In 1996, a webmaster’s job description said the position was responsible for “the development and maintenance of a website ...A webmaster plays many roles, including content provider, editor, designer, programmer, and site administrator.”
While oversimplified, that description hasn’t really changed all that much when it comes to maintaining a school website. But on the other hand, the job has completely evolved. Ah, if the website managers of yesterday only knew what was on the horizon — smartphones, wireless networks, social media…so much has happened in ed-tech within the last 25+ years.
Flash forward to today, and there’s A LOT more for web administrators to handle. With parent expectations rising higher and higher, maintaining a school or district’s website can feel like a 24/7/365 job and maybe even more work than initially expected: daily website maintenance, database management, adding calendar events, sending the weekly newsletters, the school news updates, and the non-stop communications — all the tasks that can take you away from more strategic development and pressing matters across the district.
The bad news is that we can’t go back to 1996 to do "The Macarena" and fire up AOL (“You’ve Got Mail!”) The good news is that there are ways to keep your school or district’s website updated, seemingly without lifting a finger.
Use a WYSIWYG & drag-and-drop CMS
At its heart, a “what you see is what you get” content management system (CMS) is the best solution when it comes to user-friendly, easy website updates. It’s essentially software that allows you to update your website in a way that closely resembles how it will look when it’s displayed online. CMS platforms like this save you time, inspire creativity, and limit the restrictions on what your web experience can offer your users.
With Finalsite’s content management system, Composer, the drag-and-drop web page-building interface lets you create pages and add digital content in seconds. With minimal effort and without any web design background, you can easily create, add, and edit content that looks amazing and makes a big impact, all while saving time.
“How much time?” you ask?
A recent poll of Finalsite clients found that 75 percent of respondents saved between 5-10 hours a week using Composer and its modules, while 25 percent saved 11 hours or more a week. That’s nearly an additional day added back into your work week — think of what you could do with an extra day! You could finally get back to updating your Live Journal!
Widefield School District 3 saves time and sanity as staff can easily adjust the layouts of its pages, add or remove content, and edit the site’s current design with Composer and its modules.
Create once, publish everywhere
We see this COPE acronym a lot, and it’s popular because while it saves you time, it also allows your content to be distributed and seen in more places without the extra work, all with just a few clicks. It’s the ultimate “two birds, one stone,” or rather, “five or six birds, one stone” just without the mayhem…
Through Finalsite Posts, you create the content once, and then you have the ability to post it across your site in several different formats, or even share it through social media. Turn a campus update into a news story, a blog post, an update on your parent portal or mobile app, and a post on social media content — in an instant.
With just a few clicks, Madison Metropolitan School District can post district or school-specific news, and then have it appear across any of its schools’ websites. In this example, a construction update is certainly newsworthy, but the content is easily re-posted to a page chronicling the district’s progress on its referenda construction. That’s working smarter, not harder! "Yeah, baby yeah!"
A "shared element" is any element that has been customized and then saved for later re-use on a different page or banner. So if you find yourself recreating the same groups of content over and over, a shared element is a great solution to repurpose and update groups of content across your school or district’s website.
Rather than writing the same content again and again, and even faster than copying and pasting, South Kitsap School District saves time by putting its Title 1 information into a Shared Element. Pertaining to only certain schools within the district, web admins can quickly add the element to the page and have the content styled to each school’s individual branding.
Using the feature within Composer, site admins can drag and drop a Shared Element right into the page’s layout. And when the Shared Element is added to a page or banner, it will automatically retain the original customizations that were applied when it was first saved. Booyah!!
The Dynamic Content function within Composer allows you to set up custom, repeatable “configurations” for automatically displaying Posts, Athletic, and Calendar events in Messages, Finalsite’s email and newsletter module.
When emails are drafted using Messages, for example, the dynamic content element allows you to pull your latest posts directly from your district and schools’ sites into individual newsletters or emails. No need to copy/paste or recipe your site’s content — it’s all right there!
Social media integration
One of the best ways to keep your site looking fresh without breaking a sweat is to use social media integration. These “social feeds” let you showcase the latest posts on your website in real-time, automatically integrating content posted from your school’s social channels, like Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook, for example. There are also advanced moderation and filtering options to ensure that the social media conversations displayed on your site are appropriate for your communication strategy.
This is especially handy during slower times of the year (yea, right!), like holiday breaks or summer vacation when your school news might be slow, but you’re still active on social media — all that great content can still find a place on your website.
During the summer, Boulder Valley School District was able to keep things fresh with its social media integration right on the district homepage. The webmaster doesn’t have to lift a finger to post the latest posts from Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter — it’s all pulled in automatically using Finalsite Feeds.
When your CMS automatically syncs to your student information system (SIS), you know you’re looking at the most up-to-date information, whether it’s the event details on a calendar, today’s home game lineups, or email lists for parent groups.
Finalsite's CMS integrates with some of the biggest SISs out there, and the ability to pull from one master database means there's no duplication or outdated information. That equals less work and more accuracy for you and happy users.
With well over a dozen schools and hundreds of teachers and staff across platforms like PowerSchool, CareFlow, Google, and others, there’s a lot of information within West Hartford Public School District's multiple systems. But with an automatic sync, any updates made to the district or individual school’s calendars, directories, and single sign-on are reflected in just minutes.
While it might be tempting to turn the clock back thirty years, it’s never been easier to keep your district’s website updated and looking great. With the right tools, web administrators from schools of all sizes can add the latest content, adjust page layouts, and manage databases without breaking a sweat. Now you're "Livin' La Vida Loca!"
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Connor has spent the last decade within the field of marketing and communications, working with independent schools and colleges throughout New England. As Finalsite’s Senior Content Marketing Manager, Connor plans and executes marketing strategies and digital content across the web. A former photojournalist, he has a passion for digital media, storytelling, coffee, and creating content that connects.