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New School Website Launches: April/May 2022
Angelo Otterbain

Is it me or did it just instantly go from beautiful, cool 60-degree spring days to blistering 95-degree summer ones? Either way, things are heating up here in deployment with a slew of launches over the last two months, over 50 by my last count. Forty-four of these were launched on a Finalsite Theme, which means a lot of districts and schools were able to maximize their investment in the software, launch a great website, and do both quickly.

Nonetheless, we’re here to feature the hard work of our custom designs, which showcase the tremendous work of our creative team who spend countless hours with each client to understand their needs and how best to represent them online. Let’s dive in…

screenshot of American School of Paris

American School of Paris | France

When you see an illustration of a large sailboat with three sails and it’s pointing west, like the one that serves as the logo for the American School of Paris, you can’t help but think of those enormous wooden boats that made the voyage centuries ago on open seas to what later became known as America. Perhaps that’s reading too far into a school logo here, but for a school with a brand message that reads, “An American Education. An International Community. Everyone Succeeds,” it’s not a big leap. And with all the red, white and blue, it’s also hard not to feel a bit patriotic cruising through the site. 

The homepage has a clean, balanced approach to deliver quick access to divisional landing pages, which are the most common starting point for most parents; an interesting design for its social media panel using Finalsite Feeds; a side-by-side grouping of testimonials and fast facts, and a variety of other touchpoints that communicate value, such as the university matriculation ticker tape. If you’re wondering where the video is on a site this well-built, you don’t have to search hard, as some nice montages set up the interior landing pages well, like the one for the Lower School, which pulls together overview content, links to curriculum and related docs, a typical day, and other relevant details. More information-heavy pages, like the Summer Camps, leverage the content management elements strategically, in this case, a tabbed element to present a week-by-week chart of the summer offerings. Likewise, the Tuition and Fees page uses an accordion element to make important information related to fees and services accessible but not overwhelming. Finally, ASP Stories is a terrific example of using Finalsite Posts to help sort, filter, and share students, teachers, alumni, and donors who have something positive to say about the School.

screenshot of Rosedale Day School

The Rosedale Day School | Toronto

In Toronto, the new custom design for RDS is spotted with blocks of blue and just enough reds to make for interesting and clean layouts and elements — but the photography is what stands out the most. A girl’s face full of joy in the opening shot is one we probably all hope our own children will experience, a nearly visceral moment of discovery and excitement. Such is the outcome of an education foundation to “Adapt Confidently, Engage Responsibly”, a mantra that certainly suits a school with a clear mission but also one that is equally apropos for years defined by a pandemic and unrest. Here is a place where our future generation learns and rises to lead, and RDS uses its website to share just how. The website is not large, but it accomplishes a lot with areas like “Reggio Inspired” which talks about the unique classroom and curricular structure, or the Physical Education page, which opens with “Something for everyone, at every level” — music to the ears of those parents who want their children to understand the rewards of being part of a team. The well-structured Admissions landing page brings together upcoming dates, a nice call to action to schedule a call, and key entry points into kindergarten, junior school, and middle school. Curious just what the School’s motto is? "Quisque Infans Singularis Est" which if you haven’t brushed up on your Latin means, "each child is unique."

screenshot of community school

Community School | Missouri

Oh, to be a kid again. That’s what crossed my mind just watching the clips from the new homepage video on the Community School website, especially the few seconds of children running around in frenetic zig-zags on a playground at high speed. And that’s the feeling you want with a website for a school serving ages three through 6th grade, an independent school in St. Louis that also happens to be over 100 years old. The rest of the homepage reinforces the broader points of what makes the Community School unique: experiential learning, engaged students, and a well-developed, integrated curriculum. 

Website Redesign Playbook

If the homepage doesn’t make it clear, the Outcomes page features a colorful infographic describing several compelling data points, which rests just above two Composer accordion elements that share Secondary School and even College Attendance, which is an important if not a subtle reminder that the foundation of a great education starts when you’re young. Stunning photography abounds, such as on the Head of School page which has a beautiful shot of a girl crouched in the woods looking toward something that is clearly worth the smile. Fast Facts is one of those pages we wish all websites had, one which is all buttoned up and organized into nice and neat buckets of useful information that can be expanded and collapsed. And it continues to be reassuring that the schools educating our youngest put a priority on sustainability, which includes “recycling milk cartons at lunch”, “LED lighting upgrades” and “building animal homes for campus.”

screenshot of MeadowRidge School

Meadowridge School | British Columbia

The aerial shot that sits high over the future, renovated campus of Meadowridge School could be a piece of art, with just the right mix of straight lines, curves, and right angles. The slideshow on this campaign microsite makes it hard not to get excited about what’s ahead for the JK-12 Canadian independent school in British Columbia: a new Administration Center, a full Athletics and Fitness Center, and a Fine Arts Building, among other additions. The website successfully combines architectural renderings and close-up photographs of students to help connect the physical space to the students who will learn there — this campaign is about bricks and mortar, but ultimately it’s for the children. Thoughtful pages help make the site a comprehensive go-to for all the information you might need and questions you might have, such as the Expansion 101: Who, What, When and How which uses Finalsite Posts and simultaneously enables the site administrator to easily share and re-use the content elsewhere, including in a central repository. The Spaces section uniquely blends call-out quotes, explanatory content, a nice carousel of image-oriented buttons, and an interactive map to help a user understand all the projects associated with the campaign, while the individual campaign initiatives have even more detail if you want it. Ready to donate? The website makes it easy with an integrated payment form.

