Having graduated from Deerfield Academy in Western Massachusetts, His Majesty King Abdullah II was determined to replicate the New England boarding school tradition in Jordan, to offer boys and girls across the Middle East the same great experience.
Today, the campus of King’s Academy, situated in the Jordanian countryside, is home to over 600 students representing some 40 countries with over 70% boarding at their state-of-the-art facilities. The school’s mission is “to develop and empower young leaders who will drive change within and beyond their communities, and eventually across borders.” The emphasis at King’s Academy is to foster empathy, tolerance and harmony in a self-governing community that encourages young men and women of diverse backgrounds and beliefs to excel, to cherish one another and to prepare for responsible leadership.
With such a unique inception and powerful vision, King’s Academy needed a suitable website to showcase their core values and their aspirations for making a global impact through blending American style education with Middle Eastern history, traditions, language and cultural values. According to Electronics Communication Manager Fatima Yousef, “we attended several digital marketing workshops and learned so much about school marketing, and with Finalsite’s specialization in school websites and the positive recommendations we received, we decided to move forward with this partnership.”
Led by Vera Azar, Director of Communications and Publications, the team consisted of Electronic Communications Manager Fatima Al-Yousef, Associate Director of Communications Wasim Ayesh and Graphic Designer Shadi Hasweh, who worked closely with their Finalsite Project Deployment team to launch this stunning website in a little over a year.
Once the decision was made, the project team got busy crafting their new custom website design. Using some of the design elements from their previous site as a baseline, coupled with their strong branding guidelines and keen sense of identity, the new website began to take shape.
The website contains great content, imagery, custom landing pages and so much more. A monumental effort to compile, assemble and display. “It was a long and arduous process to get the website where we wanted it, but the end result is a beautiful, state-of-the-art, and user-friendly site that we’re thrilled with,” Vera said.
Composer, Finalsite's Content Management System (CMS), provides schools with all the tools needed to update and maintain their website easily and quickly. There is no need to contact Finalsite for the day-today operations, which allows the team at King’s Academy to maximize the use of the platform to craft a comprehensive website with fine attention to detail on every last page.
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The End Result: A Prime Example of an International School Website
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but when it comes to school websites, there are some elements that make a great website. As a company that specializes in school web design, we are often asked to evaluate and provide feedback on school websites. With more than twenty years in doing so, we’ve come up with a list of what we look for. (And of course, this changes year over year as trends and expectations change.)
So, why do we think King’s Academy is such a remarkable example?
1. It Surpasses the 7-Second Test
Seven seconds or less is the average amount of time it takes for a website visitor to decide whether they are going to stay on your site or not. Some key questions your homepage should answer include:
What do you do?
What makes you unique?
How can I learn more?
Where can I find you?
Will I fit in?
King’s Academy’s website answers these important questions, and more! The school’s scrolling homepage with its strong logo and branding, immediately draws in site visitors and encourages them to learn more. You can spend a lot more than seven seconds on their homepage. The welcoming message, news and social media feeds, interactive infographics and call-to-actions tell a complete story without having to leave the homepage.
Let’s talk about video. Video use is on the rise and King’s Academy does a great job incorporating it throughout the site to help tell their story. I’ve seen a lot of school videos but “Omer, The Admissions Guy” is by far one of my favorites. Very clever and funny - check it out for yourself!
2. Simplified Website Navigation
The website navigation can be underestimated or neglected in school website redesigns. King’s Academy does a great job with their site navigation in order to optimize the user experience so that visitors can quickly find what they are looking for and as visitors start cruising the site, they know where they are and with consistent site navigation they can find their way around.
3. A Mobile-First Experience
When it comes to moving users around a mobile website, site navigation is a critical component and one that is given great care in the design process at Finalsite. What works on a desktop does not always work well on a mobile device. King’s mobile site does an excellent with usability, engagement and enjoyment.
4. Content is King at King’s!
Yes it’s important to have a “pretty” website that is easy to navigate, but the content of your site is what prospective families are really consuming. This is where the school’s website truly excels.
A landing page is a main page on your website aside from your homepage, such as Academics, Admissions o Athletics, that website visitors might land on directly from search, or from within one click on your website. In many cases, the term “landing page” means website visitors bypass your homepage completely! Therefore, these pages need to also pass the second second test and be equally engaging and informative as your homepage.
King’s site is full of great landing pages including their admissions page which shares their value, great photos and videos, an infographic and call-to-action.
As a parent, I know one of the most important selling points of any school are the teachers. The school uses the Finalsite Directories module to promote their school's faculty and staff in an engaging and informative manner.
Department and Courses
You don’t often see schools putting the effort to showcase their courses online in such detail. With Finalsite’s flexible page layouts and accordion elements, King’s crafted pages that are easy to digest and are very informative.
With 70% of the students coming from abroad to board, having a campus map is critical for recruitment. From dorms to dining halls to sports fields, this campus map gives a comprehensive view into the daily lives of students.
Often we find that alumni take a backseat when it comes to the school website. King’s Academy understands the importance of their alumni and have created an online publication using Finalsite’s Posts and also have forms to submit a class note or request transcripts.
King’s is not an ordinary international school which you realize the more time you spend on their school website. They offer; a special Arabic Year where students come to not only learn Arabic but to “learn by doing” in the Middle East; an extensive Summer at King’s program, and a Summer Enrichment Program for public school children who could not otherwise afford it. To top it off, they have a solar photovoltaic facility which powers the school while reducing carbon dioxide emissions. With Finalsite’s platform, the school can easily and quickly create new pages as programs are added or changed.
A lot of hard work went into crafting this site. Fatima stated, “I’d say we were not such an easy client as we were rather picky going back and forth to get the website as perfect as it could be. But Finalsite worked with us and through this collaboration we launched an amazing website in just over a year.”
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 needs of international schools.