West Hartford Public Schools
West Hartford, CT is a destination New England town known for for its food, shopping culture, and scenery. For those who aren’t just visiting, it’s a town families flock to for planting roots. It has beautiful homes, a unique suburban-meets-urban lifestyle, and its outstanding public school system.
With an A+ rating on Niche.com, West Hartford Public Schools has no issue attracting new families. And while an A+ rating is something many schools and districts strive to achieve — it isn’t a grade that symbolizes “the work is done.” As a matter of fact, it is a grade that symbolizes “the work is far from over.” An outstanding reputation comes with notoriously high expectations from both parents and the extended community — and the right website partner (that’s where we come in 👋 ) can make it easy to exceed those expectations.
Redesigning with the Changing Times
West Hartford Public Schools (WHPS) always prioritized communications and engagement. “We have really high quality schools and we want visitors to our school sites to be able to see what the school is all about,” said Craig Diamond, Education Technology Specialist at West Hartford Public Schools.
And since partnering with Finalsite in 2014, the school district has redesigned twice to ensure that as technology — and expectations around that technology — have adapted, so has their online presence. Their latest redesign is mobile-friendly, accessible, and filled with relevant and up-to-date content that keeps the community engaged and informed.
“Our last redesign began in 2018, and one of the drivers for the latest WHPS redesign was ADA compliance,” said Jared Morin, CIO for both the Town of West Hartford and West Hartford Public Schools. “We wanted to ensure every page and all content was accessible to everyone.”
“ADA compliance was also the impetus for moving the Town of West Hartford's website to Finalsite as well. The Town's new website was launched in June 2020, and now both organizations leverage the Finalsite platform to deliver greater quality assurance with a more consistent look and feel.”
While accessibility was the driving force for the district and town sites, “We also wanted to build a website that was reliable, engaging, clean, rich in media, and the go-to place for important information,” added Craig.
Money Magazine ranked West Hartford as the 10th most-educated town in the United States and one of the top four small cities in Connecticut to live in, due in part to its “exceptional public schools.”
West Hartford's high schools are ranked among the top two percent nationally by U.S. News and World Report and are among the top ten in the state, while Conard and Hall High Schools have ranked in the top one percent nationally in Newsweek’s America’s Best High Schools.
According to Craig, that last bit is most important: being the go-to-place for important information. “Before the redesign, our biggest problem was that content throughout the district was sometimes kept up to date. There was inconsistency from school site to school site, and that didn’t offer a great experience for parents,” he said.
With the redesign, they were able to analyze Google Analytics and cut down the number of pages by 25% while focusing on the mobile experience. “We wanted to ensure everything could be accessible in 1-2 clicks — especially to be mobile-friendly,” said Craig.
The town’s website was also looked at through a close eye. And now, the town website, according to Craig, now has a modern feel but also helps meet the growing expectations of the community: up-to-date content and a quality user experience on desktop and mobile. “We really believe in the quality of the Finalsite platform and services — so it was a no brainer to also use it for the town website,” he concluded.
Streamlining Communications and Website Management
West Hartford Public Schools has sixteen schools, and previously operated like most school districts. “Prior to our redesign, we were operating with more than 30 webmasters — about two to three per school,” said Craig.
While this isn’t a bad thing — for West Hartford Public Schools, it resulted in an obsolete website experience. “Because the individual sites didn’t have up-to-date content or a simple navigation, our families weren’t visiting our website.” With the redesign, they wanted to regain control at a central level to ensure families were greeted with a streamlined user experience across all schools.
“With the latest redesign we moved from having webmasters for every site, to having two webmasters to manage all content across the district and individual school sites,” said Craig. “Because the Finalsite Platform is so easy to use, we don't feel like we’re doing the work of 30 people.”
“Having a familiar design and navigation from school to school was important to us,” said Craig. “We wanted parents who had students in multiple schools to easily find the information without the guesswork."
Craig created a “template” for each of the 16 schools in the district that allowed him to streamline the user experience, while also “bringing the culture and uniqueness of each school.” While each school site has its own branding colors, logos, custom hero video and photos, they share layout and navigation experiences. Using Create Once, Publish Everywhere functionality, Craig is also able to easily share content from the district and other schools on numerous sites, while only needing to update the content in one centralized location.
A True Website Partner Through Covid-19 and Beyond
While West Hartford Public Schools entered 2020 not knowing how much they would rely on their website, they were happy to have the tools and support in place to get out communications swiftly. “Throughout the pandemic we relied on top banners, Posts, Page Pops and Shared Elements to quickly share out information in numerous places,” said Craig.
“I’m so impressed with Finalsite support,” said Craig. “Everytime I call I get someone who gives me quick, efficient, accurate solutions. It’s so nice to know, anytime I can call and I can get someone who is reliable.”
West Hartford Public Schools knows the importance of a great user experience for enrollment, retention, and engagement — and makes it a priority. “When you have high quality schools, there are high expectations from the community, and we work to ensure our website meets those expectations,” Craig concluded.
See for yourself how Finalsite's full suite of tools will save you time and improve your school's online presence!
Does your website make a good first impression? Get expert feedback on your school's website sent straight to your inbox!