School district launches new website

One of the changes that new Hamilton City Schools’ superintendent Tony Orr wanted to see right away when he took over for the now retired Janet Baker, was an upgrade of the school district’s website. Now, he can put a check mark in the “done” column as the site has been unveiled in time for the start of the school year.

School board members and those in the audience during Tuesday night’s school board meeting were given a demonstration of the new and improved website. The test ride was met with enthusiasm around the room.

“I’m really excited to demo the new website tonight. Back in the spring, Tony said he had some ideas and that we really needed to upgrade and bring the website to next level our website,” said Zach Vander Veen, director of technology and E-learning. “Right now we are averaging about 150 visits per month, and they are staying on for a total of 2-3 minutes each visit.”

Vander Veen explained that he and Chris Rose, the new web developer for the district, along with other school officials solicited ideas from staff, students, parents and the community about what would work and would not work in terms of building a new site for the district.

The community input was key, according to Rose, and thinking about a common branding to support all of the elements was important in getting the task completed. His experience and background was also instrumental in getting things accomplished.

“This has really been a merging of my two passions. For the past 15 years, I have been doing freelance graphic design and web development,” he said. “We really wanted to focus on a clear concise focus and figure out what kind of imagery highlights our great schools and enhances our message.”

From getting better photographs to present on the web and developing a newsletter that will be on the site – the attention to detail has been an extensive process.

“We have a mega-menu that is on top of the site and it was pretty extensively researched how community members would use it. We made access the most efficient way possible,” Rose explained. “Most of our traffic comes from mobile devices, so mobile compatibility was also taken into consideration. The imagery should look just as good on a smart-phone as they do on a desktop.”

Multilingual support was also taken into consideration when Vander Veen and Rose developed the new website.

“Multilingual support was very important for our ESL students,” Rose said. “We have built the top five languages spoken in our district into the website so that people who speak these languages can go to the site and have everything translated into the language they speak.”

Board president Scott Kruger said he was pleased with the work and the finished product.

“It looks really nice and it looks like you left no stone unturned,” he said. “You paid attention to our ESL students and the mobility issues and given our community great access. I want to have transparency and you did a great job with that.”

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