screenshot of George Watsons College

George Watson's College | Edinburgh

There aren’t a lot of words on the homepage of the new website for George Watson’s College, a preschool to Senior 6 independent school in Edinburgh, but the few words say a lot: “Aim High”, “Be Kind”, “Join In”, “Respect All” and, finally, “Ex Corde Caritas”, or “Love from the Heart”. The burgundy jacket and ties worn by all students add a pleasant formality and interesting contrast to the big smiles that greet you in the opening sequence, which also happen to include an older student apparently performing a magic trick with cards (there’s even a mystical sparkle that seems to periodically present itself as if there truly is magic at work on campus). 

Organizationally, the site is well-structured, with preschool, junior school, and senior school sharing a consistent sitemap, making for an intuitive navigational experience that from a site management standpoint also keeps things simple. On the interior, several pages, like Leadership, show the versatility of Finalsite’s content management system, Composer, which allows for multi-column layouts with grids of images that are easy to update. Similarly, Session Dates combines styled tables with a tabbed content element to make a very useful page for prospective and current parents alike who want to view key dates throughout the academic year. On a more somber note, the Obituaries page in the “Watsonians” area is an excellent example of how to honor alumni with utilities for searching and filtering to help. For the historians in the room, the George Watson’s Ladies Club is worth a peek, too.

screenshot of Saigon South International School

Saigon South International School (SSIS) | Vietnam

Of all the page notifications that are out there, SSIS must be the only one that gets to use it to announce its new dragon. That’s what (currently) greets a user when visiting the new website of this large American curriculum international school in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. Clearly, this school understands branding, leveraging the bright yellow quarter-circle that dots the ”i” in SSIS as a graphic element that plays out on the homepage and throughout the site, a nice curve that helps break up the grid. And this best-in-class design translated to a homepage that will knock your proverbial socks off, a story-telling masterpiece, with all sorts of visual eye candy to keep you engaged, but done thoughtfully and with intention. 

To start, the college acceptances panel takes a fresh look at a common feature by placing six college logos at a time into a small grid, navigable with left and right arrows —  just the right number to process visually before flipping through more. And Core Values, the “The spirit of a Dragon” is another example. Spare, illustrated icons, housed in the curved quarter round, serve as quick access to short videos describing each, such as Respect and Balance in Life; and if a user skips right through the homepage, they get reused in a slightly different way on the Mission & Core Values page. Further down, a news spread combines stories and social media posts using Finalsite Feeds, all pulling automatically from the platform without additional work by the site administrators. Full, well-designed interior pages, like SSIS Difference, bring Composer’s full layout capabilities to bear with a page that’s divided up into multiple ways, filled with interactivity, pull quotes, large images, and calls-to-action, easy to spot with their bright yellows. For such a big international school with “the largest and greenest campus in Ho Chi Minh City” — aka Green City — there’s a lot of ground to cover, but a simple primary navigation bar and audience-driven constituent navigation simplifies the journey. Even the color-coded calendar, using Finalsite’s robust Calendar Manager, puts the user first, with a search bar, quick downloads, and ways to easily filter.

Theme Launches

Broadoaks British School | Abuja

Yellow Springs Exempted Village School District | Ohio

Governor Wentworth Regional School District / School Administrative Unit 49 | New Hampshire

De Pere School District | Wisconsin

American School Brasilia | Brasilia

Elkhart Community Schools | Indiana

La Salle Catholic College Preparatory | Organ

Pike County School District | Kentucky

Hilton Head Christian Academy | South Carolina

Bath County Public Schools | Kentucky

Central York School District | Pennsylvania 

Pulaski County School District | Kentucky

Hamilton Wenham Regional School District | Massachusetts

High Mowing School | New Hampshire

Bishop Du Bourg High School | Missouri 

Allen East Local School District | Ohio

Sandur Residential School | India

Western Heights School District I-41 | Oklahoma 

Greenwich Public Schools | Connecticut

CABE: Connecticut Association of Boards of Education | Connecticut

Carmel School Hong Kong | Hong Kong

Academy for Precision Learning | Washington

School Administrative Unit 70 - Hanover | New Hampshire

Hoosac Valley Regional School District | Massachusetts

Rockcastle County School District | Kentucky

Carroll County Public School District | Maryland

Lampeter-Strasburg School District | Pennsylvania

De La Salle College "Oaklands" | Ontario

San Francisco Friends School | California

Beaufort County School District | South Carolina

Covington Exempted Village School District | Ohio

Washington County Schools | Kentucky

Southeast Dubois County School Corporation | Indiana

American International School, Riyadh | Saudi Arabia

Educational Service District 105 | Washington

Preston Public Schools | Connecticut

Westminster School At Oak Mountain | Alabama

Cedar Crest Academy | Washington

Meet With a Website Expert | Finalsite


ABOUT THE AUTHOR
angelo otterbein headshot

Angelo graduated valedictorian from St. Paul's School in Baltimore, MD and from Princeton University. Despite getting his degree in creative writing and English Literature, it generally takes some doing to keep him from programming and breaking websites. Just after graduating, he started Silverpoint, and grew it to over 300 schools worldwide before merging with Finalsite in 2013.


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