Expanding the Color Palate

September 21st, 2010 by Adam Fairholm

Note: This post takes a more design-oriented approach. It may be a little off topic for those who don’t design!

After a long day of looking at Catholic school websites, things seem to blur together in terms of design and presentation. It took me a little while to figure out why that is, and it isn’t an obvious thing: the colors.

There are hundreds of thousands of different color combinations out there, but Catholic high schools pretty much stick to a menu:

  • Royal Red
  • Black
  • Tan
  • Various Shades of Green
  • Royal Blue
  • More Royal Red

These are classic, strong colors, and they are used for a reason: they look good, and they look official. But since we are all about breaking the mold at Catholic School Web Design, lets take an experimental journey down the color road less traveled and talk about how to play with color with your school.

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Catholic School Web Design at NCEA 2011

September 20th, 2010 by Adam Fairholm

I’m pleased to announce that Catholic School Web Design is going to be giving a talk at NCEA 2011 next April in New Orleans!

Our talk is called “Building the Next Generation of Catholic High Schools Online”, and it will be an overview of our assessment of the current state of Catholic school presence on the web, and what people within those schools can do to address common problems and hurdles.

Myself and Lance Johnson will be giving the talk, and will be present when the conference happens April 26-28 2011. We’ll be on Twitter throughout the two-day event, so keep an eye out, say hello, and make sure to put our talk on your schedule! Well, once we know when it will be.

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Beyond the Franchise

September 8th, 2010 by Adam Fairholm

The majority of people reading this are probably familiar with franchises, but here is a very short overview. A franchise allows someone to start up a business that has all the tough branding and central organization done for you. For example, if I wanted to start a sub shop, I could start from scratch and start a sub shop. Or I could franchise a Subway.

The difference is, people already know what Subways is. They know what there favorite sub there is, what it will look like inside, and the general experience. All that is figured out for you, and it takes care of all the work and risk that is associated with starting up a business from scratch.

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The Great Home Page Debate

August 31st, 2010 by Adam Fairholm

One of the great things about Catholic schools are the diversity within them. You’ve got all sorts of different departments, clubs, and teams under the same roof as part of the same larger organization.

They have one thing in common, though, they all want resources, and they all want visibility for they do. The office administration wants to get the calendar in front of as many people as possible because it makes their lives easier. The soccer coach wants to promote the soccer team because, well, that’s his team. Each group needs something.

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IT vs. Web Design: An Issue for Catholic Schools

August 24th, 2010 by Adam Fairholm

I grew up being the guys who “knew about computers” and therefore was tech support for many family members, friends, and sometimes teachers. Most of my friends were too, since we were young and knew about computers. It seemed to make sense.

Years later, I am still in that role with family for the most part, but I’ve also learned an important lesson about the differences between areas of technology. So if someone comes to me and says “can you help me with this router”, I’ll try to point out that I really know next to nothing about networking before they ignore me and make me jiggle the cords around to make it look like I’m doing something.

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Tips on Using Facebook for Catholic Schools

August 18th, 2010 by Adam Fairholm

I got a notification recently from Facebook: someone with the same name my old high school wanted to be my friend. Initially, I had no clue what was going on. A few seconds later I realized what had happened: someone at my old high school’s alumni office had made a personal profile for the alumni office and started sending out friend requests.

Although this was a new one to me, I see this sort of thing all the time. Well-intentioned alumni or donor outreach departments turn to Facebook and approach things in the wrong way, misusing the technology and alienating some possible targets for interaction.

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Organizing Your Site With a Sales Mindset

August 11th, 2010 by Adam Fairholm

As we see more and more Catholic school sites here at Catholic School Web Design, we are starting to see a pattern emerge: having a section called “Development” in the navigation.

This strikes us as odd for a few reasons (which we’ll get into below), but after trying to get into the thought process behind having a development section on your website, it does make some sense. People may be looking for information on the development of the school, or development ventures in general.

These development sections usually look like the rest of the site’s template, which links to things like the Annual Fund, the current capital campaign, and even some fundraising events. We’ve even seen sections for alumni put in there.

So there is a reason that all of these schools are putting their development stuff in a “Development” section of their website: logically, it makes some sense. It’s not completely off the wall. However, we think it’s a bad idea, and one that is indicative of a larger problem for a lot of Catholic school site’s organization.

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Great Tips for Creating a Horrible School Website

July 29th, 2010 by Adam Fairholm

Usually we leave links to our Twitter account, but we couldn’t resist with this one. It’s a list of 15 ways to create a horrible non-profit website, and each one is very funny while being painfully true.

There are a few I find to be common for Catholic Schools, so I’ll expand on them here:

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Keeping Your Message Consistent with a Style Guide

July 26th, 2010 by Adam Fairholm

Let’s say that you work for a company that makes toothpicks. You’re a brand new hire. On your first day, you set up your email, and the IT guy tells you that everyone usually makes a simple email footer with their contact information and the company motto. You ask what the company motto is. “Our toothpicks are the best”, he says.

Later in the day, you get an email from someone else in the company. In their email footer, the motto is “Our toothpicks are really great”. Puzzled, you start noticing everyone’s email footer has a different motto. They are all similar, but slightly different. Soon, you start to notice that on brochures and advertisements, the motto changes slightly over and over as well.

Finally you make it to the people in charge and ask them what’s going on. You ask them: how will people remember our motto if it changes all the time? The answer you get is simply no one has gotten around to standardizing it.

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Tools to Outsource Your Site

July 14th, 2010 by Adam Fairholm

The less you have to worry about your school’s website, the better. Every small detail that is taken care of leaves you time to improve on other things that deserve time and attention.

That’s why outsourcing almost everything you can technology-wise is a great way to reduce some common headaches.

To be clear, we’re not talking about having someone do other work for the site for you. We’re talking about using tools freely available make common functions easier and quicker to implement.

The basic scenario goes like this: you have something you want to implement, and you have a choice. You can use make your own version (usually with the help of plugins and online tutorials), or you can outsource it to an established solution. The benefit of an established solution is that there are teams of people working to improve and update the solution all the time. All you have to do is hook it up to your site, and you’re done.

Let’s take a look at some examples of solutions that help you outsource your site.

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