At my previous district, I went through two website transitions on three different CMS platforms within the span of three years. I was frustrated at the lack of processes, overwhelmed with the huge number of details that go into a website redesign and felt like I was making things up as we went along. Despite some challenges, both website launches went great and we even won NSPRA awards and a Finalsite Double Diamond Award, but I definitely swore off ever doing a new website again after each launch.
My swearing off website redesigns didn’t work. Fast forward to beginning at CESO Communications and realizing that my new role would be supporting multiple districts' website needs, possibly with several happening at the same time. I was determined to develop the necessary tools to make sure our clients and our team wouldn’t want to pull our hair out when diving into website projects. Thankfully I had great partners in my colleagues who also brought their own years of website experience - just our creative team has more than 70 combined years of web experience on platforms ranging from Finalsite to Apptegy to Blackboard to WordPress and more! We developed an amazing process that is low-cost and high reward to assess current websites and make the redesign process efficient, and maybe even a little fun.
School and district websites are often the first point of contact for parents, staff and the community, making them responsible for their first impressions of your district. It is essential that this first interaction be a positive one that creates immediate connections to who you are. Does your page load quickly? Is your site easy to navigate? Can stakeholders find the information they’re looking for? Do visitors quickly get a sense of your school district’s values and brand?
These are just some of the questions we dig into in our website assessment. We focus on prioritizing the needs of your stakeholders and provide recommendations to help you find ways to better reach them - whether that be with different navigation, clearer calls to action, SEO improvements, elevated brand language or other creative solutions.
Our assessment can be done quickly - typically within a few weeks - and at a low cost. It provides actionable insights that you can begin implementing right away so you can get started. We know what it’s like to receive a long report and not know what to prioritize, which is why we use do now, do soon, and do later classifications for our recommendations so you have a clear path to improving your website.
Redesigning and managing a website presents a daunting challenge for many school districts. Developing a system to organize, manage and update content in a way that maximizes a user’s experience requires time and resources. I know both of these can be hard to come by in the school PR world, so our website redesign process takes away the guesswork and provides clear steps that save you precious time. As we partner with districts, we walk hand-in-hand with you through our phases that cover all the nitty gritty details. While I don’t want to give away all our tricks, here is the high-level process we use:
- The discovery phase includes tasks like goal setting, stakeholder engagement and a dive into your current website and analytics.
- The site design and navigation phase includes developing user experience journeys that inform the navigation and homepage designs and working with the CMS provider to develop a design that exceeds your vision. We’re big believers in organizing content by what the user needs (user-based navigation) so our user experience journeys are something you’ll hear us talk about a lot.
- The content phase focuses on creating new content, developing a system for getting staff to review and update content, migrating content to the new website and making each page look good and easy to read.
- The pre-launch phase includes various tasks like communicating with stakeholders before launching about what to expect, reviewing all the pages one last time, and setting up systems for ongoing reviews and edits of each page.
- The training phase is just what it sounds like. While most of the CMS platforms these days have great training modules, we will provide training on any specific content you or your busy web editors need. Have a group of secretaries responsible for updating the calendar? We’ll train them specifically on how to do that.
Each district’s needs and staff capacity are different, so we’re happy to partner with you on the whole process or just a phase or two depending on your situation.
The best part about this work is that each website project brings new perspectives and backgrounds and I love partnering with school PR professionals to learn about their unique communities and bring their ideas to life. Our solid process continues to get better with each project as we continue to “rethink possible” with our clients, creating amazing ways for them to share their story with the world.
Whether you’re looking to improve your current website or are considering moving to a completely new website platform or CMS, our assessment and redesign process are invaluable resources built specifically for school districts. I can’t wait to partner with you on your upcoming website needs. Reach out to learn more and get started today.