When Newton Community School District Technology Supervisor Bieghler presented the district’s new website to the board of education in late-March — one day ahead of schedule — board member Donna Cook was ecstatic.
“I love it. You’ve done well, you’ve done well,” Cook told Bieghler during the March 30 meeting.
Cook had been championing for a new site for a while, and she believes a more modern website would be appealing to young families looking to relocate so they could see the educational opportunities presented in Newton.
She also heaped praise upon the district’s technology department and its partner in the site’s development, Columbus, Ohio-based eSchoolView. ESV is a firm that exclusively develops websites for schools and school districts.
Michael Maloney, ESV director of business development, said Newton’s site was the company’s first “tailor-made” site in Iowa and explained what that meant exactly.
“We believe a district’s website needs to be as reflective of its brand as possible so we don’t use canned templates in the design process,” Maloney said. “We start from scratch and work with our clients to create a look and navigation infrastructure that best meets their needs.”
Maloney said the entire process of creating the new site took three months total to complete.
“We spent about 12 weeks from inception to launch,” Maloney said. “That includes the design, development on the back end, moving content from the old site to the new site and training staff.”
Beighler said, in past presentations to the board, that he and his team worked very closely with ESV to create a site that met all of the district’s needs, had features that were requested by parents, staff and the board, and is able to be viewed similarly across multiple platforms.
“eSchoolView has a history of allowing district officials to be as hands on as they want to be or as time allows them to be,” Maloney said. “Our team worked with Chris Biegler to ensure that we were able to design the site exactly the way they wanted. eSchoolView has a goal to help streamlines the process for schools with a design questionnaire. After Chris filled it out, he received an initial design.”
Statistics show more and more people are accessing the more frequently on cell phones and tablets versus more traditional computers. Maloney said these facts played a key role in developing the new site and that ESV is just about ready to launch those versions of the site.
“Our mobile design allows users to access the district’s site without sacrificing design or overall functionality,” Maloney said. “The mobile and tablet versions also sync simultaneously with the desktop view when changes are made. This means there is no lag time when new information is uploaded or new pages are added to the site.”
Besides mobile capabilities, other features of the new website include an easy to use content management system or CMS. Maloney said the CMS his company provides is entirely web-based and doesn’t require software instillation.
“A content management system is a great tool for school districts because it’s easy-to-use and does not require a technical background,” Maloney said. “We developed our CMS on a platform that encourages collaboration so multiple users can contribute without special skill sets. We take care of the coding and development — they do the content.
“Adding a picture to a news article is as simple as clicking a button and navigating to the file on your computer. A photo gallery is a breeze because the CMS takes care of the slideshow function. We often compare it to having an interface like Microsoft Windows so it is easy for any staff member.”
In addition to being easier to navigate, the new site places a higher focus on showcasing the district’s students and their activities and accomplishments within the schools. The new homepage also makes district news easier to access as well as providing very visible links to other important areas of the site.
Another reason Cook had previously listed as to why the district should update its site was to make it more modern. The new site seems to meet those standards, but will it still feel as up-to-date in another couple of years?
“A major benefit of using a CMS tool is its adaptability — the district can add or remove components as it needs to keep pages relevant,” Maloney said. “The innovation behind the hybrid mobile view pushes the district to the forefront.
“As for our products, we provide service updates every 60-90 days — at no extra cost — and typically add new tools during our an annual maintenance. We can do a redesign fairly easily and with minimal cost due to the way the CMS was developed. It does not interrupt the content.”
ESV is hoping the successful launch of Newton’s new website can open doors for them in Iowa.
“We’ve also established key partnerships with educational organizations around the country to help make our product more accessible to districts in a number of states,” Maloney said. “We are eager to do the same in Iowa.”
Visit NCSD’s new site at its new URL: www.newtoncsd.org.