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International School Redesign Spotlight: Seisen International School
Debbie Eisenach

For those of you who know the NPR radio show Car Talk, you know what a pleasure it is to listen to two brothers talk about cars. From extreme car enthusiasts to people who know nothing about cars, listeners enjoy their humor as they problem solve an array of car issues, and along the way, gain jewels of wisdom on pretty much everything.

We conversed with the "two Dougs" at Seisen International School to discuss their website redesign and quickly had visions of listening to a Car Talk for school websites. Doug Jansen, Director of IT, has been at the school for 34 years while Doug Brittain, Communications and Public Relations Coordinator, is mere shy of 20 years having worked as an elementary school teacher for 11 years before moving to his current role. Together this 54 years of dedication makes for a masterful mix.

A Catholic international school with over 50 years of history, Seisen teaches young women in high school and middle school, young girls in elementary school, and young boys and girls in their Kindergarten.

Seisen International School Homepage

Having worked with Finalsite for several years, but operating on an older platform, they opted to move their site to Composer, Finalsite's easy-to-use content management system (CMS). Since their previous design was still relevant, they made only minor tweaks to it and focused more heavily on the content. In his newly created role of Director of Communications and Public Relations, Doug Brittain stressed that with the changing times and increases in the student population in Tokyo, they needed to concentrate on the messaging and purpose of the website.

Their homepage is the first stop for most visitors, and most find it unique. "We are proud that our site is a bit different compared to other international schools as it shows we are different," says Doug B.

"This collage of photos that flip engages visitors to discover and inquire more about our rich programs and learning opportunities both in and out of the classroom. And with over 50% of our site traffic coming from mobile devices, the site works equally well on phones and tablets."

Doug B. is a poster child for a Power Finalsite User – from quoting blogs and webinars, to experimenting and fully implementing new product features likes Finalsite Posts and Finalsite Feeds, he optimizes Seisen's use of the Finalsite platform. He also is a big believer in analytics and has focused more on social media as a result. On the website, they have a mashup page so that their community can see all the exciting things happening, but they also deliberately share bits and pieces of information via social media to drive traffic back to their website.

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Seisen Social Media Feed

The Power of Videos Old and New

One big success has been their efforts to digitize old videos and announce them via social media, linking back to the website for viewing. Seisen has tapes dating back to the early 80s, and with great enthusiasm and patience, Doug J has been converting old tapes from various technology generations and loading them to YouTube and embedding them into their website.

"Before the tapes are damaged, we want to archive this rich history and have it forever. With 90% of our alumni living outside Japan, we have reconnected with so many of them and they are so happy to see footage from their life living in Japan. It is very rewarding to see the impact it has."

After more than three decades with the school, Doug J is retiring, but through these efforts his legacy will remain as he has been a solid rock in the schools success.

Doug Holding Videos

As a tech enthusiast, Doug J said they also livestream important events through their website. Relatives, former students and teachers appreciate being able to see sports games, concerts and graduations when they cannot be there in person. At the same time, they record events in high definition and then load them on YouTube and they love the fact that by embedding a playlist on their website, the latest videos always appear. Videos have become a key component of their website not only allowing them to share with their community but at the same time preserving their story for future members of their community.

Seisen Facebook

Simplified Communications using Finalsite Posts

With Finalsite's latest module, Posts, Seisen has been able to streamline communications in various areas. One area that has been very successful is the creation of Teacher Boards used in the Kindergarten. Essentially each classroom has their own board where teachers and specialists can post content, videos and photos, so that parents stay up to date. And having them password protected provides the necessary security and privacy.

"They are easy to use and teachers love them," said Doug J.

"They have been so successful that we are rolling them out in more areas of the school. Our Library Media Center uses them to showcase new books; we are experimenting with posts to share photo albums from events with easy thumbnails and links; and we are looking to use them for the online student newspaper. We really see many uses for Posts and plan to use them as much as possible."

Seisen Primrose Blog

Great Attitude and Great Results

Doug B jested, "Finalsite is always telling us we need to tell more of the story of our school while also making it easy for prospective families to find information and make an inquiry. We have really taken this advice and are looking at our site with a critical eye to make improvements. So far, our efforts have really paid off as we have had a lot more inquiries. We are so proud to say we have 200 percent increase in average time per page, 26 percent increase in acquisition from organic search, and 240 percent increase in acquisition from social media."

Marketing your new website to your staff is critical and they can be commended on this graphic which they shared:

Seisen New Website Infographic

He concluded: "Additionally, we are looking to further implement portals and encourage staff and parents to go there to find information, forms, and other key information. We also are looking to create a section of our site to raise funds for our future campus development. Our work is never done!"

The international school community is often very transient with faculty and staff picking up roots every couple years. That is not the case with Seisen, whose employee tenure rate is remarkable. But sadly, like the radio show Car Talk which will stop airing this year, Doug J is also retiring. Clearly he left a massive impact on the school's success--but he has also set sound policies to enable the school to continue to succeed. We at Finalsite wish him all the best and will miss his ingenuity, humor and dedication.

The Website Redesign Playbook


Debbie Eisenach

As part of Finalsite's marketing team, Debbie has worked with international schools for the past 7 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. In her free time she enjoys traveling and attending events at her children's school in Berlin, Germany.

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