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Very rarely in life, and even more rarely in business, do we get the opportunity to form unbreakable, long-lasting bonds with genuinely good, smart, driven, motivated people. But when we do, they become one of our most cherished possessions that we handle with the utmost of care.
So when we received a grateful, heart-warming email from Mercedes Maskalik, the Director of Marketing at TASIS The American School in England, it was clear that for us, she's one of those people.
"The age-old adage, 'actions speak louder than words,' and its younger sibling, 'the proof is in the pudding,' still hold true today," she wrote. "Some of the most effective testimonials are the honest, open narratives that tell the story of a repeat customer."
And so today, we tell that story.
"This is my third redesign with Finalsite," she said. "Three websites for three very different schools over the span of 8 years, and this one by far was the biggest."
The TASIS redesign included four websites: Switzerland, England, Dorado, and the TASIS Summer Programs site. "These are four sites with different stories, different goals, and different voices. But what remains constant is the ethos of TASIS – a passion for excellence and a great appreciation of beauty," she said. "This has proven to be the most educational, challenging, and fulfilling redesign yet."
The Website Redesign Playbook
Focusing on strategy, Mercedes and her team, which included the new Head of School for TASIS England, Dr. Mindy Hong, and TASIS Webmaster, Brendan Shea headed to Finalsite HQ in Glastonbury, CT to do an onsite discovery. Over the course of just two days, Mercedes and her team worked with their Finalsite project manager, David and designer, Brittany to come up with a design and strategy that helped them meet their goals.
At the onsite, Mercedes and her team told Brittany what they wanted to see in a design, and in just three hours, she came back with a new homepage — as we do with all onsite discoveries. Hashing out everything from rollover effects to overall design, the TASIS team pored over every last detail before headed back to London with a design they loved and were ready to work with.
"During this redesign I saw Finalsite with fresh eyes," she said. "I experienced a team of professionals that were flexible, responsive, courteous, and patient – a collection of experts that focused in equal parts on client needs, user experience, and design."
As we always say, teamwork makes the dream work.
Although the homepage designed at the onsite saw a few minor changes over the course of the next few weeks, every tweak had a purpose and strategy.
"The structure of TASIS England's website is strategic in design," said Mercedes. "The information that we are able to display on the homepage is a marketer's dream."
TASIS England's new homepage tells their story cover-to-cover as you scroll using:
1) A slideshow that features both photo and video
2) A "What Sets Us Apart" section
3) An interactive media mashup to showcase student life
4) An infographic
5) A scrolling college matriculation banner and a footer with calls to action (A best-practice for increasing conversions!)
"The clean vertical scroll, clear calls to action, and the separate sections to feature the school's culture showcase the overall value-add of a TASIS England education," said Mercedes. "The layout embraces white space, which not only ensures that we have a site that is user friendly and intuitive, but also draws the users attention to where we want them to focus."
What we admire most about TASIS England's new homepage is that there is no wasted space, no marketing fluff, nothing that makes us want to click the back button. Every word, image, video and interactive element has a purpose — and that's what keeps users engaged.
"The first 15 seconds of any site visit is crucial, and not many schools can claim to display their distinguishing factors within the first 10 seconds of a homepage visit ... but we can," she added.
As we all know, it's not just about a pretty homepage. Users want to be able to find what they're looking for quickly and easily. And as marketers and designers, we want even the most boring pages (like tuition) to feel fun and enjoyable.
Therefore, it's essential to put an equal focus on designing and organizing lower level and landing pages to ensure that your brand, voice and community transcends to every nook and cranny of your site. And for TASIS England, that couldn't be more true.
"The TASIS England website communicates elegance, openness and freshness, an authentic reflection of our schools' ethos, and not at the cost of intuitive navigation," she said.
Purposeful. Powerful. Perfectly done.
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