Open up the home pages of a handful of K-12 schools (public and private) and colleges and universities. For fun, take a look at the top 5-10 non-school websites you visit most often and explore them with an eye for functionality and design. The content could be drastically different (what do they showcase, how do they present content, is it unique, is it super helpful to an audience?) so you’ll want to spend most of your time on design: How are different elements separated (borders, white space, design element, header, background, etc.). Surveying websites is a bit like borrowing others notes, but then personalizing it so it’s not a direct copy.
One place to start is this list from my friend Jason – 33 Favorite Higher Ed Websites Selected by Peers – 2019 edition.
And now for another type of survey, asking parents to complete a survey about communications. I am not sure this needs to be done every year, but every other can be a help. If you aren’t offering a new survey this year, then rely on last year’s results to see what parents ‘need’ first. It usually centers around the school calendar, meals, special events, sports schedule, and so forth. Parent needs can change drastically over a decade or a generation, but the year-to-year trends are slower changing.
My friend Emily asked me recently to look at her organization’s website for feedback because they were considering a redesign. I think I took away more from this exercise than I rewarded her with. The biggest thing was their use of white space and smiling photos. For me, it looked terrific, but only they can know if the website matches the needs and wants of their audience.
Parent needs can change drastically over a decade or a generation, but the year-to-year trends are slower changing.
When you are done with either or both of those tasks, re-visit your home page.
- Do you make it easy and intuitive for your various audiences to find the information they say they need first?
- If you do have it online, is it easy to find?
- Can it be found in multiple places? For example, if a school encourages students to visit schoolsite.edu/students because it is made just for them, make sure that landing page also has the ‘need’ info first, which might mean showcasing that day’s menus, and that day’s school events and schedule.
It’s ok to duplicate the content (especially if it auto-updates and isn’t duplicating the work).
Survey, tweak, adapt and make your website and communications just a little bit better.
Want me to glance at your website to give you a few thoughts? I’d love to, but I’m warning you I may get more out of this than you! Reach out to me.