Fort Mill School District 4
Just six months after redesigning its website, Fort Mill School District chose to transition from Blackboard’s Web Community Manager to Finalsite’s content management system, Composer.
It’s a decision most schools wouldn’t make so soon after a redesign, but with the announcement of Blackboard K-12 becoming part of Finalsite, Fort Mill jumped at the chance to be one of the first districts to make the transition.
“It was an opportunity,” shared Fort Mill’s Digital Media Specialist Jenny Overman, who had been aware of Composer’s versatility well before the announcement. “I was excited because I knew it would be a good system.”
Ranked as one of the best school systems in South Carolina, Fort Mill School District is home to a fast growing student population of more than 17,000 students.
It was a chance to upgrade the layouts with a more modern, intuitive design and include what its previous site lacked: more accessibility and a streamlined, intuitive user experience. “It was nice to look at things differently and think, ’This worked well with Blackboard, but we have this opportunity to change things. What would we do differently this time?’”
While many districts are working on supporting enrollment, Fort Mill is busy opening new school buildings and growing by about a thousand students every year. For their new site, attracting students and parents would be secondary to site usability and recruiting new teachers.
“When we were looking at transitioning from Blackboard to Finalsite, I was looking at what's going to be visually appealing to someone looking at the district and trying to get an idea of the culture of the school,” Overman said. “I still needed to maintain the ease of use for our families because they're our number one priority, but what will make it easy for teachers to apply and find our employment information?”
For the first three months of their transition process, Fort Mill focused on migrating the content and ensuring it was where it needed to be for the first week of school.
Overman knew the site could be more user-friendly and thoughtfully designed, but she admittedly didn’t have the knowledge needed to achieve that. She was working on the redesign by herself, but Finalsite’s professional training and learning opportunities were readily available.
“I get professional development in my inbox regularly, and from accessibility to ensuring the graphics look good on a page, our project manager would have a perfect explanation of why we were doing it that way. And I can't say enough good things about our client success team. They're phenomenal.”
“You realize how beautifully the system is designed to do just what you need it to do. Small things like pushing news down to my other schools — our previous two sites couldn’t do that, and it’s been an enormous time saver.”
DIGITAL MEDIA SPECIALIST
With the training resources and the professional development Fort Mill received, Overman could reimagine its registration pages and several areas of the district site.
“Training can be overwhelming because you're learning a massive amount of material at one time,” Overman said, “but just going through it the way Finalsite has set it up, you realize how beautifully the system is designed to do just what you need it to do. Small things like pushing news down to my other schools — our previous two sites couldn’t do that, and it’s been an enormous time saver.”
For the 20 individual school sites, adding options for icons and quicklinks streamlined the mobile navigation and tied the user experience on individual school pages together.
“We did a great job making the important content easy to find. You can pay your fees with a click of a button on every page, and employment is highly featured on all our school pages…from the seamless Google integration down to the templated themes, the system is thoughtfully designed.”
User control and admin privileges to edit the site have also made training admin users much easier. “I had the ability to turn off sections, so they can't see what they don't need to see,” Overman said. “I didn’t want to overwhelm them, and that granular level of permissions is amazing.”
The district’s chief communications officer, who completed a rebrand of the district amid the redesign, had positive feedback, too. “He’s said on multiple occasions that our new branding fits very well with the new site,” Overman added. “He sees this is a cohesive package, and that's what we want.”
Since Fort Mill’s launch — the second redesign in as many years — the district has received comments about how easy the site is to navigate.
“We are getting feedback that I didn’t get with the Blackboard site,” Overman said. “Our receptionists here at our district office tell me they're finding things fast, and it's easy for them to point parents in the right direction. That tells me we've done a good job.”
“Our site looks better, it's easier to use, and it's certainly more attractive than it was before. The links, the download buttons, and the ability to upload resources while I'm still in the system — it's all just so well designed, and it cleans up a page really nicely.”
“Other companies we've been with over the years, the design gets stale, but I have no concerns about that with Finalsite,” Overman shared. “The system is exactly what I've wanted.”
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