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The Finalsite Double Diamond Awards introduced at Finalsite University this year recognizes the amazing work our school webmasters put into their websites to create compelling content with Finalsite modules and tools. The awards have also served to inspire school professionals to take their websites in new directions, try new ideas, and explore different ways to use the Finalsite platform.
The fourth entry in our 10-part series recapping the Double Diamond Awards, the Resources Award recognizes schools that used our resource management module to tell their school’s unique story through creative and engaging uses of images, videos, and other forms of multimedia content. Thoroughly impressing our judges with inspiring visual storytelling that focuses on the people that make and attend the school, the first-ever winner for the Resources Award was ... The Hill School!
The Hill School (PA)
The Hill School proves that Resources isn’t just an organizational tool but also a fantastic way to display visual content to engage prospective and current families. You’ll find resources displayed throughout their website to capture the visitor's attention and continuously engage them with spectacular photos and videos, especially true for the homepage hero video.
Hero videos are an amazing tool for schools because they immediately engage new visitors the moment they arrive on your homepage with video snapshots of the best your school has to offer or exciting moments to reflect your school’s atmosphere.
While the hero video caught our judges’ eyes, the real showstoppers were found a little further down the homepage: “Voices of Hill” and “Picture yourself at Hill.” Let’s start with the former.
“Voices of Hill” is a hand-picked collection of current students and faculty testimonials through portraits or candid photos, the person’s name, position title for faculty, hometown for students, and a quick quote from each when you hover over their picture. It’s a lot of content carefully crammed into each box that paints a complete picture of each person.
These testimonials humanize the school as something more than a checklist of features and programs, and prospective students can look at each student testimonial and more clearly envision themselves at The Hill School if they can relate to that student.
But that’s not all. Astute visitors will note the “Meet Our Teachers” and “Meet Our Students” button underneath the four homepage testimonials. Oh yes, there’s more. Again, we’ll start with the former.
Clicking the “Meet Our Teachers” button takes you to the “People of the Hill” directory where you can either search for a specific person, or click through the school’s eight pages of faculty and staff. Once you’ve found the person you’re looking for, you can click their name to open a lightbox, complete with a photo of the person, their list of titles and positions, where they went to school, contact information, and a short quote from most.
Next, we have the “Voices of The Hill” student page. This use of Resources focuses less on capturing input from each and every student (a difficult task given the size of the school) and focuses more on painting a complete picture of a curated handful. Eight student testimonials populate the page with all of the same information as those on the homepage in a similar box-styled format.
“Content like this appeals to both current and prospective families, while highlighting a ton of great images at the same time,” said Product Manager Alex Wack, who also leads the development of Resources at Finalsite. “Prospective families see genuine and authentic content generated from the current student body, and current families get a chance to see their child or catch a glimpse into the daily life at The Hill School.”
Clicking on the name of each student brings you to a separate page dedicated to that one student where you can find another image, quote, a short Q&A, and some fun facts about the student.
Putting your students and faculty front and center is key to showing that your school caters to all kinds of prospective students from all walks of life. Showing students, faculty, and staff engaged and excited at your school also helps generate excitement in prospective families interested in taking that next step in the discovery and application process.
Lastly, we have the “Picture Yourself Here” page that provides a glimpse into life at The Hill School through a vast collection of photos, organized and uploaded into weekly slideshows. Clicking each thumbnail brings you to a separate page where you can read a recap of the week and scroll through a dozen or more photo highlights.
“Content like this is a great inspiration for other schools moving forward,” said Rachel Rydingsward from Product Support and Education. “Schools that reliably create weekly, or even monthly, content like this with our Resources module see a consistently higher amount of website traffic. Families will always come back for more if they know when to expect new content.”
Resources Best Practice
Weekly-updated content is perfect for cultivating an audience that regularly checks back in for updates. Long-term consistency is key, and The Hill School has unlocked the secret to ensuring repeat visitors that come back at least once a week. You don’t have to create a weekly schedule. Once a day, every few days, once a week, or even once every other week are all just as effective at generating guaranteed website traffic, as long as they updates are consistent.
Think of your website like your favorite TV show. Excluding streaming services, we know when our favorite show airs each week, and we make sure we’re there to watch week to week. You want your website visitors to think the same way. Each week they come back is another opportunity for them to visit other pages, perhaps even your donate page.
If you want or need help creating enough content for a weekly schedule, consider using Resources to crowdsource. Resources allows constituents to upload files to a dedicated folder, without making them live on the website until you’ve added them to a gallery or a page. With Resources, you can significantly increase the amount of content at your disposal while still maintaining complete control of your website with this method.
Download our datasheet to learn how Resources helps you build award-winning pages!
Mountain Education Charter High School (GA)
Mountain Education Charter High School (MECHS) impressed our Resources judges with its well-edited, highly-produced hero video on their homepage.
“We hopped on board with the new Resources module. Now, we have a video in our MEC Header that is amazing and eye-catching,” said Lena Dowdy, MECHS instructional technology specialist. “We also uploaded videos created with our students and testimonials. We love resources because it is easy to use and a great way to house all of our media content.”
Aside from the main hero video, MECHS features three additional videos on their homepage that are a mix between professionally-produced and student-made. The difference in production and video length is great for engaging visitors with different preferences. Some people prefer to watch videos with tons of post-production; others prefer videos with a more grounded approach that feels more direct and authentic. Student-made content works especially well for engaging prospective students since students are more likely to produce content that resonates with people in their age range.
