Here is a quick run-down of some key ideas underlining our new web site strategy.
The site has two overarching goals:
Provide timely, useful information that school constituents are seeking.
Regularly transmit the key messages that drive our communication strategy.
Authenticity: our target audiences are sensitive to the authenticity of our message. We benefit by demonstrating transparency in our communications and providing a “window” into daily life in the school. Ruth Catlin envisioned the school as a “lab” that would share its teaching accomplishments broadly.
Timeliness: web site visitors expect site content to be up-to-date and useful in the present moment. Many visitors come to the site expecting to find information to help them meet a deadline, attend an event, or find out what just happened in the school community.
Engagement: community members once gained entrance to this community. The site should attempt to move individuals up the “engagement pyramid.” It should provide tools for users to provide information to the school, communicate with employees, and network with each other. Highly engaged members of the community contribute to the school’s success through attendance at school events, volunteerism, financial contributions, and spreading the good word.
Excellence: our school attempts to perform at a high level in all its pursuits. The site should itself demonstrate excellence in design and function and also communicate examples of excellence that take place within the school. Admittedly, this desire for excellence sometimes rubs up against our equally strong desire for authenticity.
Develop a graphic design and user interface that conveys the vibrancy and excellence of this institution and is also easy to navigate and use. Choose colors to pay tribute to the classic Catlin blue but make central use of the new, Crane-provided color palette.
Broadly publish photos of everyday life and special events at the school. Most schools only display carefully staged, professional photos on their home page. We deliberately publish shots of everyday life and special events in order to convey the vibrancy of school life, the authenticity of our communications, the informality of our school culture, and to provide motivation for repeat visits. We will also convert the random-select home page photo into a proper slideshow and retain the current grid view for photo galleries elsewhere in the site.
Limit the cash cost of the new site to less than $10,000.
Make athletics schedules and driving directions easy to access and subscribe to.
Make lunch menu information easy to access and subscribe to.
Make it possible for many people at the school to contribute content to the web site. “Content managers” will receive training and maintain the core pages on the site. Teachers will have the ability to post classroom news, which will be aggregated into division-level news pages. Teachers and students will also have individual blogs, in order to publish examples of their work should they choose to do so.
Launch our social network and media initiatives at the same time as the new school web site. Continue to develop our Facebook presence to share highlight news items, audio and video captured at school, and community-contributed content. Further develop and call attention to our LinkedIn presence, so that it takes over as our primary “career network” tool. invite parents and students to join the network (currently only alumni are involved). Launch new Twitter and YouTube channels in order to reach our constituents where they are, exert more influence over messaging about Catlin Gabel in those spaces, and create the opportunity for a viral media success.
Broaden the publication of News feeds to the entire site. News items will appear on the home page as they do at present, but they will also be archived permanently (unless deleted), allowing users to get a sense of the rhythm of school life over weeks and months. Newsflash items will automatically appear in other relevant sections of the site (e.g., alumni, arts). Each program, department, division, and classroom may have its own dedicated news feed, which will show both Newsflash and staff-contributed items. This will increase the timeliness of these content sections and “unbury” new content items. The web site manager will be able to select and promote smaller news feed items to the home page Newsflash if desired. Allow users to set up customized news subscriptions by RSS or email.
Provide forms to collect important data from constituents, increasing usability, accuracy, and efficiency. Users will be able to complete online forms to start the admission process, make an online gift, apply for a job, or update their contact information. The school benefits by making life easy for its constituents, receiving accurate data, and not having to collect it through more time-consuming processes.
Provide an opt-out alumni directory that alumni, employees, parents, and students may search. Provide employee and student photo directories to other employees and students only. Automatically generate directories and contact lists from our core school databases, eliminating the need for manual data entry of this information by school staff on the site.
Broaden the visibility of Caller articles on the site. Cross-list them in relevant sections through the site (e.g., a Caller article on sports also appears in the Athletics section of the site). Use Issuu.com to embed a Flash-based version of each Caller in the site, increasing readability of the articles, allowing the user to print an issue, and leveraging the school’s investment in graphic design and layout services for this publication.
Get All School News and division newsletters out of PDFs and into web page and email format. Retain the distinctive, individual character of division newsletters.
Provide a straightforward process for parents, alumni, admission applicants, and job applicants to create a login on the site that gets them access to relevant content and tools.
Enable the posting of comments by employees, students, and parents. Limit the viewing of comments to these same groups. Do not enable comment moderation queues but rather follow comment posts closely and intervene in exceptional cases.
Provide a clear navigation pathway for people new to Catlin Gabel to learn basic information about the school and receive key messages.
Improve site navigation for parents, who have provided feedback that the items of interest to them are scattered all over the site.
Provide “quick links,” so that many programs may have a ubiquitous link for them without cluttering up the primary site navigation.
Create a “schoolwide” or “all school” top-level section to draw attention to the many, growing schoolwide programs that mark the distinctive nature of the school (e.g., sustainable school, global ed, the arts).
Make it easy to post and sign up for volunteer opportunities. Make it possible for a user to see all available opportunities in one place.
Perpetuate the distinctive qualities of our four divisions by providing separate top-level sections and news feed categories.
Reduce the number of email list errors by providing central firstname.lastname@example.org listserv addresses automatically synced to our school databases.