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Recent Launches: Breaking Rules and Setting Standards
Mia Major

Talk about bringing in 2016 with a bang. Since January, we've worked with more than 20 schools to launch brand new websites — including multiple Best in Class designs. These websites — Best in Class Designs in particular — push the envelope on web design. They take risks. They're edgy, fun, cool, and have that "wow" factor you need to stand out from the competition.

Recent Launches from Finalsite

Most importantly, they set the framework for what will be the standard of great web design in 2016, not only for Finalsite schools, but for school websites around the world.

The Website Redesign Playbook

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Featured Launches

Thayer Academy | Braintree, MA

"Bold and classy," is how Finalsite Senior Designer Brittany Murray described Thayer's new website.

Thayer Homepage

And that's the exact reason why we couldn't wait to share Thayer Academy's new Best in Class site because of that rule-breaking homepage video we spotlighted on the blog last week.

What rule did they break, exactly? The no-sound sound rule.

It is a known best practice to not have auto-play sound on your website, because when not executed correctly, it can be distracting, annoying, and force website visitors to hit the back button.

But Thayer's homepage isn't distracting at all. Rather, the brilliant music choice is a hook that draws you in. You can't stop watching. And then before you know it, you've already watched the entire video in full, not once, but twice. (Yep, it's that good).

But we all know we can't lean on one piece of phenomenal content to sell the value of our schools online. That's why Thayer packed their site with a trail of delicious design snacks for prospective families to feast upon including:

Special treatments and "wow" factors aside, we love Thayer's site for the exact reason Brittany does — it is classy and bold.

Join Thayer

Santa Catalina School | Monterey, CA

Keeping two separate schools with two separate identities and cultures under one name and website is never an easy feat. But Santa Catalina School makes it look like a breeze. Visit, and you're prompted to choose to learn more about the Lower and Middle School or the High School (or their Summer Camp).

Santa Catalina Homepage

Enter either school's site, and you'll notice the main branding stays the same, but each school chose a slightly different design to appeal to its different target audiences.

For example, the feminine touches on Santa Catalina's all-girls upper school new site speaks volumes about how well they know their brand and target audience. Script font, cherry blossom trees, and bright yellow accents are just a few of the special treatments that differentiate Santa Catalina's all-girls upper school from the lower and middle school.

Santa Catalina Girly Touches

The lower and middle school, which is co-ed, is clearly more general neutral with light blue and orange accents, and more standard fonts.

Santa Catalina Lower and Middle Schools

What doesn't change on each site? The awesome user experience, of course. Intuitive and intelligent, Santa Catalina Schools' websites provide an optimal user experience from every device.

Complete with a simple navigation, landing pages, and plenty of calls to action, Santa Catalina's site is a perfectly created conversion roadmap built for recruiting prospective students from around the world.

Santa Catalina Landing Page

Ku'u Punahou: The Campaign for Punahou School | Honolulu, HI

Aside from the breathtaking design that you can experience for yourself, this capital campaign microsite is one of the best storytelling site's we've launched. In general, the purpose of digital storytelling is to appeal to every user's logos, ethos, and pathos — meaning every good site should provide logic and reasoning, appeal to a user's emotion, and build credibility and trust.

Appealing to all three at once has the potential to convert any website visitor at any point in their journey. And congrats, Punahou — we think you did it.

Logos: You provide such solid evidence as to where the money is going — and why — in beautifully designed pages for each piece of your campaign, including: People, Place, and Purpose.

Place Punahou

Ethos: Packed with emotional stories from alumni, parents, and faculty, the "My Punahou" section of the site is bound to give you chills (and maybe give you one more reason you wish you lived in Hawaii).

My Punahou

Pathos: That sweet interactive infographic and sliding Mahalo panel thanking donors is totally building credibility for two reasons: 1. it shows how close they are to their goal; 2. It shares how many other individuals have donated to the cause.

One of the best ways to get more individuals to donate to your cause, is to show that there are already thousands of supporters or donors behind it — and this panel does it oh-so-elegantly.

Punahou Progress Infographic

Previously Spotlighted Website Launches

Purnell School, NJ: Best in Class Redesign Spotlight

Chadwick International School, South Korea: Best in Class Redesign Spotlight

Independent School Website Launches

Foothill Christian School | CA

Sacred Heart Schools | IL

Summit School | NC

The Mead School | CT

Covington Catholic High School | KY

The Ethel Walker School | CT

Aspen Academy | CO

Heritage Hall | OK

Vista Life Innovations | CT

International School Website Launches

American School of Milan | Italy

The American Baccalaureate School | Kuwait

District Website Launches

Mt. Lebanon School District | PA

Summit Public Schools | NJ

Camden Central Schools | NY

Canby School District | OR

Association Website Launches




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