Resources Best Practice
Let’s talk video! Resources allows for video uploads of up to 3.91 GB, and each video is automatically copied at multiple resolutions to display at the resolution that best matches the connection speed and screen size of your website visitors. Someone watching a video on public wireless internet on their mobile phone might see a 480p video, while someone watching the same video at home on a wired connection will see the 1080p or 4K version.
Resources does a great job of creating copies and compressing your video’s file size, but we still recommend compressing your largest files (your 4K videos, for example) before you upload them to Resources. This ensures that the file isn’t too large to reliably download. Websites like PS2PDF offer free online video compression services with negligible quality loss for smaller video files sizes, while programs like Handbrake offer the same service for file types of all sizes.
Rowland Hall (UT)
Rowland Hall wowed our judges with its creative and custom-designed uses of Resources on the homepage and interior pages. In particular, the “Explore a few of the things that make us extraordinary.” section of the homepage caught the eye of Design Manager Julianne Hamilton.
“It’s a fairly unique design that uses Resources to dynamically add new content to the homepage whenever the corresponding gallery is updated,” Julianne said. “The custom class image filter keeps the homepage organized while also making it easy for visitors to find the content they want.”
To replicate the effect, create a gallery with all the images you want. Then, add a Resource element to the desired page and select the gallery you just made. In this case, you’d display the images in a grid-style layout. Rowland Hall chose to display the image title and description below the image to clearly separate each row of images. Clicking on each of the entries in this Resource gallery brings the visitor to a separate page with more information.
Rowland Hall made consistent use of Resources throughout most of their interior pages, but the “Welcome from the Head of School” really stood out.
The page itself is fairly simple, with a single video, blockquote, and a few paragraphs of text from the Head of School, but having that personal introduction and message from Head of School Alan Sparrow goes a long way in immediately creating that first pillar of trust that’s crucial in getting prospective parents to take action in the early stages of the discovery process.
The Resources judges also loved how Rowland Hall made liberal use of image captions and descriptions for supplemental information. These captions and descriptions are added after uploading an image to Resources, and they’re automatically applied every time that same image or gallery is added to another page.
Resources Best Practice
Alternative text (alt text) is applied to images whenever they’re added to a new page the same as captions and descriptions. This handy feature makes it quick and easy to ensure that every image and video added to your website is accessibility-friendly.
For images that are already on your website without alt text, Resources includes a “No ALT Text” filter that shows all the images on your website without alt text. It’s a quick way to see which of your hundreds (or thousands) of images on your site need alt text, though the remediation process will take significantly longer.
To avoid the same issue in the future (and avoid ADA fines), Resources allows you to only display resources with alt text. Toggling this setting on will still let you upload resources without alt text to the website, but only those with alt text will display live on your site. The setting also shows you how many images on your site do not have alt text. You can find this option in the Resources module under the settings tab.
St. Ursula Academy (OH)
Last, but certainly not least, is St. Ursula Academy with its Placement Test video testimonial page featuring a mix of student, parent, and faculty testimonials, plus the main school overview video above the testimonials.
Video testimonials are important for building trust between prospective families and your school. Multiple testimonials from different perspectives talking about how great your school is, or what makes your school unique, creates an unbeatable sense of authenticity that connects more to your website’s visitors than content that only comes from your communications office.
“These video testimonials are great for first-time visitors since each video introduces a new person and a new perspective,” said Finalsite Developer Kevin Spain. “St. Ursula clearly put in a ton of effort to make these videos look amazing. The page layout is simple, which makes it easy for new visitors to quickly move from video to video.”
Resources Best Practice
As we mentioned in the Theme Design Awards blog, simplicity often beats out complexity in website design. This extends to how you structure the resources displayed on your website, and how you structure your folders and galleries behind the scenes.
Resources allows you to create as many levels of folders as you choose, but we recommend not going any deeper than three levels per folder. A larger number of shallow folders are much easier to navigate than a smaller number of folders with a dozen levels of subfolders. Planning your galleries and folders ahead of time naturally leads to an easier-to-navigate structure.
Consider the following: an Athletics > Team > Year folder structure will only require you to make folders once. However, an Athletics > Year > Team structure will require new folders for each team every year. Simple adjustments like this can save you hours of time each year.
And for times when you’ve uploaded a resource and just can’t remember where (or if) it’s used on your website, Resources includes the handy “Where Used” tool that shows where and how each resource is being used, down to the specific page(s), post, message, and more.
Resources was built with simplicity and efficiency in mind, making it easier than ever to organize and display your school’s hundreds (or thousands) of images, videos, and multimedia documents. Through easy-to-use accessibility tools, the always-handy “Where Used” tool, and the effortless ability to add resources to multiple pages, our Resources module empowers your school to take your website’s visual storytelling to the next level.
The Hill School and the three runners-up have expertly shown that building beautiful pages with an emphasis on images and video naturally captures the attention of visitors and hooks them with engaging content, encouraging lengthy session times and repeat visits. We cannot wait to see what schools submit next year for the Resources Award category in our second annual Double Diamond Awards Show during Finalsite University 2020 next March in Orlando, Florida.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
As Finalsite’s Product Marketing Specialist, Andrew writes blogs and creates videos to share information about all the latest and greatest Finalsite products. Andrew has more than 10 years of video production experience and a journalism degree from the University of South Carolina. He has an incredible passion for movies, television, reading, and writing fantasy and science-fiction.
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