Education policy makers are continuously improving Australian School’s ICT (Information and Communications Technology) infrastructure and eLearning in schools across Australia is gaining momentum. In the light of digital advancement, schools and educational institutions are recognising the importance of their school’s website to address the needs of their target audience. Parents and prospective students are more likely to view school’s website before contacting the school for more information.
Website design for Schools and Educational institutions are slightly different to that of other commercial websites. School websites are not necessarily inclined toward commercial aspect but more focused in providing updated information about the their schools, courses, campus activities, facilities, scholarships, student support services and more.
Key features every School website should consider
Page for downloading forms & reports
Prospective parents, current students and staff are likely to visit the school website to download forms. Download page should be categorised neatly and enable users to easily download the required information.
Calendar for school term events
School website should keep their Term Events page updated this is so that parents and students can reference them when they require.
Photo galleries showcasing school activities
Picture speaks thousand words and creating a photo gallery is a good way to visually showcase school’s activities like fundraising, music and camping.
Regular newsletters to keep parents and students updated
Most schools compile regular newsletter. Some schools send their newsletter by posts. Uploading School’s newsletter on the website helps parents, students and staff to read about schools current and past news.
Page last updated stamp for all pages
Many school website seems to ignore this feature in particular. Having a date stamp for every page will help readers in determining the freshness of the content.
Printer friendly pages for printing
There are users who would rather prefer to take a printout to read the material and providing a printer friendly page would allow them to take a printout and enable them to read the content at their own space and time.
Contact page to contact school’s staff members
Not every students and parents are likely to remember their school’s staff email or contact details. Having a staff’s name listed with the option to contact the concerned staff personally would help anyone wishing to contact the individual staff.
Technical requirements for designing a school website
While designing a website for schools there are many technical considerations that needs to be addressed. Experienced web designers are likely to implement these issues.
Recommended technical requirements for School website
School website should aim to meet W3C Web Content Accessibility Guidelines. Accessibility guidelines explain how to make content on the web accessible to people with disabilities. You could read for more information about W3C guidelines – http://www.w3.org/TR/WCAG20/. Make sure all images have a proper “alt” or “title” tags describing what the images is about. This will help visually impaired users to be able to read and understand.
Less use of flash and annimation
Flash applications are not supported by iPhone and iPad. Some users may not have flash installed on their browsers and there are organisations which restricts access to flash applications. Building a website with heavy flash and animated content could make your school’s website inaccessible to some of the above users. If you have to use flash then it should be kept to a minimum.
Aesthetics and Fonts
Users visit schools website to find information. The font size should be taken into consideration. Ideally the recommended font size is 11pixel in Times New Roman or Arial. The background colour is also important while designing a school website, background colour should ideally be in white. Have a white background with black font is soothing to the eye and more likely to be read.
Planning and navigation
Navigation strategies and categorisation of pages should be planned and discussed early at the design stage of the website design process. A well planned school website is likely to provide their visitors with a better user experience.
Captcha for forms
With so much spam in today’s digital age, care must be taken to reduce spam. Implementing captcha is one way to reduce spam.
Remember, website visitors who have not been to the school physically are likely make their impression about the school based on the school website. Having commercial banner advertisements on the School’s website, school website with poor navigation and outdated content may reflect negatively. It is better not to have a website than have a school website that is poorly designed and outdated. A well designed and maintained website is an asset and potentially could grow to become an integral part in helping the School in achieving their vision.