In August of 2021, Sycamore Community School District 427 Manager of Communications and Community Engagement David Olson and Events and I were recognized for our work on the district's website redesign. The Award of Excellence was presented by the Illinois Chapter of the National Public Relations Association as part of their 2021 Communications Contest.
In pursuit of the award, I wrote our entry and Olson compiled comparative examples of our old website to our new website.
Award Entry Text
At Sycamore Community School District 427, we are committed to “empowering all learners to succeed in their world.” Our learners are unique — diverse in their identities, experiences, and learning styles. Conveying this to our community was a key objective of a new website, as was providing a digitally-accessible source for families and community members to obtain the most important information to our students’ success. Our former website saw over 84,000 visitors across desktop and mobile devices in 2020. In a district of over 4,200 students and staff and a city with a population of nearly 18,000, our website served as a starting point for many queries, and at times, the first impression of our district. The need for a new website was first identified when internal metrics indicated a consistent increase in work hours devoted to maintenance. To add an event to the calendar, for example, meant adding the event to a calendar on the subdomain of each of our eight buildings. We needed a streamlined approach to web content management, and we wanted to give our former website — one built on heavy colors, outdated design, and long menu structure — a facelift. We wanted a new website that, in terms of both content and design, would align with our renewed commitment to digital accessibility and open communication. After a number of demonstrations and discussions with website vendors, we selected Finalsite for their design ability, content management system, and support. Our new website’s homepage continues to serve as the face of our district, but we now display recent photos of our students and staff, list upcoming events, and share the stories that make us most proud, more easily and in less time. A few key features of our website — accessible directly from the homepage — include our news and blog page, a staff directory with their photos, and our strategic design. These features allow us to demonstrate to our families and community who we are as a district — increasing engagement and driving positive sentiment. Since launch, our website has garnered positive attention from our vendor, and our community has responded well. “I’m very impressed and pleased with the refresh,” and “looks awesome,” were a few responses we received in our communications inbox post-launch. In addition, we saw 9500 visitors to our website in March of this year — a 20% increase in visitors over the same month last year. Our website is an increasingly important part of the impression we make on our community, and it is now more accessible and easily maintained than ever before.
Award Entry Comparative Examples
Homepage Old Homepage: https://share.getcloudapp.com/qGu5ZDQx New Homepage: www.syc427.org District Department Webpage Old District department webpage: https://share.getcloudapp.com/E0uARq2y New District department webpage: https://syc427.org/our-district/district-offices/technology High School Homepage Old high school department webpage: https://share.getcloudapp.com/7KuojR2j New high school department webpage: shs.syc427.org/our-school/academics/agriculture High School Course Catalog New high school course catalog: shs.syc427.org/resources/references/course-catalog