A Great Teacher Has a Great Plan.
A Great Website Takes Preparation Too.
Teachers have always had a secret weapon to help them prepare for classes. While there is no predicting the behavior of the kids in the class, and you never know how they are going to react to your ideas, every class begins with a lesson plan. This blueprint may get adjusted and re-evaluated along the way, but at least the teacher has a rough idea of what needs to be accomplished before delving into a subject.
A great school website design needs planning as well. A great educational web design starts with a sitemap and builds from there. School websites used to be a message board, and there are still great communication capabilities on an educational site. But with advances in technology and the development of cell phone tech, school websites have become a portal by which the entire school functions.
So, what can you do with a great website? What are the keys to making a website that can fully service your faculty, students, and parents? Here are some things to consider when thinking about getting a website developed for your school and district:
1. It starts with mobile responsiveness.
You want people to be able to find your school online, and that means that you will need some help from Google. Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is what needs to be done to a site to make it easy for a searcher to find you online, and it’s also what helps Google decide if you are a site that they should be recommending to users. One of the first thing the “robots” Google uses to test a site look for is mobile responsiveness. Not only will Google ignore your site if it isn’t mobile device friendly, it can actually punish you for not being ready for the mobile era. Mobile-responsive school websites look great and are formatted for cell phones, making them faster when they load. Your students are always on their phones, and an increasing number of adults and staff are increasing their screen time. You simply can’t create a website without designing it with mobile responsiveness as your top priority.
2. An easy-to-use layout and design.
User experience is huge in today’s website design marketplace. A school website design can easily get cluttered, as can a school district website design. There are many teachers, classes, grades, activities, sports, etc., and each wants prime real estate on your site. Your design should be simplified as much as it can, without passing over any pertinent info that someone might be looking for. Google is looking for sites that provide an easy-to-use interface. The last thing Google wants to do is send someone to a site that will frustrate them and cause them to leave the internet without the answers they were looking for.
3. Your website must match your district and branding.
One of the mistakes that many schools and districts make is using a cookie-cutter website design company that really doesn’t understand the people that will be using the site. Your district isn’t like the district down the street, and your high school isn’t the same as one of your elementary schools. When your site goes live, it becomes a billboard for your district. It can be key to passing levies and getting the community to want to be involved in the life of the school. Your site should tell the story of who you are through design, content, and options. Always keep your community’s brand in mind when composing a site.
4. Your site needs to have tiered access to keep information safe.
On a school website there is inevitably going to be information that can’t get into the wrong hands. From medical records and social security numbers to online grades and transcripts, there are some items that only a selected few people should be able to access. Tiered access means that there are some pages the students can go to in order to turn in assignments and update info, while parents have access to updates and forms, and teachers and staff have full access to all information. When you have different levels of security concerns, you need to have different logins and portal access for different classes of users.
5. Your school’s website needs to have high-quality and current content.
There is nothing more frustrating to a parent than trying to find out what time the game starts or when the next field trip is then going on to a school’s website and having to click for 5 minutes to find the information they need. It’s not, however, just about being able to access the information. There should be useful information on the site that answers all relevant questions without having to make a call or fill out a contact form. In fact, an FAQ section can go a long way to appeasing some of the questions and concerns the parents of your school or district may have! Think about the “why.” Why are visitors coming to your website? Why is the teacher experience going to be different than the student experience? When you can answer the “why,” you’ll know exactly what content you will need and what format it should take (i.e. blog, video, page, etc.) in order to best serve its purpose.
It’s a lot to take in. The website discussion will take some time. It can get overwhelming if you’ve never been through it. That’s why Company 119 is here. We’ve built websites for entire school districts, as well as individual schools, both public and private. We’ve had the discussions, and we know where other companies fell short of expectations on school website designs. So, contact the team that Northeast Ohio trusts to put together unique, high-performance websites for academic institutions.