In many instances, your website acts as the first impression for prospective families. Creating a website with Blackbaud’s onMessage content management system gives you one of the most valuable assets for your school. One that shows your brand, shares your vision, and engages your community with fresh up to date content that can been seen on any device.
That said, you don’t just snap your fingers and presto, a new school site! School communication offices are busy, and launching a new website is no small feat. With any project, having a few pro tips up front can help make the process go smoother and give you that valuable time needed to focus on the details.
Rachel Naggar, Director of Communications at Kent Place School, led the launch of their new site. She partnered with the onMessage award-winning professional level design team to build a custom designed site that reaches her community with the right message, the right content, and at the right time. The way Rachel sees it, “The website is our top marketing tool!”
Watch the video and read the Q&A with Rachel to learn her tips for designing and launching an award winning site.
Discover how Rachel started with a vision for the school site, pulled together a great collaborative team, and compiled content to get ahead of her deadlines. As she commented, “Having finished, these are my top three things I would recommend when starting an onMessage site. And Blackbaud can certainly help you”.
#1. HAVE A VISION
Why was it important for Kent Place to have a vision for the new website?
“With any redesign, you should go into the project knowing what type of sites you like and dislike. What look and feel you are going for. The Blackbaud staff will help guide you and show you the latest trends, but in order to not waste much time, having an initial direction is important.”
What were some of the steps you took to ensure the vision was agreed upon internally?
“We had just come off working with a company that produced some positioning statements and designed our new Admission materials. We all knew we wanted the site to complement the new look and feel from the materials but not copy it outright. We purposely timed the website redesign to start after this process was complete so that we could repurpose the photography and some of the content.”
How did you work with the Blackbaud designers to ensure your vision was being represented?
“Right from the start, I filled out a Blackbaud guide, the Talking Points Form, which helped me articulate the direction we wanted our school site to go. It allows Blackbaud to get an initial idea of what your hopes are for the site and any challenges that may need to be addressed. I also sent the designer our marketing collateral materials (viewbook, brochures, etc.) so she could visually get a sense of our school. It started us all on the same page.”
#2. FORM A GREAT INTERNAL COLLABORATIVE TEAM
Who was on your internal team?
“The website team consisted of myself, the Head of School, Director of Technology, Director of Admission, Director of Studies, Communications Associate and our Registrar. The day to day was managed by the Communications Office.”
Why did you select those people?
“Since the website is our top marketing tool, it was important to have stakeholders who would help shape the direction of the website, its look, and feel and its content. Our team needed to have people who could make difficult decisions quickly.”
What type of schedule did you set up to keep those people informed? How did you inform them?
“The team was present at every major design call and big planning session. Aside from that, I communicated with them via email, sharing PDF designs to initiate feedback so we would be off and running and everyone would be on the same page before an actual Blackbaud call. Once the design was set, depending upon the section being built, I would speak to individuals directly if I had specific questions.”
#3. GET YOUR CONTENT IN ON TIME AND EVEN BEFORE THE DEADLINES
How did you go about curating all your content?
“This is the second time I’ve designed a site with Blackbaud, and we always planned it to come right after we designed and printed new Admission materials. I would be able to repurpose photography and copy from the publications. For the redesign, some of the old content were sent to departments for an update, or I would request new content to be written if needed. This is the part of the process that takes the most amount of time and energy.”
What was the approval process of the content before sending it to Blackbaud?
“Internally, content would be written and approved by the department or administrator it was assigned to. It would then be edited by the Communications Office and placed in the spreadsheet provided by Blackbaud. The Communications Office project managed this.”
How did you accomplish getting content in before the deadline?
“Having your navigation structure set is crucial before starting to gather content. This provides you with your checklist of what you will need. Depending upon how many pages you contract with Blackbaud you need to aim to have all your content done by the deadline. This means starting as soon as possible once the initial planning meetings are complete. You will be surprised how fast the deadline comes up. We were able to make our 50-page content deadline, but it took us much more time to complete the rest of the content for the pages we would be building ourselves.”
Did you find yourself cutting content or adding different content as you went along?
“Of course! Content sitting on a Word Document is much different than sitting on your designed page. It might be too long or too short, or you might need to break it up into two pages. Your initial content will always change slightly when you see it live on an actual page.”
Need more information sooner? Check out these two onMessage resources highlighting Kent Place School:
About the Author
Mark Christensen has worked in K-12 in various roles throughout his career from classroom teacher to school administrator to marketing communications. He works as the Marketing Manager for Blackbaud's K12 Group. He holds his MBA in Marketing from Rivier College and his Ed.D. in Curriculum & Technology from Plymouth State University/Argosy.More Content by Mark Christensen