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New School Website Launches: March 2022
Angelo Otterbein

By all measures, March was the month of theme design launches—19 in all! Finalsite’s own tulip garden bringing spring into bloom… The long list is below and we invite you to explore away! If you’ve launched a site before, you know just how much work every site requires—content, images, video, navigation—even when the design is in place, decisions abound. So, congratulations to every school this month who picked a great time to unveil a new site— when there’s time left in the academic year to gather feedback and a summer to iterate and make tweaks. For now, though, let’s dive into these custom sites and see what they have to say!

Foxcroft Academy | Dover-Foxcroft, Maine

Imprinted, small, just above an oversized “Welcome to Foxcroft Academy” are the words, “Forward, Always”, as if someone were tapping you on the shoulder and whispering the encouragement in your ear—or that it’s just a gentle reminder of something that everyone knows rather than a secret than no one doesn’t. For a boarding school founded in 1823, this would make sense. Foxcroft, steeped in tradition and with a history of excellence, not to mention set on 125 scenic acres in Maine, there’s probably a temptation to sit back and reflect on the past. But not here, where the best place to start is Why Foxcroft accessible from the Admissions menu, which lays out both big reasons to come (students from 23 countries), small reasons (home of the Whoopie Pie), unusual reasons (an apparently very unique location for stargazing), and just reasons to go to class (forensics, welding, coding, and culinary arts, to name a few). The interior of the site takes an unusual evenly-sized three-column approach to most layouts, providing a one-two-three feel to each page, such as on Residential Life, which combines lovely pictures of dorms and campus scenes with a few quick facts, a testimonial or two, and the faculty in charge who are ready to be contacted. Likewise, if you’re the type brimming with questions, there’s a well-developed FAQ page that leverages the accordion element in Finalsite’s content management system, Composer, keeping the page length to a manageable level. And if you’re already lucky enough to have attended and graduated, this Class Note submission form is easy enough to send a quick note to your alma mater.

Foxcraft site launch

Marian Catholic High School | Chicago Heights, Illinois

A small cross is nestled in the right leg of the M in Marian Catholic’s masthead logo, as if the chapel is just over the ridge, or to simply say that wherever the M goes, the Marianist faith and tradition goes with it. Regardless, the messaging on Marian Catholic’s new website is big and clear: “Accept the Challenge” it reads, highlighting the “challenge” in yellow. Three values follow: Excellence, Integrity and Readiness, all of which pop out like black-eyed Susans in the summer. The high gold contrast on the black makes for a dramatic design that’s classy and sophisticated. “By the numbers” is a nicely unified four-square grid of key stats, including “88%” which is the percentage of students who “assert that Marian Catholic positively impacts a student’s work ethic.” A success story like that is bound to get those inquiries going… And if you are so inclined to get in touch, a small but visible set of sticky buttons hang with you as you scroll, one leading to inquire and the other to visit. The footer finishes the design nicely with a semi-transparent overlay of the campus building that features a shield, and neatly laid out text, contact information, quick links, and social media handles. It’s nice to see good use of Finalsite’s Resources module with pages like Publications, which is a handy index of many years of issues, as well as a collapsible element for going even further back, an excellent example of using the website as an archive of sorts for important documents. Meanwhile, Athletics is chock full of seasonal landing pages like Spring Sports that integrate a nice selection of sports shots to double as entry points to the individual team pages. Finalsite’s Athletics module is a tried-and-true addition for almost every high school that allows schools like Marian Catholic to easily update schedules, scores, past records, and other key information, leading to highly dynamic pages like the Men’s Basketball team page, just one of many examples of a website sharing a school on the go.

Marian Catholic site launch

Website Redesign Playbook

St. John Paul II Catholic School | Houston, Texas

Watching the opening video of the new website for St. John Paul II is like a one-minute window in observing children growing older right before you, and it’s very well done. In the opening shot, smaller kindergartners process out of the carpool line, while slightly older and bigger children, decked with orange vests, help them out of the car. Kids with tote bags and backpacks that seem slightly too big evolve into students with tote bags and backpacks that are right-sized. It wouldn’t be a stretch to believe that this is some 10-year time-lapse in which the bigger students are just older versions of the ones marching inside early on. Interlaced in the montage are intentional shots built around the school’s Christian faith—a statue of Mary, the Pope, and a drone shot that features the large crucifix on the front of the main building, which all make sense for a school that prepares “students spiritually and academically to succeed in life and to do God's will.” The Catholic tradition touches all parts of the school, such as the House system, where each house is named after the Holy Gospels. Under the About menu is a particularly poignant—if not altogether unique—navigation item “Be Not Afraid…” whereby the ellipse itself is a suggestive prompt that whatever comes after, StJPII will be by your side.

