- International Schools
International School Basel (ISB), currently celebrating 40 years of history, is uniquely situated on the border of three countries. With its Swiss address, Basel also draws families from the suburbs of both France and Germany - thus adding to the diversity of this IB World School, home to over 1,400 students.
When landing on the homepage, the warm blue colors, guiding animated arrows, call-out boxes, infographics, news, and social media, provide a comprehensive snapshot. Whether you are looking to join the Junior, Middle or Senior School, the scrolling homepage has something for everyone. And, as you make your way to the bottom of the page, you are greeted with “Continue the Journey” which further drives visitors deeper into the key differentiators that make this school so unique.
Key Site Features
- Engaging scrolling homepage that looks awesome on a mobile device
- Outstanding use of landing pages throughout the site
- Remarkable parent portal
- Important, but often overlooked, faculty recruitment page
- Skillfully constructed admissions section
We sat down with Lisa Walsh, Head of Marketing and Communications, to learn about the school’s website redesign. Here are some themes from our conversation:
Advice for other schools going through a redesign
Together with their Finalsite project team, the trio at ISB kicked off the project with the goal of thinking differently about their objectives and vision for the website.
“Our old website was about five years old and the school landscape, as well as web technology, changed a great deal in that time. We had to think differently about what we wanted our website to do,” states Ms. Walsh. With increased competition in the region coupled with more demanding parents, ISB wanted to tell their story, which had changed since their last redesign, not just with facts and figures but visually through the use of color, animation, and imagery. She continued, “Our goal was to tell our story with less text - to be a bit more minimalistic with quick and easy to digest content. Composer lets us do that - it’s so much easier to use compared to Page Manager and we just love it. Adding pages is simple and we can tell our story so much easier on Composer.”
Want to see Finalsite Composer in action? Request a live demo.
Managing more static website content
Many international schools have multiple campuses and oftentimes prospective families are confused about the differences among them. ISB, however, does a great job guiding visitors on their homepage to a well-crafted landing page, One School - Three Sites, that provides clear and concise content for each campus. This page opens the door to landing pages for each school providing a comprehensive overview including the curriculum, the subjects, daily schedule, icons for other important topics; all critical information for families evaluating different schools for their children.
Another very clever page is their FAQs. There are lots of Admissions FAQs out there, but this one stands apart because it segments FAQs based on top questions and then separates additional questions by topic. It’s a great layout enabling visitors to quickly get answers to their burning questions.
Experience! Whether you are a prospective student or parent, prospective faculty, a current member of the community, alumni, the Experience landing page has something for almost everyone. From art to music to sports and community, this page provides just the right amount of text and visual content to inform and engage.
Best practice for sharing daily news and events
From news, to events to social media, international schools are bursting at the seams with stories to tell. Schools often struggle with making it a priority to share, but fresh content about the current happenings is critical for sharing the value of a parent’s investment and also for differentiating yourself from the school down the road.
“Staying connected is an important part of our mission so we gave a lot of thought to how our new website would achieve this,” states Lisa. “We love Finalsite Posts and were able to do so much with the module.”
Using Finalsite Posts, ISB crafted an amazing news page with categories for major topics and then users can drill down further by subject. Users can also quickly search if they choose to do so. Entering a news story is as easy as typing up a document and adding a photo so it’s easy to quickly share content that fuels the news section of the website.
ISB has also created a social media mashup page using Finalsite Feeds, bringing in content from Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Lisa explains, “In addition to having our social media feeds appear on our home page, we created a dedicated social media page for visitors. The social media feeds make it easy to showcase all of the wonderful and amazing things happening at ISB everyday on various places throughout our site."
How did you tackle your password-protected Portals?
“Our portals were like a closet that had not been cleaned out in five years. Parents had to click so many times to find their way, so our goal was to bring as much content to the top level as possible,” says Lisa. With some trial and error, and help from Finalsite’s project manager, ISB found the right layout and navigation to optimize their portal experience.
A little peek inside their portal shows how well they keep current families informed and engaged, critical for retention and also assists with word-of-mouth referrals. School calendars, staff and parent directories and other important information on support services and college counseling, parents at ISB are fortunate to have such a comprehensive resource at their fingertips.
“We tested out our portals at the new family welcome session and found that they could all easily log in and subscribe to calendars. I even checked on their phones to make sure they had it set up correctly and they did. It was so rewarding to get such positive feedback since we put some much effort into getting them right.”
When asked for a summary of the project Lisa stated: “Like with any major undertaking, you encounter bumps in the road. Adding to that is our busy school calendar and the everyday tasks that still needed to be completed. Our launch took a bit longer than we expected, but, in the end, after a big push over the summer with 100% focus on content, we launched our site in time for back to school.”
ISB set out with the goal to have less text and be a bit more minimalistic with quick an easy to digest content. From it being easy-to-use, “love it,” to more inquiries, ISB’s new website is a winner. But like any website, it’s a living, breathing thing -- so their team will continue to tweak and improve the site to insure it continues to tell their story.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
As part of Finalsite's marketing team, Debbie has worked with international schools for the past 9 years while living in both Asia and Europe. From conference planning and presentations to association events, and client success stories, she helps schools understand how they can maximize their web presence while partnering with Finalsite. As a parent of three children who attended and graduated from IB World Schools, she has keen insights into the marketing and communication operations and needs of international schools.
- Website Redesign