August Launch Round-Up
Angelo Otterbein

And then … poof! Summer’s gone. Just like that. August felt like one hot and humid day stretched into 30, but boy, Finalsite sure stayed busy at their desks building websites, launching nearly a site every day this month!

Philander Smith College | Mississippi

Philander Smith College website

There’s high energy in the new website for Philander Smith college, an HBCU in Mississippi founded in 1877, one of the first to provide education to former African American slaves. The website opens with an aerial shot of campus, followed by vignettes of students fully immersed in their experience -- on stage, in the lab, in a lecture hall. The one-sentence PSC mission statement follows, putting language to what the user just saw in images, a place where graduates are “determined to change the world for the better”.

The story continues: a tightly designed pack of compelling stats and then the “The Philanderian Journey” which features case studies of recent graduates -- all of which underscores the high value education PSC provides. Additionally, the website features the Audio Eye toolbar, which provides the latest tools for ADA website compliance around the WCAG 2.0 standard. This addition to the site helps convey a message of inclusivity and awareness, as well as enriching the user experience overall.

United World College of South East Asia | Singapore

United World College of South East Asia website

This best-in-class redesign will knock your socks off. It’s a case study in superb navigation, design, layout, rich media and great content. A complex and large institution with two expansive campuses, UWC South East Asia needs to move website users conveniently and intuitively through a broad set of possible pathways. The vertical navigation bar is cleverly conceived -- conscious of space, it’s already narrow, but then thins even further as the user starts to scroll, opening up the page even more for layouts that pop off the page. The lovely treatments for each campus item on this navbar -- Dover Campus and East Campus -- combined with the “Find it Fast” menu, provide a roadmap that’s easy and efficient. And if you look closely, the background for each has a pushpin tied to the campus location.

These subtle details pervade throughout a user experience that is near immersive. Moving down the homepage, large titles, like “Perspective” and “Thinking Big”, headline panels that showcase diversity, distinctions, and students in a school with so much to be proud of, elegant examples of how type and design elevate content in a way that’s even more accessible and interesting. The site’s footer is packed with information, but somehow hardly overloaded, with everything proportionally right-fit for the space, color coded as needed, and with just enough room to let everything breathe.

Carrollton-Farmers Branch Independent School District | Texas

Carrollton-Farmers Branch Independent School District website

Carrollton-Farmers Branch ISD is definitely Texas-sized, a school district with 24 elementary schools, six middle schools, five high schools and two centers, housing some 25,000 students and over 3,000 staff. Thankfully, the website design is simple and clean with a broad mega navigation to get users to the interior as easily as possible, such as via the Schools page, which has a quick filter for each group.

Likewise, utility pages such as the Construction/Bond page are quick to understand and laid out in a way that makes it easy to find details of both. Individual School pages, where parents spend most of their time, such as Blanton Elementary, share common design features, making for a coherent district/school experience no matter where you are on the site. With such a big website to support so many, the Finalsite Platform simplifies management with a “Create One, Publish Anywhere” philosophy for maximizing editorial efficiencies.

ABA-Oman International School | Muscat

ABA-Oman International School  website

It’s not every day you see a picture of camels strolling up to a shoreline for a drink of water, but that’s what you get on the “Join Our Team” page of the new ABA-Oman International School website, which in and of itself is a terrific example of a landing page designed to engage prospective faculty and staff -- camels aside, the page includes video, sharp marketing (“Did we mention the endless sunshine?”), infographics that are as compelling as they are graphically interesting, and deep content that answers all sorts of questions.

The homepage delivers just as well -- opening with big smiles and a large wave of bright yellow that is as cheery as it is inviting, and the simple slideshow that follows covers the gamut of the compelling experience available to students. Even pages with a lot to say, such as Explore More,is aided with emphasized words to help the user in a hurry, with further areas to explore at the bottom.

St. Paul’s Schools | Maryland

St. Paul’s Schools website

When, less than two years ago, you were two schools -- St. Paul’s School for Girls (serving girls in grades 6-12) and St. Paul’s School for Boys (serving girls and boys through grades PK-4 and then just boys through grade 12 after) -- and a preschool and daycare, St. Paul’s Plus … then become one institution with a unified board of trustees, there’s a very big story to tell. The identity of each school has been paramount during this transition, while also requiring a narrative that is clear to prospective families about the benefits of a single-sex education combined with coeducational opportunities that naturally occur when it’s one large campus. As a design, the website is stunning, but it’s also cleverly intuitive for those trying to make their way through the site. 

