Today’s digitally-savvy parent and their children have high expectations for your district’s website. They expect a simple and seamless mobile and desktop experience, to find information quickly and easily, and most important, for their district to keep content accurate and updated.
This is especially true for districts with sterling reputations like Wilton Public Schools in Wilton, CT. Wilton Public Schools was ranked #2 in the state of CT by Newsweek, and #5 in the state by Niche. A top-performing district brings in families who expect top-notch communications.
So how does Wilton Public Schools ensure their nationally recognized district continues to set the bar in academics and school-to-home communications? I met with the district’s Director of Digital Learning Fran Kompar to find out!
Step 1: Pick the Right Platform
According to Fran, great school-to-home communications start with a great platform. “We moved to Finalsite two years ago, and the user-friendly website has made it easy to keep our website current,” said Fran. “Our school webmasters like the many options for design templates such as the layouts, accordions and other user interfaces that allow us to keep our pages clean, user-friendly and appealing.”
The district’s webmasters frequently update news, calendars and banner photos. “I like that in the Posts module we have the option to add thumbnail images. It makes our news section so much more visual than it used to be,” she said.
Additionally, they have embedded Twitter feeds using the Finalsite Feeds module that automatically updates. So, on days where there isn’t any news, you’ll at least find some new tweets from the district’s Superintendent, Dr. Kevin Smith.
In addition to ensuring content is always up-to-date, Fran is constantly working with her team of webmasters to ensure the user experience is up-to-par with the expectation of their community. “When we first launched the website, our initial feedback from our community was that they used the site a lot more than they used to,” said Fran.
This is likely due to the district’s focus on the end-user.
“Our goal is to make content easy to find on desktop and mobile. So, you should never have to go farther than two clicks to find your information,” said Fran. “We also love using accordions, because they make content easy to find.”
For example, one of the district’s many uses of accordions is on the Board of Education website page. On most district websites this page can be cluttered and confusing, but Wilton’s use of accordions makes it easy.
Some other ways the district makes content easy to find include:
- Their consistent navigation among each individual school website
- The clever “I want to…” dropdown in the navigation with Quicklinks
- A main navigation and utility navigation
- And more!
Want to learn more about Finalsite's communication's platform for districts? Request a demo!
Step 2: Tap Into Your Community’s Natural Skill Sets
“We have a lot of talent among our group,” said Kompar. “One of our webmasters is a great photographer, and even our superintendent, Dr. Kevin Smith, is a prolific ‘tweeter’ who likes to showcase the work that's happening at our schools.”
This certainly isn’t the first time we’ve heard the importance of “getting the right people on the bus,” either. Most districts are flurried with savvy individuals that you can use to ensure you’re always putting your best foot forward in the digital space. Jackson County Public Schools in North Carolina and Tupelo Public Schools in Mississippi (to name a couple) have either trained their webmasters in photography or sought out community members with specific talents to keep their websites looking fresh!
Step 3: Train Your Webmasters
Training your district’s webmasters is never an easy task, whether your district has four schools or one hundred and forty schools. When your webmasters haven't trained appropriately, they may not feel excited or inclined to frequently update their content, which leads to an out-of-date website. An out-of-date website can leave website visitors feeling frustrated, confused, and downright annoyed in some cases.
Fortunately, this isn’t the case for Wilton Public Schools. “We have a very talented group of school webmasters,” she said. “They stepped up and said they’d like to do it. And, because of interest and engagement, they are very committed to getting the word out. It makes for a great group to work with,” she said.
To get her savvy webmasters trained them on their new CMS, Composer in a variety of ways. She held initial training during the website’s deployment, attended Finalsite Prep, and brought the team of the webmaster to Finalsite HQ for a half-day training once the site was live.
Step 4: Never Stop Improving
“An important aspect of our website strategy is that we never stop improving,” said Jason Greasley, the webmaster for Cider Mill School at Wilton Public Schools. “We continue to take feedback from our community and implement that into the website. We strive to update the website every couple of weeks, in addition to regular updates, such as event changes.”
To ensure the website is constantly improving over the year, Fran and the district’s four webmasters meet monthly to discuss their next purpose of focus. Each month brings on a different conversation based on what the team is seeing and hearing from the community.
The Web Advisory Team meets regularly to discuss ways to continually improve the website. Pictured from left to right: Jason Greasley, Cider Mill Webmaster, Fran Kompar, Director, Digital Learning, Tom Koch, Middlebrook Webmaster, Nicola Davies, District Content Manager, Skip Ploss, Miller Driscoll and district Webmaster. Not pictured, James Hunter, Wilton High School Webmaster, Dr. Kevin Smith, Superintendent, Lucille DeNovio, Executive Assistant to Superintendent.
“We’re constantly looking for ways to make it more accessible, more user-friendly, add more content where needed,” added Fran. “For example, we recently focused on getting our curriculum pages robust for our parent community.”
Wilton Public Schools knows that their community has lofty expectations for their academics, community, and yes — even their school-to-home communications. But, with the right people and the right platform, it’s been as easy (as it could be!) “Finalsite has thought about and offers all the components that a webmaster needs - it’s a one-stop shop that makes our jobs easier,” said Fran.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
As Finalsite's Content Marketing Manager, Mia shares innovative and helpful content that helps schools and districts create captivating online experiences that increase brand awareness, student and faculty retention, and school-to-home communications. With more than five years experience in the industry, Mia has written more than 200 articles, eBooks, and reports about best practices for schools on a variety of topics from social media to web design. As a former TV and news reporter, and wedding photographer, Mia specializes in sharing how to use storytelling to power your school's admissions funnel. When she isn't busy creating content or hosting her #LIKEABOSS Podcast for FinalsiteFM, you can find her hiking with her Boston terrier, running an army wives meeting at Fort Campbell, or enjoying a well-deserved savasana on her yoga mat.