More often, today, a school web site is most likely going to be the first thing a prospective family will see before they decide to take a step into enrolling their child in a school. If you don’t have a web site or your web site hasn’t been updated for a long time, it doesn’t look good. Essentially, your school’s web site is your school’s prospectus.
It’s therefore very tempting to ask a professional web designer to make you a beautiful looking web site. While this is nothing new, (schools have been paying for web design since the mid 1990s), the whole dynamic of web site design has completely transformed.
Today’s web sites must be dynamic and be updated regularly by staff.
Back in the early days of school web sites, web sites tended to be static affairs that were generally there to give information about the school. Today’s web sites must be dynamic and be updated regularly by staff. Parents expect to be able to see examples of the work going on in the school so that family can share in the fantastic experiences children have at school. In order for this to happen, teachers need to be able to update the web site.
Before blogs came along, this was an annoying and reasonably difficult affair with teachers forced to go to a particular computer in the school to update things. With the advent of blogs, all this changed and now most teacher can update the school web site from anywhere with an Internet connection. The biggest game changer in terms of blogging for schools was Scoilnet’s blogging service with hundreds of schools signed up to blog.
While Scoilnet Blogs’ service and quality is very good, some schools want a unique presence on the Internet and getting a professional web designer in seems to be becoming a talking point lately. Before venturing into hiring a professional, it might be good to consider these two points:
Stick with Scoilnet
This might not be what you want to hear but Scoilnet provide some lovely themes that are more than professional enough for a school.
Have you got an MIS?
If you are using a Management Information System such as Aladdin or eChipmunk, check to see if they offer a web site function. Both the mentioned MISs offer this service and it might tie in nicely with your current set up.
However, if you’re still turned on by a professional design, the most important thing you can do is to ensure that your staff will be able to update the web site easily and from anywhere. I would recommend that if you are getting a professional in, that you stick with a WordPress Platform. This is the one that Scoilnet Blogs and EduBlogs use and is by far the easiest of the professional platforms to use. Some professionals might try out Joomla, which is good but a little bit more difficult to use.
Another consideration is to check for after sales support. For example, during Christmas, I like to add Santa Hats to my school’s logo. While I am capable of coding this, it’s unlikely most school principals are. It’s a really simple job but will a professional add these little features? More importantly than Santa hats, you may want some sort of important notice on the front of the web site for a limited time, e.g. news about school closures due to snow. Can your professional ensure this is possible?
A final and incredibly important factor is to ensure you get the Administrator username and password. Often professionals will give everyone a username and password and keep the admin one in case you need to ring for help. You should have access to this in case, for example, the company go out of business. Without the username and password, you’ll never be able to access the important backend features of the web site and one day you may need to.
There are probably hundreds of design-related issues that could be discussed in this article but your own personal taste will dictate how your school web site is going to look. If I was to give a general few tips: Keep it clean, keep it colourful and keep away from GIF animations!
If you’ve any experiences, good or bad, around hiring a professional web designer, please add some comments below.
Last Update: August 18, 2017