The St. Paul’s Schools shares centralized messaging on the homepage, while bringing each individual school an identity that is unique and clear: the “umbrella” site -- like the institution -- is almost like the preface to a great novel, bringing you in and encouraging you to stay a while. This creates an important continuity for the user experience, while not compromising autonomy; when it comes time to talk about, say, college counseling, each school can take its own approach, for the boys and the girls. To say the merge of these institutions was complex is an understatement, but you’d never know visiting the website, which was certain a key goal.

Oldfields School | Maryland

Oldfields School  website

The website for Oldfields School, a boarding and day school for girls in northern Baltimore County (and that’s already celebrated its sesquicentennial) opens with: “Find your home.” This is awfully comforting during these turbulent times, especially when the words sit on images of rural country landscapes, spirited crowds of girls, equestrian jumps, and a handoff of roses from one lacrosse player to another. The deeper green is dominant, but the accents of purple and the lighter lime make for a sharp combination.

Important pages like Why Oldfields provide a media-rich introduction to the school with video, big images, and well-written text; if you don’t walk away with a better understanding of the school, then you probably shouldn’t have been there in the first place. The At A Glance page lays out key talking points that, all together, build a strong case for why Oldfields and not somewhere else, while critical pages like the Academics landing page showcase all sorts of distinctions in the classroom. 

The Wardlaw-Hartridge School | New Jersey

The Wardlaw-Hartridge School website

There’s something nice about a dominant “+” sign for a school bearing two names. At Wardlaw-Hartridge, a PK-12 private school in New Jersey, everything is additive in this way, including its logo which features Wardlaw+Hartridge. Also working well together: green+yellow, combined in different ways throughout the design, which takes a fresh modern approach to a number of common homepage elements, such as the infographics which uniquely combine numbers with image overlays and links to more -- an additive concept in its own right.

There are other welcome touches: images swapping out when toggling between calendars and news; admissions-oriented CTAs that swell just slightly, as if they’re inhaling and ready to say something (not to mention one of the first CTAs in this class that uses “Afford” as the label -- good idea!); a “Back to Top” that’s tastefully animated at the bottom; and a footer that doesn’t need to take up the whole bottom, leaving ample room for a campus shot.  One high-traffic page on almost every school website is the tuition page, which WH refers to as “Tuition and Value” -- worth checking out as a good example on how to break the news on the price tag.

Fordham Prep | New York

Fordham Prep website

Of all the hero images I’ve seen in recent memory, none are quite as soothing as the dimly lit shot of the interior chapel of Fordham Prep, appropriately so for this Jesuit all-boys high school. This image, however, is the end to a remarkably unique story told through video, starting on a rainy day at a train stop and ending with boys coming together in different ways to start the morning; it has the feel of a NetFlix trailer, but in this case, users can just keep scrolling to learn more. Four hundred and fifty years of Jesuit education sets the tone for the next panel, the opener to a slideshow of school distinctions.

If it’s not abundantly clear by now who Fordham Prep is, then it’s hard to recommend what else to do here. Except continue scrolling. The mission follows: a few quick facts, perhaps most notably 17,000 service hours; there’a “Life at the Prep” with some featured news; and then a visually intriguing row of buttons above the footer that have a semi-glow about them. There’s a strong footer with all the right components, and all burgundy. What does a Jesuit education mean? This site will tell you.

Dexter Southfield | Massachusetts

Dexter Southfield website

In terms of first impressions, It’s hard not to think blue when you first load the new homepage for Dexter Southfield. But it’s the touches of red, the fine lines of white, and the color in the beautiful photography that ties everything together. The shield also proportionally features red, white and blue, but diagonally and at different widths, which is unique, like the school. The design is elegant all the way through -- clean rules and boxes to contain calls-to-action for each division (the prompts for lower, middle and upper are good, too: “Foundation”, “Transition”, and “Formation”), value proposition statements and a nicely laid out “By the Numbers” panel. Throughout the site is a sense of modesty and good taste, a reflection of an institution that is proud of who it is, knows itself well, and just wants to share.

Mount Saint Mary Catholic High School | Oklahoma

Mount Saint Mary Catholic High School website

Speaking of first impressions, the new homepage for The Mount, a co-ed Catholic school in Oklahoma City, starts small: there’s access to the trifecta of search/quick links/hamburger menu, just four words (“Leading. Living. Serving Mercy”) and the school’s name, with the simplest of logos. But the rest of the homepage is one big reveal, leveraging a parallax implementation to share family and teacher stories, fast facts, an impressive carousel of college matriculations, news and calendars, social media -- all ending with one gigantic call to action that sums it all up: “Are you ready for The Mount experience?”

