Creating a Digital Magazine Microsite

When Cheshire Academy’s Director of Strategic Marketing approached me to ask about options for a digital magazine, my first thought was: money. In thinking about some of my favorite online news websites, such as the New York Times, I worried about hurdles such as software and manpower. Could an independent school marketing department produce beautiful and interactive digital stories?

Our Content Management System, OnMessage by Blackbaud K-12, is known for its easy drag and drop functionality. However, the more I played around with the style tools, the more I began to believe that we too could have a beautiful digital magazine built with the very tools we already pay for.

With a six month timetable and just one internal developer (me), Cheshire Academy was able to produce a full digital magazine with a zero-dollar investment. Here are some of my favorite aspects of the digital magazine:

1.  Banner Ads

I really wanted to build a website that functioned as a traditional online magazine, and that means advertisements in the sidebars. Alyssa Dillon, Cheshire Academy’s graphic designer, converted all print ads in the magazine into banners for the website’s sidebars. There are ads for the annual fund, reunion, planned giving, and more. The graphics are set to randomize on a page refresh. Clicking on the advertisement will take you to a separate page.

2. Interactive Timeline

What would a digital magazine be without some form of interactive storytelling? Using the free timeline tool at, we were able to create audio and visual content to embed on our website. The finished product is a seamless and professional-looking integration.

3. Easter Egg Content

What’s the point of an online magazine if it contains all the same information as the print version? Cheshire Academy’s online magazine has special easter egg content just for digital readers, like extra photos, video content, and the answers to our CatScratch crossword puzzle!

The “1794” digital magazine is a delightful stewardship tool: our constituents can explore updates from their former classmates and comment on news articles, including marriage and birth announcements. Plus, a major part of the fun of this website (for me) was the ability to experiment with the OnMessage design tools to develop features that reflect some of the leading trends in online news websites including sticky menus, favicons, and social media icons that light up on hover!

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