5 Little-Known onMessage Features To Revitalize Your School’s Site

May 9, 2016 Raphaëlle Vrana

onMessage is a powerful and robust content management system. With so many great features to showcase in the website development process, some benefits are easily overlooked. To help your school maximize onMessage, here are five versatile and easy-to-implement features that can revitalize a site’s design and help organize unruly content.

Please note: some examples below have benefited from the magic touch of Blackbaud K-12’s design team; however, the functionality displayed and the styling options used are available to all onMessage schools.

5. Carousel Options

An example from the Mega Menu design theme.

A carousel, defined in onMessage as rotating content such as photos, news, or events, is a bold and eye-catching addition to any site. Carousels are a common feature in onMessage sites, but there’s more to them than meets the eye, and the “I-didn’t-know-it-could-do-that” surprises are found in the settings.

Before we get into the goodies, let’s make sure everyone is familiar with the onMessage carousel lingo. When creating a carousel, you start by choosing a type such as single text or multi-image. While image carousels are self-explanatory, “text” in carousels refers to content such as news or events where textual headlines and teaser descriptions are the focal points.  

Now for the features. Single-image carousels provide the option to change the “Pager,” which refers to the iconic representation of the number of photos and the user’s present location in an album. The pager can be displayed as shapes, numbers, or thumbnail images. Single-text and single-image carousels also have a “Sidebar Gallery” setting that adds an image counter with previous and next arrows.

The carousel “Details” (where an image title, caption, or description is displayed) can be edited to appear above, below, or at the top of the carousel item.

And finally, everything looks better with a photo! Consider using a multi-image carousel such as the example below for news or linked content. Please note, this example is a Professional-design site that utilizes the multi-image carousel for their news:

Professional custom site. Photo Credit: St. Christopher’s School

4. Media Widget

The media widget displays a collection of photos, video, or audio altogether in one location. Website managers can select to have media display from any photo, video, or audio category on the site. Once a category is activated, any media added to it will automatically display within the media gallery mashup—there’s no need to upload a file twice! What’s more, creating a “hub” for media in a site’s news or arts sections will help draw repeat traffic.

Another curb-appeal benefit of the media widget is the way its content displays in a lightbox (a pop-up viewer that sits above the page with a black layer behind it) and scrolls through as a carousel.

Unlike most onMessage content, the Media Widget is located under “Widgets” in the onMessage styling menu. As you can see in the image below, the information that displays is easily managed by the school – everything from file count to the number of plays. Simply select the item from the Display list on the right to hide a certain item.

3. Full Background News Carousels

Mention a full-background carousel, where the content covers the screen from edge to edge, and most people think of photos. While this is the most common usage, especially on private school homepages, news content in onMessage is also available as a full-background carousel. This technique is a modern and efficient trend that can energize a site. Having an exciting news teaser photo tied to each story helps build intrigue and drive website engagement.

Full Background carousels need a unique style created and have to be applied to a master layout instead of a page content area. On the master layout (shown below), the “Background Carousel” button must be activated on the news or photo widget for the style to be applicable.

2. Full-Width Regions

Professional custom site. Photo credit: New Hampton School

onMessage is built on an 1185-wide grid (in pixels), and sometimes you might want to have content that spreads the entire width without using a background carousel. Fortunately, regions also have the ability to span full width. In a master layout, find a region and click on the setting (gear) icon. Select “Full Browser Width” to make the region as wide as the browser’s screen. This technique is most commonly applied to headers and footers, but it also comes in handy with layered page designs.

Consider adding video or news to a full-browser region for powerful messaging; however, just be aware that content inside this region won’t be aligned with the rest of the grid. Therefore, it is best to center content inside a full-browser region by applying a specific style created for this purpose.

1. Fixed Headers

Fixed headers are a relatively new onMessage feature that allows the first region in a layout to remain “fixed” or stuck to the top of a browser while all subsequent content scrolls underneath. Only the top region in a master layout can be fixed, so this feature is best used for the main menu and possibly the school logo if spacing allows.

Fixed headers are useful on the trendy long-scrolling home pages, enabling visitors to find their way around without scrolling back up the page.

These five features and many more are standard and included in every onMessage implementation. Give them a try to boost content visibility, and, of course, if you’d like us to work some design magic, we’re always here to help!

Interested in learning more about onMessage, Blackbaud’s Content Management System? Check out the on-demand recording for onMessage or view the product datasheet.

About the Author

Raphaëlle Vrana

Raphaëlle Vrana is an Interactive Designer II for Blackbaud with a background in programming and illustration.

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