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How St David's School Captured Their Message, Vision And Culture In Their School Website
Rosie Paxton

St. David's School is an independent day school in the Episcopal school tradition, serving students in grades Pre-K through 12. Located in North Carolina, St. David's School looked to Finalsite (then School Website) to design an innovative new website that would offer a visually-rich and emotive insight into St. David's key messages, vision and culture.

The project would see a complete overhaul of the existing website, with almost every aspect being rethought and redesigned. This encompassed the full spectrum of digital marketing facets, from the overall creative direction, written content, and navigation experience, to a sophisticated data integration and pioneering functionality. The end result is a stunning example of what can be achieved when strategic design, innovative technology and powerful data integrations are combined. Miriam Leshnock, Assistant Headmaster of Finance and Operations at St David's said "We've received great feedback from all target audiences so far, including prospective parents, alumni, grandparents, donors, and current families. Those comments have touched on the beautiful pictures, easy navigation and detailed information."

The primary role of the new website would be to stimulate enquiry by offering a more authentic window into school life, whilst also engaging the active community. St. David's School were aiming to clearly define the school's position in the market, design better internal journeys for current families, and bring the diverse school culture to life with topical insights and rich media.

An onsite consultation with Head of Creative, Kealan Duffy, kick-started the process. Not only did the consultation enable Finalsite to gain a full understanding of the school's aspirations for the new website, it also provided an invaluable opportunity for St. David's School to engage their senior stakeholders, and establish a strong direction and vision for their new online platform. Following this, a conclusive creative brief was agreed which would underpin the subsequent project stages and guide the design process.

With the dedicated team at St. David's School, Finalsite worked intensively throughout the creative phases, production and data integration. As the merge between Finalsite and School Website came mid-way through the project, this gave St. David's School the opportunity to utilise the Composer CMS and existing comprehensive Veracross integration. Weekly calls were held with the St. David's team and their dedicated project manager, to keep the project on track with deliverables and milestones. I asked Miriam what her favourite website features are; "They are all the custom designs, including the history timeline, campus map, athletics pages, and employee directory. The site is visually pleasing and easy to navigate, especially with the hamburger menu." Miriam replied.

The site is fully responsive which is the most notable difference from the old website, meaning users can have an engaging experience with the website on a variety of devices. The site boasts three customised page templates, and a variety of exciting features to ensure a sustained interactive experience for its visitors as they explore the website

The interactive history timeline is the first of its kind for Finalsite, and immerses users in the school's rich and vibrant history. Finalsite's creative design experts and senior production team worked closely with St. David's School to refine the design and functionality of this treatment, to produce an original and fascinating feature of the website, bringing the diverse school culture to life.

A fixed, morphing header and burger menu navigation means users will never feel lost on the website, and a clearly defined site structure means information is intuitively organised and easy to access. As part of the initial consultation, Finalsite worked with St. David's School to review the existing site content, and provided recommendations for improving the user experience and streamlining the content structure. This was especially useful for St. David's School in guiding the creation of their new text content and site map; often a daunting task for any marketer.

Integrated Instagram, Twitter and Facebook feeds on the homepage boost user interaction and showcase the school's active and diverse culture to give a lasting impression. Not only does this highlight the school's interaction with the wider community, on a practical level this means social media content need only be entered at a single point – a must for any busy communications department.

The customised Athletics section offers a hub for parents and students to easily access key information about upcoming events and game results. The bespoke styling ensures the St. David's Warriors brand is retained and carried through to the website, and the menu design offers quick and easy access to key information with a single click.

Providing an intriguing way to access information about the school grounds and facilities, a customised campus map and athletics field page invites users to explore the St. David's School campus. This treatment added yet another dimension to the website in line with the original brief to provide an authentic window into school life, and creatively utilises rich media to this end.

A powerful Veracross data integration enables St. David's School to pull in calendars, faculty data and athletics data to the website from a single point, via the comprehensive integration available on the Composer CMS platform. The dedicated integrations team at Finalsite were on-hand throughout the whole process, to ensure the seamless transfer of data from one platform to another.

The website successfully launched on schedule, and has received boundless positive feedback since. The end product is testament to the holistic approach Finalsite take in the design and creation of a new website, and is a paramount example of how Finalsite's portfolio of expert services can further a school's digital presence and position in the marketplace. "We expect our new website to continue reaching our primary target audiences and will hopefully encourage new families to visit our campus, alumni to reconnect, and donors to give!" Says Miriam. "Our experience with Finalsite was rewarding on many levels. All members of the team, managed the project with great professionalism and collaboration. We are grateful for the experience and the final result."


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