Schools always want to know how long it takes to launch a site, what are the best processes and practices, who needs to be involved, and what are things they might not have even have considered. In working with over 200 international schools, we have heard stories and seen website launches that have not really gone as planned,for all sorts of reasons. So when our clients successfully launch a new site, we like to share that with others.
In speaking with Kim Jacobson, Director of Marketing and Admissions at Suzhou Singapore International School (SSIS), we decided to share her tips for a winning redesign process. Their recipe for success enabled them to stick to their timeline and launch a new site in six months. Some key points she stressed:
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1. Know when it is time for a Refresh
SSIS first partnered with Finalsite almost 4 years ago, but as Kim stated, "It's amazing how quickly technology changes! Our site was not mobile friendly and just did not look fresh compared to other newer websites. We wanted a new one that was far more modern, more flexible and mobile friendly."
They had to put the site up for tender, but in the end opted to continue their relationship with Finalsite and build further on their website presence "We chose Finalsite for a number of reasons primarily because we had already had a good working relationship for three years and were happy with this, we felt that it would make the transition to a new site easier, we knew Finalsite could deliver what they promised and, of course, the pricing was competitive"
2. Be an expert on your school
Having worked at the school for over 6 years, Kim's passion, her understanding and her vision on how the school should be portrayed in the new website were critical. This in-depth understanding of the school enabled her and her team to create a site that really exemplified all that makes SSIS unique for prospective parents. The photo-rich scrolling homepage engages uses with words like Learn, Explore and Discover. Combined with clear call to actions buttons that showcase key elements of the school and student life, visitors are guided on their journey to learn more about the vibrant SSIS community.
Built on Finalsite's easy-to-use Composer platform, SSIS can quickly update content such as photographs and videos as well as news and events in order to keep their page relevant and engaging.
3. Have a Vision and Bring it to Life
Kim and Teresa Hou, Marketing Officer, spent a lot of time looking at other sites and crafting their own vision of how their new website should look. Once their vision was more solidified, they began working with their Finalsite deployment team to design a site that reflected this vision. A critical step, and one they quickly achieved, was creating their site map and content strategy. With sitemap in hand, they started on the content which included rewriting and editing existing content, mapping out key landing pages like Admissions and included hiring an external photographer to capture unique photos that fit into their master plan.
They also knew there was new technology that they could use in their efforts. With a newly purchased drone, they were excited to add unique aerial footage to their homepage. Kim stated: "Five years ago someone had to stand on top of the building to take a group photo of the community, but this year they assembled the 1500+ strong community and put the drone to work to taking the footage."
4. Minimize Decisions By Committee
Having a clear action plan, Kim presented her ideas to senior management and they were so pleased with her design goals and project plan, they gave her approval to move forward, one of the areas where projects can really get waylaid. She also did not have to go through any committee approval process in the beginning nor along the way, which makes a huge difference in making timely decisions during deployment and ultimately meeting site launch dates.
5. Remember: "It's Like Building a House"
Kim's analogy of building a website being similar to building a house certainly rings true. She mused: "You go through the steps and have a grand vision but then you start to question yourself. Is it too big, is it too small, should we choose this or that? There is a lot of uncertainty along the way, but when you move in, it is exactly what you wanted." But like a house, you can always make improvements and updates and that is what SSIS plans to do with their website.
Kim and her team can be commended for launching their new site rich with photos, clear navigation and calls to actions, informative text and infographics, all with clear attention to detail. The feedback from their community has been extremely positive. But like that house that you continually improve, Kim plans to incorporate more videos into their site in the coming months.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
As part of Finalsite's marketing team, Debbie has worked with international schools for the past 7 years while living in both Asia and Europe. From conference planning and presentations, to association events, and client success stories, she helps schools understand how they can maximize their web presence while partnering with Finalsite. In her free time she enjoys traveling and attending events at her children's school in Berlin, Germany.