How many schools can look back on their history and claim: they held the first stage production of Roald Dahl's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory performed in front of Mr. Dahl himself; had Elton John perform in the gym; and welcomed Presidents Truman, Reagan, Clinton and Obama to meet with their community?
The American School in London’s (ASL) founder, Stephen Eckard, said: “Education is a community service requiring community participation." and today, almost 70 years later, the school continues to be an exemplar not only in their community but on the bigger stage of international school education.
From their impressive timeline to the school’s activities today, including their 15,000 active alumni in 77 countries, ASL has and continues to hold a leading reputation among international schools around the world. With thousands of global daily site visitors, ASL wanted to update their site to better showcase their community while at the same time utilizing the most current technology and best practices.
“We really pushed the limits with our new site,” stated Elizabeth Allen, Director of Online Communications, “and tried to optimize our use of Finalsite’s robust platform to tell our story.” Following their mission, to develop the intellect and character of each student by providing an outstanding American education with a global perspective, their homepage use images, an interactive map and messaging to make this loud and clear.
“We wanted a more visual experience for site visitors with the new outward-facing site being developed primarily for prospective students, their families, and prospective employees,” Elizabeth continued. “The more parent-focused content was extricated and put behind our portal which was also revamped and is now much easier to read and navigate. Our goal was to make a ‘home base’ for parents to find everything they needed in one place.”
Finalsite works with more than 225 international schools of all sizes and budgets
Clever authentic admissions content aimed at students
If toddlers can use apps while being pushed around the grocery store, suffice it to say, prospective school aged students want a say in their education and will do research of their own. ASL gets it right on their admissions page where they let their students be guides. With very clever video content the students lead the way with Life in London videos. Will my dog be okay? How can I write my grandma? What’s the food like? These videos resonate with prospective students who might not get the opportunity to visit the school prior to enrolling and also appeal to children’s short attention spans and desire for authentic content.
ASL’s philosophy on website maintenance
“As the project progressed and the site started to take shape, we trained more than 30 users who have administrative access to update the site. We are strong believers in enabling key members of our community to update their relevant sections of the site. This included grade level representatives updating their curriculum, athletics updating sports information and other key areas. This has helped us ensure that information is accurate and up-to-date and has also brought pride in ownership throughout the school.” With a thoughtful approach to Finalsite’s roles and permission capabilities, ASL can share website maintenance across the organization. ASL also uses Finalsite’s page level security to ensure privacy and security of their online resources and registrations for facilities like the aquatics and fitness center.
Secrets to their portal success
ASL values input and collaboration knowing that they wanted to ensure a positive response from 1,350 students, their parents and their employees; so as part of the website redesign, their team spent time revamping their various portals. Parents and employees use their own portal to access important forms and resources as well as a gateway to other systems. The employee portal includes additional information including professional development, human resources as well and health and safety. Elizabeth stated: “Having it all in one central location has decreased the amount of questions we receive, and enabled users to locate resources on their own. It’s just so much easier for everyone! We’ve received lots of positive feedback.”
Giving advice from the experts
ASL as a strong sense and history of philanthropy which is articulated in their Giving section. These pages are well crafted and include video content, call-to-action buttons, as well as high-impact news that helps donors understand the importance of their gifts. Using Finalsite’s integrated forms and payments, ASL has streamlined the process and made it so much easier for donors to make a contribution. “We want to make it as easy as possible for donors to make a gift. We created buttons with links to the giving form that live on the Giving section of the site, making them easy to spot. We also have great content that demonstrates the impact of their gift on education and the student experience at ASL.”
Having an engaged alumni network is also critical for their fundraising efforts; their Alumni section is content rich, including publications, alumni news, ways to connect as well as scanned yearbooks dating back to the 1960s. “When we moved to Composer (Finalsite’s content management system) we were able to make a gallery of all the yearbook covers – before, we just had a list of links. The images are so much more compelling!”
Tips from Veteran Finalsite Users
“This is our third website redesign with Finalsite so we consider ourselves more seasoned users. We took a year to plan out our new website and timed the launch during the summer. We attended Finalsite U last October which provided inspiration, practical tips and a great starting point for our efforts. Shortly thereafter, we put together a detailed project plan, including timelines and content deadlines.
Lydia Condon, Communications Coordinator, and I met with senior leadership, parent and faculty focus groups, and surveyed the community. We had a look at our Google Analytics data, particularly around user behavior and search queries to determine what was-and wasn’t-working on our previous site. Using all of that information as a foundation, we were able to make sound decisions based on qualitative and quantitative data. These elements laid the foundation for our success.”
Elizabeth concludes, “we love how we can visually display content and make use of all the options available in Finalsite Composer. Our site is fully responsive and works beautifully on any device. It’s so much more flexible than the old system and we can get way more creative in what we do.”
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
As part of Finalsite's marketing team, Debbie has worked with international schools for the past 8 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 international school in Berlin, Germany.