By Richard Mills (CEO/Founder – Digital Schools)

Imagine a time you have been in another country and have been forced to head down to the supermarket to pick up some supplies.

On your list is water, instant coffee, crackers, cheese, panadol, antiseptic hand wash, batteries, band-aids and toothpaste.

You get transport into town, get out of the cab and run inside. What would be a 5-minute shop at home is quickly turning into a 20-minute shop in this supermarket that is ‘ridiculously disorganized’.

You are becoming increasingly frustrated because nothing is where it should be.

You are pacing up and down the isles to try to find a few simple items but alas they are just not there. It’s so frustrating – you walk out!

Sadly, many school website designs are so disorganized that this is the experience they are giving their prospective (and current) families online.

In this post, I am going to give you some simple strategies to ensure that your next website design does not leave the tourists tearing their hair out!

 

Plan who your school website is for…. first

Knowing who your target market is one of the most important steps to this whole process.

If your website is designed to sell it should be set up to sell.

If your site is designed to share information and manage current families it should be designed to do just that.

If you said “hang on a second, we need both of those” you are with the rest of us!

Most school websites should cater for both current and prospective families – but finding the balance is the tricky part. Here is our method below.

 

Break your main menu up into areas that serve prospective parents and current parent

At Digital Schools we love using large ‘mega-menus’.

With a mega-menu, you can nicely break your school website design up into different areas whilst still retaining good navigation structure.

You also get the ability to add subtitles to your menu structure too – and that’s great for organizing the key areas even further.

Here is an example of a mega-menu we use for some of our schools: 

 

Here is the structure:

1. Title: “The Chirnside Difference”

2. 4 x Sub-Titles: “Our School”, “Our Core Focus”, “Specialised Teaching” and “How We Teach and Support”

3. 18 x Pages: I won’t list them all but they are the pages that site underneath the subtitles eg. Principals Welcome, Meet the Teachers, Grounds & Facilities, Literacy, Numeracy etc

You will notice that the other “Title Menu” items or top-level menu items are broken up for prospective parents and current parents.

The current parent’s tab at the top is the place where we embed most of the information that current parents need.

 

Give your prospective parents a place to easily find what they need

Work to give your current parents an online experience that not only saves them time but actually allows them to find the information they need!

In our opinion, the best way to help them is to include a tab at the top that is just for them: “Current Parents”.

Under that, they will find everything they need, quickly and easily.

You can still include widgets, blog feeds and other updates in other places across the site, but having a simple way for them to find what they need at the top takes out any possible confusion.

The fact that it says “Current Parents” really limits the possibility of anyone getting lost.

If you have a more complex website that dynamically engages your current parent group you can also give them a mega-menu (see above) to help organize the information that they need a little bit more logically.

 

Conclusion

Making an online experience enjoyable is certainly one of the biggest challenges for school website designers and developers – and the school community alike.

Like with anything, a carefully thought out plan for your school website design is the best place to start.

Follow these simple steps to achieve maximum success.

Giving all of our customers (prospective and current) an experience that is informative and also saves time is surely the very best outcome you could hope for.

By Richard Mills (CEO/Founder – Digital Schools)