Creating Great Education Websites

11-12-2014

Creating websites for schools can be a challenging process for website designers who supply to schools, having to contend with multiple audiences with different requirements and expectations, not to mention the different ways they interact and engage.

Design for the user

As with any website, it should be created with the end user in mind, taking into account factors such as:-

  • Who are the audience? How many audiences are there, what are the typical ages, gender, web literacy?
  • What will they expect?
  • What kind of interaction is best suited to them and how do you get them to engage?
  • What kind of personas will they have and is your design supportive of those?

The likelihood is you’ll need to cater for many varied but core user groups such as parents (including potential parents), students and teachers. The tricky part is striking a balance between design that appeals to each group without compromising the others.

There’s many schools of thought (no pun intended) in tackling this issue, with some taking an approach of a universal site catering for all audiences. Others may take the route of a core design, then segregating users into different sections and providing content - along with interface changes - to cater for them.

Do your research

An important part of the process which is often missed is the research element of the project; consider Focus Groups and User-Centric Testing (different things, commonly mistaken for the same). These investments in the initial stages of the site’s development will allow you to build a great picture of what your users look for and how to make the site work for them.

Engagement is everything

Whatever you do, it’s important you keep the users at the forefront of your mind. It’s those that will make the site successful and reach its aims. Remember, engagement is everything.

When it comes to functionality and features, take a grassroots-approach and understand what people expect from a school website, the likelihood is you’ll need to include things such as:-

  • Calendar of events
  • Form downloads and information around procedures
  • Term times and holiday information
  • Performance results such as Ofsted
  • Ways to contact staff

Once you’ve understood the needs, it’s good practice to cascade down the wants of the school and meet in the middle. This point is a breeding ground for ideas and innovation, so take time to develop a site to it’s full potential and drive ideas forward.

It’s personal choice how you deal with stages like this and it’ll depend on the way you manage projects and develop ideas, but whatever you do, our advice is to entertain all ideas and allow every member of your team, along with the school’s team to contribute and discuss; give them an open environment where all ideas are welcome.

When taking ideas to the next stage, remember that design and user experience should form part of the technical scope as it’s as much part of the success of the feature than the functionality.

Need help?

I'm more than happy to have a chat about how to make your project end in a lovely place. Feel free to drop me an email, tweet or call me.