Sometimes you have to understand where you’ve been, to know where you’re going.
Every day you contribute to your program’s legacy. Whether as an educator, school marketer, or communicator, each day you’re adding meaningful moments to your school’s rich history.
Big or small, every school has made an impact on its community, and sharing that story is an important part of communicating your school’s legacy to prospective families, as well as the current community.
Rich with images and interaction, a digital timeline on your school website can engage, inform, and inspire modern-day, finger-scrolling website visitors — and unlike the traditional timelines you might see as part of a museum installation, your school’s story is never “done.” You can easily tweak, add, and share more moments as your story continues.
Whether your school just opened its doors or it’s been around for centuries, a timeline can support pride and nostalgia for alumni, enhance an anniversary celebration, improve fundraising efforts across generations, and foster stronger bonds with current families. And for prospective families, showcasing a macro view of your school in a timeline can influence their decision to inquire, apply, and become another important part of your school’s history.
Getting started with your school's timeline
Gathering resources is an important first step in creating a timeline. Assemble a team to assist your marketing and communication office to identify key points in history. Utilize your alumni, parent association, tenured staff, and members of your community who have knowledge of your history. Your public library, town hall, and historical society might also be helpful. The more perspectives and data you collect, the more extensive your narrative and the bigger impact it can have. Look to include:
- Key dates - when the school started, major events, anniversaries, awards
- Visual assets - photos, maps, videos, press clippings
- Content - historical information, testimonials, news reports, media events
Once you have assembled your key data points, the next step is to create an outline of your timeline. Some prefer to do this on their computer so they can move things around easily, while others like to use colored post-it notes or a big whiteboard to storyboard their timeline.
Determine the best format for your timeline
Once you have assembled your assets and created your timeline storyboard, you’ll need to determine the format of your timeline. There are timeline software programs that can help you determine the best format for your timeline — a linear timeline that scrolls horizontally, a vertical timeline that utilizes motion, or an interactive image that visitors can navigate.
It’s important to determine how your technology and content will fit nicely together. While there are programs for creating timelines, having a timeline that matches your branding and responds to your website’s design and layout is important.
Examples of creative school timelines
In working with schools around the world, some with very brief histories and others dating back centuries, the following examples can inspire schools to craft timelines that best tell their stories. Built on Finalsite’s content management system (CMS) Composer, the Finalsite design team worked with schools to craft an effective presentation.
Collegiate School, an independent school for boys in New York City, shares the importance of its history — which dates back to the 1600s — and tradition on its homepage with a link to its timeline. The timeline highlights the school’s milestones that develop right alongside New York City.
For St. John’s College in Hong Kong, their timeline deserves an award unto itself. This custom timeline includes scrolling, clicking, and interaction — all perfectly assembled to tell their story.
My Online School's interactive infographic uses graphics and animation to guide visitors through one milestone at a time. Users can also click on each item to view a pop-up, making it more visually engaging and easy to scan in the original presentation while still providing flexibility to dig into more insights. When visitors scroll down the page, the calls to action drive visitors to keep engaging with site content.
With 175 years of rich history in New York, Xavier School’s vertical scrolling timeline provides navigation on the left so visitors can easily jump between decades and click on each item to learn more.
The Gow School, a boarding and day school for students with dyslexia and language-based learning disabilities in New York, does a great job mixing its history and philosophy into a very compelling value proposition within the school's about section.
Granada Hills Charter School shares its timeline of excellence. With Composer's flexible page layout and Resources, they can easily update content and keep their timeline up-to-date in just a few clicks.
Pathways, part of Burnsville-Eagan-Savage School District 191 in Minnesota, features a vertical infographic. Notwithstanding their brief history, this timeline highlights all their major accomplishments.
With nearly 100 years of experience, Tanglin Trust School has a well-established history of excellence in education. Its interactive timeline, which looks great on mobile devices, cleverly mixes the history of the school with its location and includes pop culture milestones as a frame of reference.
As part of its 60th-anniversary celebration, Seisin International School in Japan put together a microsite that includes a timeline to share “a look back at where we began, where we are, and where we are going.”
The Windward School in sunny Los Angeles shares its timeline right on the homepage. For visitors on mobile devices, the horizontal scroll of the timeline offers a nice change from the vertical scroll and certainly increases time on-page statistics.
Timelines can also be used to chronicle other events like the progress of major construction projects, development campaigns, and bond initiatives. Long Beach Unified School District uses a timeline to share the progress of current and upcoming construction projects.
Adding a timeline to a school website can be a valuable tool for building pride and support among the school community. Whether highlighting key events and milestones, celebrating anniversaries, or showcasing the achievements of the school and its community, a timeline can be an impressive visual element to engage visitors.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
As part of Finalsite's marketing team, Debbie has worked with international schools for the past 12 years while living in both Asia and Europe. She helps schools understand how they can maximize their web presence while partnering with Finalsite. As a parent of three children who graduated from IB World Schools, she has keen insights into the marketing and communication needs of international schools.