep ReadingHelp! There Are Too Many People Involved in My School Website's Redesign!

3. Prepare to put in the work

It’s better to have a marketer with some understanding of tech than an IT person with some understanding of marketing leading this project from your side. Just because you go with an outsource provider doesn’t mean the work will magically be done for you.

Design and programming are just the beginning. The build is up to you! If you’re a smaller shop without access to someone with expertise in marketing and design, consider hiring an outside consultant expert to lead the project. 

The NIS redesign took ten months, and I estimated 1,300 hours. During the build, I definitely worked more hours than at any other time of the project. At that point, however, I had a very high amount of expertise in Composer and using elements, so the process was much smoother this time around.

The communications coordinator on my team was focused on the day-to-day, and as we're such a small team, hard work isn't enough – we have to work smart and very strategically. Weekly planning, targeted campaigns and tactics, and the use of multiple digital tools maximized productivity. 

I have the support of a great team of people to get me the awesome content we need to make it happen. We have an outsourced designer who's been with the school for years and is excellent, and one of the IT specialists working half-time as a photographer and videographer, which has been a huge boon for our school. 

We also have a world-class outsourced photographer who does all our high-level events and photoshoots for marketing. Finally, all our top-tier video shoots are done through a local filmmaking group. However, I always edit all of our videos myself using the raw footage.

Website Redesign Playbook

4. Don’t settle

Once the site is launched, this will be your school’s website for years. Content can be updated, but the design’s not going anywhere. The homepage is essential because this will be the landing page for most users. It needs to wow, it needs to draw them in, and it needs to differentiate you from all others.

So many school websites nowadays are very cookie-cutter and could belong to any school, anywhere. Dare to be different, and don’t settle for ‘good enough’ with a project as big as this one. 

5. Work with experts

Going with a provider/developer like Finalsite is a good move not only because they have some of the best web designers and programmers in the business but also because they continue to support you after the project is finished.

After the redesign, NIS's site saw multiple benefits that included:

    •    A 15% increase in conversions for admissions applications
    •    A 25% increase in website traffic
    •    A 30% increase in website engagement
    •    Met hiring targets with improved faculty/staff recruitment
    •    A world-class mobile-friendly user experience
    •    Vastly improved experiences for parents, as well as prospective families and educators 

Continuing reading NIS's success story of how its redesign created a world-class, award-winning representation of its school, significantly increasing applications, website traffic, and employee interest.

website redesign playbook

Connor Gleason Headshot


Connor has spent the last decade within the field of marketing and communications, working with independent schools and colleges throughout New England. As Finalsite’s Senior Content Marketing Manager, Connor plans and executes marketing strategies and digital content across the web. A former photojournalist, he has a passion for digital media, storytelling, coffee, and creating content that connects.

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