While it may seem preposterous that a school might not have a website, there are many schools that either don’t have a website or don’t have one that they can manage themselves to produce timely updates. If you find yourself tasked with updating a school website, or maybe you are creating one from scratch, then there are many elements to keep in mind. The details will vary from school to school, but knowing what it takes to design a school website that is both functional and user-friendly will result in a school website that appeals to teachers, students and guests.
Planning for a New School Website
Like many aspects of business, careful planning can make a job much easier to put into practice. And, when it comes to designing your school website having a plan is one of the most important things you can do. In fact, whether you build the site on your own or have Page Progressive do it for you, having planned what you want the page to include will, in the long run, save you time and frustration later on (even if it doesn’t seem so at the outset!). Start with a group that includes school administrators, teachers, library media specialists, tech people, parents, community members and students. Ask the group the following nine questions regarding your plans for a school website:
- Why do we need a website?
- Who is our audience?
- How will our resources be used?
- What will make guest want to revisit the website?
- What disclaimers should be posted for users?
- What policies and procedures need to be in place?
- What guidelines will there be for content?
- Who will be the webmaster, the content coordinator, the writer(s) and the editors?
- Are there any legal issues that need to be addressed?
If you find yourself questioning the need for an updated school website, then consider these reasons that people visit a school site. Here are a few of them:
- To get information about school closings, homework assignments, school news and activities.
- When relocating- Many parents today look up the school(s) their child(ren) will be attending before making a move. They are looking for info on the curriculum, technologies, mission and other aspects that make your school unique.
- To see school work/projects- As we no longer live in a society were one’s family lives in the same community. Oftentimes, extended family will visit their niece /nephew’s /grandchildren’s school website to see pics of projects or perhaps even read a report.
- To find out how to apply to attend the school.
Focuses of a School Website’s Homepage
Since most guests to your site will begin on the homepage, it is important that you make the most of this prime location. The homepage’s primary purpose is to promote your school. A great feature for your homepage would be a well-done video that tells site guests who and what makes your school special. Your secondary focuses of the homepage is what actions you want people to take after viewing the video or content of your homepage. Some of these actions may include:
- Checking out the school calendar of events
- Signing up for the school newsletter
- Selecting a call to action to get involved with the school or community events
By using content such as pictures, video or even recommendations from parents, students or community sponsors you will be able engage site guests and introduce them to your school. However, you do not want to overwhelm your guests with too much information.
Must Haves of a School Website
In addition to the homepage content, you will want the remaining pages to be engaging and contain a title, navigation tools and when applicable, an e-mail address where guests can request additional information. Other elements that are considered the must-haves of a school website are:
- Responsive design– Be sure it can be viewed on a mobile device or a PC.
- Good use of imagery and video content-Text, even on a school website, can get monotonous. Engage guests with videos of student events and activities and pictures of sports, debate, drama, etc. groups. However, don’t sacrifice content for images. Be sure that the pages incorporate the school colors and logo.
- Strong layout– Have a structured, easily navigated website with clean, clear appearance.
- Audience groups– Remember who will visit the site-prospective students and parents, current pupils, staff, alumni and outsiders. (Keep in mind that you don’t want to expose your student body to unwanted attention, so you should keep personal information-names, ages, etc. – out of the web content as much as possible. You may want to have signed release forms in order to include names.)
- Teacher Sites- While some may not consider this a must have, you will be surprised at how useful this page can be. A teacher site provides a place where each teacher can publish content, keep parents up to date, give tips for projects or assignments, etc. If you are designing your school website on your own, look into the Multisite plugin available through WordPress.
Ideas for Content on a School Website
School information (about us):
Curriculum: (What we do)
Community: (What we support)
As you design your school website, be sure that you keep these ideas in mind so that you can make your site all that you want. Talk to your planning team, listen to their input and before you know it, your school website will be all that you want it to be.
Designing a school website can be a bit daunting. If you are looking to develop a school website that engages and invites guests, why not give Page Progressive a call. You can view our portfolio of school websites here or our full portfolio here. We will be glad to talk to you and help you design a school website you can be proud of.