Finalsite had the great pleasure of visiting the American School of Milan (ASM) last month. From the amazing facilities and a sneak peek at their annual musical, to cheering on varsity girls' basketball teams from international schools in Germany and Switzerland and those melt-in-your-mouth warm cookies provided by the in-house confectioner, our visit was very inspiring.
Having visited many international schools, we found ASM to be top-notch.
Because we were on campus, we took the opportunity to find out about their recent website redesign and how they use their website to showcase their great school. We sat down with their team, which included Stephen Reiach, Sara Griffith, Neda Buncic, and Giannabella Sacco.
The Redesign: A Focus on Storytelling and Security
The big shift for their new site was to focus primarily on prospective families, while current family content was moved to the Finalsite Platform's password-protected Portals. It was a philosophical change for the school and required a delicate balance.
The Website Redesign Playbook
The school wanted to showcase public events, but due to increased concerns regarding security, they moved some of the event details and the like to a more secure area where users have to login.
"We kicked off the project last May, and quickly realized it was a bigger project than we expected," said Stephen Reiach, Director of Technology. The team looked at more than 20 designs, including other international schools and universities, such as Duke and Cornell, to get some ideas.
"We looked not only at design but equally important was content organization," he said.
With this research and advice from their Finalsite designer, they agreed that they wanted to use the features of a scrolling homepage offering quick access to videos, news and calendar events, while showcasing their in-house photography, which truly captures the vibrancy of the school that includes 51 nationalities and over 780 students.
"Prospective families can learn so much about the school without leaving our homepage," said Sara Griffith, Director of Admissions and Advancement.
"They can learn about our community members and events, access engaging videos, and quickly learn more by clicking on these bold circular call-to-action buttons."
This is extremely important, as many students never get the chance to visit the school before they enroll. The website's virtual tour, which was developed in-house, has been a huge success as well.
"We have seen a huge increase in inquiries since the site launched," she concluded.
ASM's homepage is specifically geared to sharing their unique story with prospective parents. Detailed content, more relevant to current parents, students, faculty, and alumni was moved to various Finalsite Portals.
"Using the Finalsite Portals, we were able to centralize all of our parent communication and provide a single point of reference for families," said Sara.
To ensure they got it just right, the team spent a lot of time mapping out their content to use in the Parent Portal which includes:
- News recaps
- Upcoming events
- Parent Teacher Organization info
- Athletic team news
- Various registrations and other forms
- Twitter feeds, access to Google teacher sites.
One portion of the public site that does contain a lot of information is the Support ASM fundraising section. Packed with compelling information on why you should give and easy accessible donations forms, ASM has repeatedly met their fundraising goals in the past few years.
"We love Composer, the new Finalsite CMS. It is easy to use and allows us to create new pages and even whole sections of our site," said Neda, Fundraising and Admissions Coordinator.
"We also are reaching out more to alumni so are using a multi-channel approach which includes the public website, the Alumni portal, social media as well as LinkedIn."
Giannabella, the school's Design, Communications and Alumni Coordinator, spends a lot of her day updating their social media. She stressed the importance of posting as things are happening. Based on analytics, "if I post it even just an hour later, it won't receive as much popularity as it would if posted instantly."
Therefore, you will find her strolling the halls of the school with her phone snapping pictures and tweeting during events. Each platform has a different audience, so content is posted based on the various audiences of the ASM community.
With such an importance stressed on their social media presence, the school pulls all that amazing, authentic content back to their school's website in a social media mash-up page. Social media mash-up pages are a great site enhancement because they provide website visitors with a look a real, up-to-the-minute campus life, and most importantly, don't move site visitors from your site to your social media.
As always, the goal is to keep them on the homepage.
"I have worked with Finalsite for almost 8 years and have gone through several redesigns," said Stephen.
"Each time they have always hit the nail on the head by internalizing our needs and desires while providing the latest expertise. Finalsite has always delivered on their promise to present our brand in the best possible light with beautiful design and extensive functionality."
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
As part of Finalsite's marketing team, Debbie has worked with international schools for the past 7 years while living in both Asia and Europe. From conference planning and presentations, to association events, and client success stories, she helps schools understand how they can maximize their web prescence while patnering with Finalsite. In her free time she enjoys travelling and attending events at her children's school in Berlin, Germany.