- General Best Practices
- Public School District
Working towards an ADA-compliant website design is a process — and no one knows that better than Valerie Hull, the Webmaster at Barbers Hill Independent School District in Texas. With about 5,200 students across eight campuses, BHISD is one of the smaller independent school districts in Texas, but growing 3-4% every year!
Despite its smaller size, BHISD is one of those districts that attracts families to a particular area due to its history of exemplary academics — meaning having a website that sets the bar is essential. And a website that sets the bar high is something BHISD has always had — evidenced by their year-over-year “Best of Category: Website” accolades from TSPRA, the Texas School Public Relations Association.
So, when she headed into her second website redesign with Finalsite since 2012, Valerie had two important goals to achieve: first, to refine and improve the website design and experience and further; and second, to make their content ADA-compliant. The latter was the true driving force behind the redesign.
The Redesign Process
Valerie and her team were on a very abbreviated redesign schedule. While they did a lot of homework ahead of time to hit the ground running, the entire project was completed in the hot summer months. “We did the entire redesign in less than three months,” said Valerie. “Our team knew that we wanted to launch before the beginning of the school year, so we worked on the fast-track and it was fantastic.”
Their old website:
Their new website:
One potential hiccup that might scare most districts,but didn’t phase Valerie and her team: learning an entirely new content management system (CMS): Finalsite Composer. (The district had been using Finalsite’s legacy system, Page Manager.) According to Valerie, the new CMS was very easy to use and her campus webmasters love it. However, an easy-to-use CMS was only part of the speedy redesign process. Because the district web editors were already fluent users of Finalsite modules such as Calendar Manager and Athletics Manager, there was no need to migrate that type of content, as it was stored and ready for use on their new site!
While Valerie handles content at the district-level, she did help out each individual webmaster in the district to set up their pages so that they would all maintain a consistent user experience from page-to-page, and also simplify and shorten the redesign process. “All the webmasters have to do is update their content using the modules,” said Valerie.
Maintaining ADA Compliance
The most time-consuming piece of the redesign process with the biggest learning curve was ensuring content was ADA-compliant. While Finalsite’s deployment team delivers all clients an accessible and ADA-compliant design, in terms of both structure and functionality, it is up to the webmasters to ensure the content itself is accessible.
“During the redesign process, as I moved content or prepared to, I was trying to make sure that everything coming into the new site was ADA-compliant, including photos, videos and PDFs,” said Valerie. She also took note of any pages and content that would need to be revisited post-launch — as compliance is always a work in progress.
As for her additional webmasters, Valerie uses Composer’s admin settings to ensure content doesn’t get published without a second set of eyes seeing it first. “No one has publishing rights but me, and I check everyone’s new content before it gets published,” she said.
Discover the steps your school can take to have an accessible website.
According to Valerie, the district’s website needed more of a refresh than a complete overhaul. Some of the site’s biggest and most notable enhancements include:
The homepage, of course: It features a cleaner look with big, bold photos and video that fade into the next.
The site’s new navigation: The drop downs facilitate responsive navigation and also meet one of the WCAG 2.0 requirements.
A Microsite: Barbers Hill Education Foundation is the largest in Texas for its size, so they wanted to make sure they had a separate website to show that it is a serious operation.
“It used to just be a page on our website, but with the redesign, we wanted it to be a separate entity,” said Valerie. To stay budget and time conscious, BHISD opted for one of our Theme Designs. “It was about choosing the right theme to display what works best with certain elements. The process went super-fast and was easy, too!”
Valerie says she’s received positive feedback on the site upgrade as a whole. “It’s on the way to being ADA-compliant and functions better too: those are the main things,” she said. “And now, the only thing left to do is win some more awards!”
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
As Finalsite's Content Marketing Manager, Mia shares innovative and helpful content that helps schools and districts create captivating online experiences that increase brand awareness, student and faculty retention, and school-to-home communications. With more than five years experience in the industry, Mia has written more than 200 articles, eBooks, and reports about best practices for schools on a variety of topics from social media to web design. As a former TV and news reporter, and wedding photographer, Mia specializes in sharing how to use storytelling to power your school's admissions funnel. When she isn't busy creating content or hosting her #LIKEABOSS Podcast for FinalsiteFM, you can find her hiking with her Boston terrier, running an army wives meeting at Fort Campbell, or enjoying a well-deserved savasana on her yoga mat.
- Web Accessibility
- Web Design