Valley View School District 365U
As a district of nearly 15,000 students southwest of Chicago, Valley View School District’s network of more than 20 schools has continually supported the needs of its families and, most recently, transitioned from Blackboard’s Web Community Manager to Finalsite’s content management system, Composer.
To complement Valley View’s Strategic Plan, the transition allowed the District to re-envision its online presence and provide a more accessible and intuitive experience for families. The new website would serve as a platform to showcase the District’s culture, but as Nicole Eimer, Digital Communication Specialist at Valley View recalled, she didn’t want to throw all the District’s old, outdated content in boxes and simply move it to a new house.
“We had content that hadn’t been updated in years,” Eimer stated, “so this was the catalyst to start from scratch and make sure that our new content is fresh, current and accessible.”
Formed in 1972, Valley View School District 365U is one of the most fiscally responsible and stable school districts in Illinois. Its Board of Education and community are committed to the education of Every Learner, Every Day both academically, and socially & emotionally.
On Valley View’s old site, the individual schools were in charge of what their websites looked like, and as staff continued to add more and more content such as PDFs and flyers, there wasn’t much consistency or processes for updates.
“One of my main goals was to pick a solution with built-in features, and I wouldn't have to worry about customizing things to make it work.” Eimer isn’t a novice in website redesigns, and while she spearheaded the project, she wasn’t alone. Finalsite’s professional services team guided the deployment and launch process, suggesting ways to consolidate content, merge pages, and make it easy for parents or community members to find what they needed.
“Our project manager was great and very quick to answer," Eimer shared. “When I would have questions or needed to see examples of how other districts were setting up things, she was great at showing ways to streamline content and format pages.”
Eimer dove into the site analytics and identified pages with minimal views, outdated content, or pages with just a few sentences that served no real purpose.
“I really made a conscious effort to look at our content and migrate only what was necessary and relevant, and trim down the number of pages to focus on our families and community as our audience.”
At launch, Valley View had gone from tens of thousands of pages to a few thousand, dramatically simplifying what was presented.
“We wanted a better handle on the overall look of each site — visual consistency, making sure the photos are on brand, the organization, and the layout throughout the sites,” Eimer said. “Each school has those elements, so no matter what site you look at, you get that consistent brand, too.”
“This transition allowed us to bring (our Superintendent's) vision to life and elevate our digital presence to truly tell our story and reflect who we are as a District.”
DIGITAL COMMUNICATION SPECIALIST
The site now allows contributors to add content like calendars and directories through imports, integrations, and embedding resources, which has created more options for sharing content, noted Eimer, who can now easily create dashboards pages based on different user experiences.
Throughout the process, Eimer met regularly with Valley View Superintendent of Schools Rachel Kinder, Ed.S to discuss the project's scope, review the designs and ensure they complied with the latest accessibility standards. “My charge was to make sure we showcase our strategic plan coming to life with a Responsive and Caring Culture and Learning and Growth for Every Learner.”
“Superintendent Kinder is one of my biggest cheerleaders about the result of this and loved what we were able to accomplish,” Eimer said proudly. “This transition allowed us to bring her vision to life and elevate our digital presence to truly tell our story and reflect who we are as a District.”
For others in the redesign process, Eimer advised asking for feedback from stakeholders on what the websites look like and what kind of content they want to see. “What's important for them? What are they looking for when they go to the website? The feedback from parents, staff, and families is opinionated and varied, but we started there to ensure the overall structure works with the community's needs.”
Valley View also knew built-in translation features were mandatory as the District serves a community with a wide range of languages, especially Spanish-speaking families. Using Weglot, Finalsite’s translation partner, users can now convert the entire site into multiple languages with just the click of a button.
After the site launched, Eimer provided different ways to receive feedback and address any issues with locating new content or navigating the site, going as far as adding feedback forms and offering office hours to answer questions and provide user training for those that needed a little more support.
“I've had compliments on the look and the feel of it,” Eimer said, adding that the community has said the site is more professional and feels a lot more like their District. “I was impressed with how our mobile site functions which was another big benefit from how our Blackboard site looked. This new site functions a lot better on mobile.”
“I didn't want to keep throwing things in junk drawers and moving them over because that's what we did for so many years,” Eimer laughed. “I used this transition as a way to clean out our closets.”
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