The question is in itself an interesting way to frame the expectation: students will need to rise to the occasion. Back at the top, once you’re ready to explore, the menu opens a terrific example of a navigational overlay, with clear items to sort through, lots of open space, and a sub navigation to target where you want to go next. The site is welcoming and user-friendly at every step.

Saint Mary’s Hall | Texas

Saint Mary's Hall website

A little interactivity goes a long way, and the new website for Saint Mary’s Hall, a private school in San Antonio, Texas for grades 3-12, is all sorts of fun. A big hero image, crowned by deep purple, sets a tone of strength, leading to the first set of boxes that transforms the cursor into a plus sign, a novelty that encourages the user to explore a bit -- “Student Success”, “Your Inner Artist” -- creating entry points to well-developed landing pages, such as Experience SMH. Further down the homepage, a set of icons, slightly whimsical, launch small descriptive explanations that slightly bounce open, as if they can’t wait to talk to you -- another attention grabber to keep the visitor engaged.

Testimonials are dressed in white text on a black background, which disrupt the trending purple, and make it hard not to stop to read. The panel sets up a vertical carousel, also including a slight pop of each profile -- more fun with every click, much like we’d want in a day at school. Featured news, and a uniquely designed social media grid that opens up as you scroll finish the experience -- if you don’t have a sense of SMH by now you’ve been scroll-dozing. The interior of the website is strong, too -- check out the Fine Arts or the Know and be Known pages for just a few examples.

Town of Ellington | Connecticut

The Town of Ellington website

Who doesn’t like a good picture of cows? It’s fun to see Finalsite bring a municipality to life with the Town of Ellington’s new website, providing an affordable and quick-to-deploy theme design with the power of the platform to drive easy content updates and site management. The nuts and bolts of a town website are broad and important -- agendas, minutes, service information, sundry forms for requests, links and resources -- and the website administrators are empowered to easily post, edit, and manage the site quickly and conveniently with WYSIWYG editing and page creation.

searchable directory is just one of many areas of functionality that help the town provide its residents with a simple way to find the right person to talk to, while the contests page uses accordions, tabs and other content elements to communicate a few years worth of fun events, including an upcoming scarecrow contest for the fall!

North Cobb Christian School | Georgia

North Cobb Christian School website

NCCS’s logo is diamond-shaped, but it’s not quite a diamond, which is nice. And this makes for a pattern that works its way through the design  -- as a background, as a small decorative icon, as a helpful indicator for calls-to-action (filling up, like a glass, as you roll over), and even as a border treatment. The new website for this Christian preschool-12 school in Georgia puts a big focus on family and values, with pictures of students and teachers having meaningful conversations and academic experiences.

The News and Events treatment on the homepage is particularly notable with interactive thumbnails linking to big, open features. Throughout, landing pages like School Counseling, maximize Composer’s CMS elements to create comprehensive information-rich pages that deliver. Like the school, their website gives you lots of reasons to stick around.

Northwest Mississippi Community College | Mississippi

It was nice to see another community college going live from the Finalsite launch pad, and the new custom design for NWCC showcases a nice library of design elements throughout, including: student testimonials that pick up the red and blue college colors; “Northwest By the Numbers” highlighting eight key facts; a few featured news items; and integrated social media from their Instagram board using Finalsite Feeds.

The footer organizes three convenient buckets of links (“Alumni & Friends”, “Resources”, and “Popular”), which is a good example of helping users find their way, not to mention a compact presentation of phone, address and social links. In turn, content throughout the website is simple, direct and easy to consume.

Minnehaha Academy | Minnesota

Minnehaha Academy website

Still images that move slightly -- like the ones featured on the new homepage for Minnehaha Academy, a century-old Christian school in Minneapolis -- are a nice alternative approach to filling the hero space without immediately playing a video, which is still available to users on this site who want to check it out. Ideas like these play nicely with the rest of the design, which starts with an animated vertical line that leads to a tiny red rainbow-shaped icon over a short, suggestive statement that begins: “Imagine your child…” 

In more than one way, this prompt exemplifies the purpose of a website, which is to provide a means for parents to imagine their child learning and growing at your school. Programmatic distinctions follow, starting with two students looking right at you with magnifying glasses, the kind of friendly welcome you’d want to a new place. Quick facts are given room and whitespace, making it easy to read and interpret them all, but if they’re not clear enough, surely the statement next to it is: “Minnehaha Academy is one of the top college prep schools in Minnesota.”

