Along with many other jobs, redesigning the school website is one of my tasks over the next few weeks and months. I aim to make a start now, then adapt and amend as I discuss it with parents, children and staff once I start at school in September. Can I design a website without knowing much about the school beforehand? I think it is possible. I know what I want to achieve with it, so I can lay the foundations at least.
The hardest part for me is deciding where everything goes. Do school newsletters go on the website or the VLE? What about photos from that trip we’ve been on? What goes on both? Who manages the website? As much as possible, I want to type/post once and for it to appear in several places. Linking via embeddable features and RSS feeds will help to reduce this. For example, if we post on our blog, it will appear automatically on Twitter and via RSS feed to our website and VLE.
I set up the website at my old school (www.hulbertjunior.co.uk) a few years back and I was very pleased with it. It did the job, it promoted our school. In the area are a number of similar schools and we wanted to stand out and it worked as a few children came to look at our school as a result of the website. We used Joomla and I will probably do so again, partly because of ease of use. I have considered WordPress but I see that more as a blogging tool than a whole website.
So what do I need?
The ‘boring/important stuff’ – I need prospectus-type information. I want to have details of the school uniform, homework and information about the lunch menu. Exciting? Not really, but it’s the kind of stuff that parents need to be able to get hold of, so that’s going on there.I might try and jazz it up a bit, but it’s needed.
Newsletters – I’d love to move towards a reduced-paper school. We won’t get paper-free for a few years yet, but putting newsletters, policies and other such documents online will be easy to do. There will always be someone that forgets to download it or doesn’t have internet access so paper is needed sometimes, but I bet we can reduce it by 90%. Hopefully this can be updated by office staff too and once they see how easy this is to do, there shouldn’t be an issue. Children’s homework/spelling sheets can go online, probably on the VLE as they’ll be next to links and activities.
Pictures – The VLE will have pictures. Tonnes of them. With comment boxes. I don’t think I want comments on the website, I’m happy for some photos to go on there to showcase our adventures and experiences, but we don’t need comments too. Putting pictures on the website gives it a friendly appeal and we are a friendly, welcoming school. Yes I will be using pictures of children and yes, I’ll be following our rules about that too. Maybe we can include photos of staff too although it’ll probably end up with drawings instead as quite often adults don’t like their photo being online, except on Facebook of course!
Learning – I want to showcase some work on the website, not everything like on the VLE, but great examples that we can show to others that do not have access to the VLE.
Blogs – We’ll be blogging and tweeting from September, so these will be fed to the website in a number of ways to help link together our ideas and experiences. We’ll get a twitter plguin too so that can feed directly to the website as well.
Useful Links – These will be in the VLE too as I want to make them useful and relevant to the learning, but the general links that are useful to everyone such as e-safety, will be on the website too. Maybe embedded so it looks fancier, who knows.
Other bits – We’re going to have a google map so people can find us and a visitor count to see if people have found us. A CEOP panic button is always useful to ensure children are safe online too.
So what do you think are the essentials for a good school website? What does yours look like? Would you change it if you could?