- General Best Practices
Deployment: it's our word for the process that takes your website from an initial idea to live. For some, the process is exciting. For others, it can be stressful. For most, it is a combination of the two. But that's why we are here.
So, you've signed on the dotted line for a website redesign project — now what? Here's a quick overview of what you can expect, including:
- Your team
- The six stages of a Finalsite deployment
- Finalsite Advantage
You'll get an A-list team
We hand-pick the best-suited people for the job. You will work with a designated deployment team– made up of a project manager, designer, and front-end developer (and potentially some additional specialists, depending on the scope of your project).
Your team serves as your coach, guide, task master, cheerleader, and on occasion, your therapist.
Once your meet your project manager — or PM for short — they'll become your day-to-day contact from kick-off-call to the day your site is built and complete. During the kick-off-call, you'll discuss priorities, timelines, milestones, and more.
You'll follow a proven deployment process
Stage 1: Discovery
Once we have the logistics out of the way, you'll jump right into our deployment process with a kickoff call. After the call, you and your stakeholders will be asked to fill out a design and marketing survey to help us understand your school's brand, positioning in your market, distinctive features, other sites you love (and don't love!), vision for the website, etc.
But hey, it doesn’t hurt to do your homework early!
The discovery and design phases will get a big jump start if you arrive at the kickoff call with the following items ready to hand off to your project manager:
Timelines for Training, Content Editing and Migration: Scheduling time internally for training makes sure that key personnel are available when the time comes to do training, content editing and all the other little things that keep a project on schedule.
Final decision-maker/tiebreaker: Three members of the committee want to use the horizontal logo and another three want to use the vertical version — who will break the tie? Determining the person that will make the final decisions or break ties in your committee is another way to keep the project on schedule.
Sitemap: Hand us current sitemap with edits or a completely new sitemap based on your needs and purpose for redesigning. This will be further revised, but at least serves as a starting point. Think about main pages and lower-level pages, and how a user navigates your website. Make it easy for a prospective family to find key information or parents to get news, etc.
Photos: Help our designers learn about your school. Show off everything that is great or unique about your school. Do you have an active social media community? Make sure to share that with the design team! We need at least a dozen of your best images to get started. Don't worry – you'll add tons more yourself during the deployment process, but for now, we just need a small batch.
Logos and other Branding Guidelines: Logos, colors, fonts, mission statement – all of these are important to know at the start of a project. Do you have a style guide? If so, we want a copy! Having clear branding rules and guidelines ensures that there is consistency and continuity throughout the website
Whether you choose to prep before or after the kickoff call, know that all of the above assets are required before moving onto the design stage.
Stage 2: Design
Two of our Finalsite designers Heidi Beutel (left) and Akua Duah (right) hard at work!
This is where your vision for telling your school's distinctive story online becomes real. Imagine an architect showing you the drawings for your new house! Now is the time to give detailed feedback so that your website becomes all that you dreamed of. Be prepared to discuss the survey with your team.
Keep in mind: a website is never truly complete. It is a living, breathing marketing tool that shifts and changes — so don't waste time droning over the tiniest of details. Focus on great design, improving critical messaging, and getting the rest done over time.
This is why it's so important to have a designated decision maker! Schools who involve too many people in design decisions end up going in circles over minute details.
The Website Redesign Playbook is a free resource full of inspiration on web design trends (and so much more!)
Stage 3: Training and Content
From the moment the kick-off call ends until you launch, you and your team will receive training on the Finalsite platform to ensure a successful launch. Training consists of a full schedule of live webinars for our suite of products, in addition to on-demand videos that you can watch during times that work for your schedule.
One of our clients takes notes during a Finalsite University session.
For your convenience, we've built a Deployment Resources portal specifically for clients who've taken the plunge. The portal includes our Website Redesign Playbook, sitemap examples, online training, informational documents, and more. (We can't give away all our surprises on the blog!)
To ensure an on-time launch, begin entering your site's content the moment your site map is ready in Composer.
As a best practice for content, focus on your top twenty most important pages first: homepage, tuition, employment, giving, etc. Most project contracts include time for our team to migrate a handful of pages for you to give you some ideas of how to use the layouts and show the content. We recommend that you go beyond our migration, though— most clients use this process as an opportunity to purge wordy copy, improve headlines and add details.
Stage 4: Build
Your front-end developer builds the approved design for the home page, interior pages, and any special treatments, turning the beautiful designs into fully functioning web pages (imagine building the actual house).
Stage 5: Review
Our nit-picky team of perfectionists won't unveil your website to the world until we've reviewed every last pixel twice over.
Once the site is built, Finalsite’s team of quality assurance analysts go through a very detailed checklist (we’re talking between 1000 and 1200 items!) and:
- Review the functionality, setup and accessibility of the newly-built pages
Process hundreds of checks across each of nine web browsers/devices, including the most popular desktop and mobile browsers
Perform a thorough review with the designer to ensure the site, as built, matches the approved design
Stage 6: Launch
Time for the big reveal!
We love to celebrate our schools’ beautiful sites! Check out some of the recent launches in our portfolio and follow Finalsite on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn where we share our schools’ innovative ideas!
How long will this all take?
"Are we there yet?” is a question you and your time will probably ask… and ask again. But here’s a head's up on how long this redesign trip is likely to take.
Our most successful clients invest about 3-5 hours per week on the project. The more effort you put in along the way, the better the outcome will be.
From the kick-off call to the Review phase, here's what our most successful clients have achieved:
Theme-based designs: 4-8 weeks
Theme Plus designs: 7-12 weeks
Package 2 designs: 12-14 weeks
Package 3 designs: 15-22 weeks
Best-in-Class designs: 20-25 weeks
As a reminder, the "launch" date is always in your hands.
Our most successful clients have most of their training and content completed prior to the end of their review phase, which allows them to launch soon after the review phase is completed. This benefits current and future stakeholders, and makes for the smoothest transition managing their site on a go forward basis.
Finalsite's deployment process is proven to launch websites that schools need and expect. All of the steps are here to best serve you.
If there's one thing we can emphasize about your role, though, it would be this:
It's all about content.
Without your unique and authentic content (photos, words, quotes, videos, infographics, and more) your school’s website is a gorgeous house with no furniture inside.
One of the best things you can do now, before the process even begins, is start lining up your content— how are you rephrasing, rethinking, and reorganizing the admissions section of your site, the athletics section, and others? Do that, and your website is sure to stand out.
Looking for that little extra support?
We know that sometimes it doesn’t matter how good a process is, how awesome your Project Manager might be, or how talented the website designer – still the thought of undertaking a website redesign can feel overwhelming. That’s especially the case if school leadership are looking at a new website as a “solution” to all your marketing and enrollment challenges!
To make sure that you start out with a clear strategy from a wider marketing perspective – and to help you stay on track in the longer term – consider the Finalsite Advantage service.
Finalsite Advantage gives you access to a range of experts offering tailored help and support covering all areas of your marketing and website development needs - from strategic education marketing professionals, to virtual webmasters we’ve got you covered. It’s a service that can start before and go far beyond the deployment timeline, so you have that extra layer of support and expertise to turn to at any point.
- Web Design