St. John Paul Catholic site launch

Oakland Catholic High School | Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

It never gets old seeing a student behind power tools like a surface planer, partly because in an age of social media and virtual everything there’s solace in woodworking (both watching and participating), and partly because it says something important about what the school values, which extends beyond books, tests, and traditional classrooms. And when the President references Michaelangelo in her opening letter to the site’s visitors, you know it must be true. Such is the case with Oakland Catholic High School, a private all-girls day school in Pittsburgh, PA. The homepage is an elegantly designed mix of programmatic distinctions and core values, and ways to “Find Your Place” to “develop the intellectual, spiritual, and personal potential.” But it’s really the landing pages that distinguish the site. For example, the admissions landing page combines a family of largely typed font faces for opening testimonials that are then paired with neatly-designed panels for tuition and affordability, signature programs, an invite to a campus tour, and events, capped at the end with pictures and contact information for members of the admissions team, a nice touch. Likewise, more nuts-and-bolts pages like the bell schedules take advantage of a multi-column layout to include embedded images of the schedule, as well as an inline calendar element that pulls directly from Finalsite’s Calendar Manager; this means the site administrator can input the data in one place and have it show on this page and anywhere else without additional effort. What’s more, parents can easily subscribe to the events or be alerted if there’s a change in time or date. This alone is as good an example as any of how Finalsite can combine practical functionality with beautiful design. In a similar vein, the school’s effort to include pictures for the faculty and staff directory makes for a highly engaging page to connect website visitors to the people who make the school what it is.

Oakland Catholic site launch

Cincinnati Country Day | Cincinnati, Ohio

There’s a little bit of everything on the new homepage for Cincinnati Country Day, a private school serving early childhood and pre-k to grade 12. There’s a full-screen image, for one, framed at the top with constituent navigation and key calls-to-action to inquire and apply, and with an unusual flush bottom primary navigation from which a small mega navigation rises up— all without scrolling. But that’s just the beginning. Images, words, and pastel-colored circles shrink and lock in as you scroll, adding a subtle but playful, modern element to the design. Black and white snapshots introduce the divisions, filling with color on rollover, and act as obvious prompts to extremely well-developed landing pages, such as that for Upper School, a model example of what a complete page can look like. An interesting turn of phrase “Nurturing the Possibilities” brings CCDS distinctions to the forefront, followed by “Inspiring Their Future” which includes a powerful testimonial. Bright blocks of light tan, green, and yellow add a visual pop to Program Spotlights, one of which is CCDX, a play-off their own acronym to brand an experiential learning week. And with all of that, the homepage still isn’t finished! A carousel of featured news comes next, headlines overlaying images and content summaries available on hover. These are then followed by a grid of those light circles again, which house a slew of impressive quick facts, including “1,225” — the number of service hours performed by Upper School students on community service day. For those lounging about in the Twitterverse, Country Day’s social media hub is a nice way to consume the latest tweets and Instagram posts, served up via Finalsite Feeds, which adds a layer of moderation and control to both what gets published and how it gets displayed.

Cincinnati Cpuntry Day site launch

New School Rome | Rome

At first, the new website for New School Rome is all angles and slants, images tilted this way and that, and green blocks of color going up and down. But then petals and illustrations of flowers emerge as if life was just springing up from the background. And while that’s already cool, it gets a lot better if you’re a school that gets to use the Colosseum as their logo, a nicely designed graphic extrapolation of the ancient amphitheater, and equally handy reference and orientation for the American international family that makes up their target audience. For a school that’s just 50 years old, they’re nearly a newborn for a place like Rome. But all of these design elements support a website about people, nicely assembled in NSR Stories and available from the homepage or in the School Life section. Also included in this section is a page about the Italian program which of course makes sense, as does the equivalent English as an Additional Language, providing substantive information about how NSR handles language instruction. Overall, the website is relatively small in size, with nearly every page accessible with barely a click off the hamburger navigation. Nonetheless, the site wants to keep you on track: there’s a tongue-in-cheek moment in the footer — instead of “Back To Top” it reads “Go North.”

New School Rome site launch

Durham Academy Giving Day | Durham, North Carolina

Okay, so maybe this isn’t a full website, but we can’t help but recognize and showcase how one page can do so much. In this case, Durham Academy created a mobile-friendly mini microsite to provide immediate focus on a single fundraising goal, in this case, 1,000 donors (and yes, they handily beat that goal with 1,095 donors and raised over $400,000). A handy icon-driven sub-navigation is anchored at the left, providing quick access to each section, such as the Alumni Leaderboard which brings the class competition to the fore. CavNation is a clever use of giving by state and the #DAGivingDay reveals social media posts via Finalsite Feeds. Give Now buttons are notably in two places—just in case—and a results thermometer makes it clear about the achievement. This page serves as an excellent reminder that a little creativity, a lot of energized content, and some simple design treatments can provide an excellent tool for supporting a concerted fundraising effort.

Durham Academy site launch

Theme Launches

Southlands International School | Rome

Breathitt County Schools | Kentucky

International Montessori Academy | Washington

Cupertino Union School District | California

Sayre School | Kentucky

International School of Berne | Switzerland

Dodge County Schools | Georgia

Akiba Yavneh Academy | Texas

Ascension Ready Start Network | Louisiana

City of New Britain | Connecticut

Collier Youth Services | New Jersey

Envision Science Academy | North Carolina

FCIS: Florida Council of Independent Schools | Florida

John Carroll Catholic High School | Alabama

Central High School District of Westosha | Wisconsin

Town of Scarborough | Maine

The City of New Britain | Connecticut

St. John's Lutheran School | Colorado

Alta Vista School | California

Meet With a Website Expert | Finalsite

angelo otterbein headshot

Angelo graduated valedictorian from St. Paul's School in Baltimore, MD and from Princeton University. Despite getting his degree in creative writing and English Literature, it generally takes some doing to keep him from programming and breaking websites. Just after graduating, he started Silverpoint, and grew it to over 300 schools worldwide before merging with Finalsite in 2013.

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