How to Create an Award-Winning Website: Charlotte Prep

Chosen because Charlotte Preparatory School won Silver for Branded Web Page and Bronze for Homepage, Outsourced in the 2018 Brilliance Awards Website categories. InspirED connected with David Long, Director of Marketing and Communications at Charlotte Prep to learn the backstory behind this winning website.

Loved the unique navigation that was horizontal rather than vertical. Really told the story well and with a dynamic energy not seen by many others. I found the entire site well done and very engaging. Photography was great. Great work!
— Brilliance Awards Judge's Comment
 
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Begin with an Assertion That Leads to a Goal

“Our project started with a simple recognition,” says David Long, Charlotte Preparatory School’s Director of Marketing and Communications. “Charlotte Prep is unlike any other school in Charlotte, and our website should stand out in our crowded market of private, charter, and public schools.” Their goal was equally simple: While many schools’ websites follow a familiar template, they want theirs to feature innovations in functionality and storytelling.

Choose the Right Partner and Go Big

 
THE WINNERS: (L to r) Simon Noakes, Founder and CEO, Interactive Schools; Tim Weaver, Creative Director, Interactive Schools; David Long, Charlotte Prep, Director of Marketing Communications; and Sam Peat, project photographer

THE WINNERS: (L to r) Simon Noakes, Founder and CEO, Interactive Schools; Tim Weaver, Creative Director, Interactive Schools; David Long, Charlotte Prep, Director of Marketing Communications; and Sam Peat, project photographer

 

After carefully considering several U.S. companies in the education space, Charlotte Prep chose to work with Interactive Schools, a firm based in London, because they offered a bespoke website that the school believed could stand out for freshness and creativity. “We went big and developed an overall digital communications strategy that added more robust social media to the mix and tied the two together,” David says. In addition to redesigning the website, Interactive Schools worked with Charlotte Prep to develop tactics that empower their teachers to tell Prep’s story from their classrooms in real-time on social media. (Their posts are also featured on story walls throughout the website to expand reach.)

 
I love the unique creativity of this site. I thought it did an excellent job of drawing you into the school and the story. The design was incredible and brought so much personality to the site and the school. It gave me a sense that this was an innovative, forward-moving institution, not scared to take risks. Very impressive.
— Brilliance Awards Judge's Comment
 

“Outsourcing brings fresh eyes,” David says. “Interactive Schools brought a fresh vision and creative ideas that made us see ourselves differently. They really brought to life what we think our school gives to our students and families. In a word, they were brilliant!”

Ignore the Distance and Make Skype Your Friend

David says that the distance between Charlotte and London was not a factor in the development of this project. Prep’s leadership team Skyped with Interactive School’s creative team about our ideas for the site and shared the school’s attributes and culture. “We even took them on a Skype tour of our campus!” David says.

The firm presented three designs to choose from, and the school was impressed by how readily their UK partners “got” them, which made the creative process faster and more fun than they expected. They chose a design that highlights a child’s “pathway” from Prep to the fulfillment of his or her aspirations, the results being their Brilliance Awards winning homepage.

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Meet in Person for Photography

Simon Noakes, Interactive Schools’ founder and CEO, and a creative team came to Charlotte to do the photography. They worked with Prep’s students and teachers in setting up the photo shoots for the images that now anchor the homepage. All told, the process took about four months from signing the contract to having the site ready to launch.

Make Social Media a Real-Time Viewbook

“The Interactive Schools content strategy emphasizes social media as a living, real-time viewbook in the pages of our site,” says David. “So our storytelling is now constant and more consistent.” Simon came to Charlotte to train Prep’s teachers how to actively maintain their grade-level Twitter accounts, so current and prospective parents get an authentic look into their classrooms. “Our website isn’t static,” says David. “It’s always current thanks to our teachers’ effective use of social media.”

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The Right Team Brings Award-Winning Results

Building the right team is critically important for a large scale project like a website redesign. David emphasizes getting backing and buy-in from leadership, then finding the right creative partner that truly understands your culture and competitive advantages. Finally, David says, “Creativity more easily comes when the people involved in the process are fun to work with!”

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Heap on the Pride 

Prep’s new website has had a significant impact on their internal community as a point of pride. Seeing the school through the lens of a new website and engaging social media has improved buy-in and satisfaction. “The Brilliance Awards are icing on the cake!” David says.

Charlotte Preparatory School’s Creative Team

David Long, Director of Marketing & Communications, Charlotte Preparatory School

Simon Noakes, Founder & CEO, Interactive Schools

Tim Weaver, Creative Director, Interactive Schools

Congratulations, Charlotte Prep! You are brilliant!


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