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Taft School: Best-in-Class Website Redesign Spotlight
Sarah Van Tiem

Few things age well in our world. Alas, websites are more vulnerable than most. Take Taft School in Watertown CT, where the school's web developer built the site herself. It made managing elements of student life like elections, registration and athletics much easier. It looked good to boot. End of story, at least for a time.

Fast forward to 2016. Taft's Director of Marketing and Communications Kaitlin Orfitelli says her school's former site was about ten years old—webologically speaking, more than vintage.

Taft's New Website

Featured Above: Taft's New Award-Winning Best-in-Class Design

The school was well aware it needed to update its online image. It issued a Request for Proposals before Kaitlin was on staff. Administrators at the top-notch institution had high expectations and planned for another custom design, potentially from a design house out of New York or Boston.

Meanwhile, Kaitlin arrived. Leadership froze the website project so its new marketing chief could get to know the school and its needs. Then she could think website more clearly.

The school reissued its RFP to smaller design-only firms as well as more specialized providers like Finalsite. The boutique price tags gave Kaitlin pause: "Going with custom design was going to cost almost three times the price of one of Finalsite's packages." Moreover, those figures left out the all-important athletics component of Taft's digital story — something Finalsite's platform could handle with power and elegance.

"People at the school worried that using Finalsite would lock us down aesthetically. There was an assumption that the site would look cookie cutter," she said.

But Kaitlin was convinced that Finalsite was the way to go: "Finalsite has the expertise, and really has the process down. The team ushers you through in a timely manner."

Finalsite team helped Kaitlin and her staff "blow up" the previous website. Page by page, they re-examined preconceptions about the site's content, structure and hierarchy.

"Finalsite was as invested in making a gorgeous site as much as we were," says Kaitlin.

The excellence of the new Taft site stems from the joint efforts of Finalsite staff and school personnel. Kaitlin quickly credits her colleagues for their hard work. Assistant Director of Communications Debra Meyers took the lead on the site's structure and content, rewriting nearly all of the narrative to reflect a cleaner, more updated image. Web Developer Anne Kowalski made sure all the pieces came together seamlessly. Finally, Taft's full-time photographer, Robert Falcetti, captured amazing visuals that make students and campus leap off screens big and small.

Other staff also played key roles in crafting the distinctive feel of their departments' pages. Check out Taft's arts microsite, for an engaging look at what happens when web and school professionals work well together.

Taft Arts Microsite

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Some other notable website pages include:

Taft Voices, an engaging variety of testimonials created using Finalsite's Posts module:

Taft Voices

Their modern spin on a virtual tour, which is a social media mash-up created using Finalsite Feeds:

Taft Feeds

This incredibly engaging and informative campus map:

Taft Campus Map

And of course, their Athletics microsite, which mirrors the sheer power of its programs:

Taft Athletics Microsite

Taft began its quest for digital reinvention with "custom" in mind. Thanks to the collaboration between the school's marketing and communications staff and Finalsite, the look of full-on custom design was achieved at a fraction of the cost. Better still, gorgeous, innovative design came hand-in-hand with what no boutique design firm provides: Finalsite's invaluable experience in the world of education and years of unparalleled support going forward.

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Sarah Van Tiem

Motor City Girl who: reads, writes & loves her three kids unreservedly; Also loves gardening, swimming & her Electra Townie. Editing enthusiast. Believer in magic, all types.

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