Gill St. Bernards | New Jersey

It’s really worth hitting “refresh” on the new website for Gill St. Bernard’s, a private day school in suburban New Jersey, in part because the imprint of the school name works so well against the backgrounds that come up, as if they were already emblazoned on the sky when they were photographed. Athletes interlocking arms; a particularly interesting artistic shot of a girl behind a fence; two preschoolers with crayons; a scenic campus shot -- these semi-framed, semi-candid shots open vibrant windows into school life, a first impression that’s strong and natural. The “GSB Difference” panel brings it home, highlighting key differentiators and nudges to explore more, and since the School serves students aged three through grade 12, guided divisional entry points are readily available.

What’s next is unique, too: “Balance” the website claims, reaching into the minds of prospective parents who are worried about the complexities and pressures of growing up in this world, and the role that a school plays in sorting through it all. This beautiful design (which, by the way, has “The Farm” in their utility navigation, which you can’t help but click on) ends with a wide-angled campus shot behind buttons for next steps and a fully blue footer that is all GSB.

Sterling Hall School | Toronto

The Sterling Hall School website

“What’s important to you today?” is one of the first bits of text you get below a great homepage video on the new site for Sterling Hall; this is a terrific question to lay out there, and it’s tied to a search bar, as well as a mini navigation with suggestions. But the device gets better: an icon that could pass for a thimble, is hard not to click on, and the result is rewarding -- even more ways the school is trying to answer that fundamental question with a broad set of possible paths a user can take. “Why Your Boy Belongs Here” is presumptuous, but in a good way --  you can’t help but agree as the circular photos roll over and indicate the possible answer, such as: “Because boys make life-long friendships.”

The homepage adds yet another spin on a commonplace device -- the infographic -- showing just one fact at a time on a single picture as wide as the page, which lends itself to a design with large type and big photos. The navigation is equally thoughtful, with sections branded by a complementary color and prefixed with “Sterling”, a way to emphasize that the school has a unique imprint on everything it does -- after all, who wouldn’t want their child to have “Sterling Character”?

Old Orchard School | California

Old Orchard School website

There are a lot of trees and tree shapes in school logos, but Old Orchard School’s tree has a history, a homage to a pear tree and the ranch where the school was imagined nearly 50 years ago. As a JK-8 school, the site is filled with big images of young kids, putting faces to the “Small School. Big Education” motto. It’s equally fun and telling, too, that the header image for the faculty/staff directory is a picture of teachers with oversized Scrabble necklace pieces.

Pages like How to Apply or Visit Old Orchard are easy on the eyes, demonstrating how simple it is to build pages with Finalsite’s CMS Composer to add images and content but with some practical touches, as in this case capturing important information in accordions. The website nailed it with the color selections: the presentation of “Explore Our School” on the homepage, toward the bottom, is a tasteful palette of deeper earthy tones, the combination of which somehow brings to mind the fall and the very orchard that spawned the school in the first place.

Sacred Hearts Academy | Hawaii

Sacred Hearts Academy website

The way the framing of the main building is shot in the opening full-screen photograph of the new homepage for Sacred Hearts Academy, an all-girls day school in Hawaii, you almost feel like you could jump right into your screen -- this is a beautiful campus and pictures throughout reinforce that. But that all serves as a background to the message about the strong education here, with entry points to each division right below.

There’s a particularly nice implementation of news and events that are displayed horizontally, picking up the blue and gold of the school’s colors -- with Finalsite Posts, updating this content is quick and allows for sharing and publishing throughout the website, a time-saving convenience that’s just one small feature in the Finalsite platform. The primary navigation on this website also shows a terrific example of a sticky nav that adjusts as you scroll, a nice footing to have with long pages.

August Theme Launches

St Anthony-New Brighton ISD 282 | Minnesota


Montvale Public Schools | New Jersey


Humanitree School | Mexico 


Melbourne Central High School | Florida


Haque Academy | Pakistan


Great Plains Technology Center | Oklahoma


Good Shepherd Lutheran School | Minnesota


International Christian Academy of Nagoya | Japan


Englewood Schools | Colorado


San Angelo Independent School District | Texas


Good Shepherd Lutheran School | Minnesota


Our Savior Lutheran School | Texas


Mid-Peninsula High School | California


Khan Lab School | California


Glenview School District 34 | Illinois


St. Ann School | Delaware


Hillel Yeshiva | New Jersey


Mercymount Country Day School | Rhode Island

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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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