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If you're a school marketer, you have a lot of information — like your curriculum, tuition, financial aid information, details about faculty and staff, etc. — that you want to share with your prospective and current school community in as much detail as possible, without overwhelming them with content.
Maret School in particular is a school that knows how to make what would normally be text-heavy content visual, interactive and engaging. The school recently launched a new online "curriculum guide" that uses Finalsite Posts to display detailed information about their robust curriculum in an organized and mobile-friendly interface.
Zaw Lyn, Associate Director of Communications, and Linda Johnson, Director of Communications, shared their method and strategy for using Finalsite Posts — a module designed for blogs and news, to create this unique, interactive curriculum guide.
Some of the organizational elements include:
First, there is page structure. One page for each division, and a default page to display all the divisions. As you click through each division — Lower, Middle and Upper Schools — the relevant content dynamically fills the page:
Second, there is visual organization. Each department (math, languages, sciences, etc.) has a related icon, and all divisions are color-coordinated, making content easy to navigate at a glance:
Lastly, each course description is displayed using a hyperlink and lightbox, keeping users on the page, increasing page length and a cohesive user experience:
Turning a Boring PDF into an Interactive Web Page
The curriculum guide's purpose is to highlight Maret School's academics throughout its Lower, Middle, and Upper schools. It's a comprehensive document that is still being shared in its original PDF version, Zaw mentioned. Many different departments were using the document and splicing it as they needed different pieces, something the Communications team knew wasn't sustainable. They needed a way to get information out in a way that was organized and attractive.
Translating a PDF to a website page is a best practice for many reasons, especially as we head into 2018
- First, the process for making website content accessible is less cumbersome than going through the process of making your PDF accessible. While simple PDFs (like board meeting notes) can easily be made accessible, lengthy documents with lots of images, links, etc. can take days — especially if you're a rookie
- Second, it enhances SEO. Because this content is now text on a page (instead of text in an uploaded file that Google cannot crawl), it will help your school website rank for new terms based on the keywords you want to rank for
- Third, it will improve site speed because you won't have large, bulky documents bogging down your load time — which ultimately affects your school website's traffic.
Learn how to make your website PDFs accessible with this step-by-step guide
Using Finalsite Posts
The Communications team first learned about Finalsite Posts at this year's FinalsiteU conference. "We were impressed by the functionality, visual and aesthetic design with Posts," said Zaw. "It simply works and made sense for what we were hoping to accomplish." It was also a major benefit that Posts could be used by any other admin in case the team needed to enlist help from other individuals at the school to update content as needed. Even though many schools have used Posts for blogs and news, this use of the module exemplifies how it can be used for sharing all sorts of content.
Building the Curriculum Guide in Posts
Zaw and Linda both emphasized they couldn't have gotten through this project without the support and developers from Finalsite. "After the developers had a good grasp of what we were trying to achieve, they set about building the design while we began creating the posts," said Linda. "The page turned out better than we expected in a short turnaround of about two months."
Let's take a closer look at how they built it.
First, they created a board called Curriculum Listing:
From there, they uploaded each post in order of school and created a separate post for each subject for a total of 27 boards - nine for each division.
James Brettschneider, Web Solutions Analyst at Finalsite, worked closely with Zaw and Linda on the project and provided insight into how they set up the content within Posts. "The pages use a Posts module to create a curriculum catalogue. Each page uses the tag feature of Posts to matchup with the curricula for the departments at that school division," said James. "The various departments (tags) are color coordinated and you can filter by department on the page. Each course in the curriculum is using a Posts article, displaying just the title in the grid of results and then more detail in the Posts popup for that course."
Will Rickenback Support Services Manager at Finalsite, worked on the project and shared, "Even though Posts was new to us and the client, it was a simple setup and a cool project."
The design uses a "Posts Tools" element to filter the curriculum content. The element is styled with icons and colors, as well as a grid style with icons and colors for each department.
The team is also using Page Pops on the page to draw attention to the original curriculum guide PDF for the current school year as well as academic sequence charts. They hope students will use this to register for classes next year:
"The Page Pops have made it possible to highlight the sequence charts without cluttering the page," said Linda. "These are important especially for prospective families to get an idea of the sequence and progression for each subject."
Looking ahead to 2018
Zaw and Linda are interested in seeing how this new page will influence the rest of the admissions season and student registration for the next school year. "We hope this page will help prospective parents and students narrow down their selection based on the curriculum our school has to offer," said Linda. "This page should make it much easier to dive into this information."
How do your marketing strategies compare? Want to be on our Featured Friday blogs in 2018? E-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org and share your success with social media, the Finalsite platform, admissions, crowdfunding, or content marketing!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Stephanie brings a fresh new marketing perspective with her background in social media, communications, and radio broadcasting. She is a co-producer for the FinalsiteFM podcast network and is passionate about helping schools stay ahead of their marketing goals by tracking new trends and developments. She is also a practicing singer/songwriter and loves to expand her creativity in DIY projects.
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