June 1st, 2016
6 Tips For Building a School Website

As an IT manager your school may have tasked you with redesigning your school’s website. With so many things that you have to do in a day maintaining a school’s information technology department, building a school website can seem like a time consuming and daunting task. We’ve put together a list of items you should consider when you’re getting ready to take this on.

Who’s the target visitor?

In a school website your trying to target students, parents, prospective students and their parents, as well as athletes and staff. That’s a lot of different people to build a website around. This can often bloat a page count on a website because each grade, teacher, sport, and administrator will need pages assigned to them. Each will need a calendar of events and other features that can complicate a website.

When you’re speaking with your web designer they should understand those user targets and how each will interact with the website. Find a web designer who will have flexibility for each segment of your user and knows how to account for this.

Who will use and administrate?

You may be the overall website administrator, but will teachers, school administrators, or coaches have the ability to manage their content or schedule? PTA’s and booster clubs may also want to have the ability to manage their pages. Will each student have their own login to access their accounts and see what’s going on in their classroom? These tiers of administration can become cumbersome and often lead to confusion for users.

Your web developer needs to understand how these permissions will work and you should have a spreadsheet or CSV file of each of these groups when you head into the development of the website. If you’re not working with a developer who can handle these sometimes complex databases, it will limit the effectiveness of the website.

What features do you need?

We’ve discussed calendaring and scheduling of events, but what about blocking practice fields or the weight room? Are you planning fundraisers throughout the year? Do each of your classrooms have outings or trips that need to be funded? Handing out flyers and sending emails may traditionally be how you handle these items but is it the most efficient or effective way to do it? Do you want to sell tickets to these events online and have easy check in at the gate?

These are often very specific plugins or custom development needs that your web developer should be familiar with. Speak with your administrators and teachers about what things they’re currently doing to see if any of that can be brought to the full website, or their specific pages. When you sit down with your developer sharing these things will ensure a much smoother process. If they don’t know how to do these things it can hamper how easily your users can work with your website.

What applications will you need to tie into?

You may already be using a homework and grade application, or a sports application for upcoming events and tracking athlete performance. Your visitors shouldn’t have to leave the site or have the design of those areas look different from your school’s brand. Most web based applications offer API’s that will allow you to tie into their application right on your website.

If a web designer that you meet with is not familiar with API integrations or haven’t done them with a wide variety of companies, this can really affect how your users feel about the website you’re building.

Will you sell spirit wear?

E-commerce isn’t just Amazon and eBay. Having the ability to sell school spirit wear can greatly increase the revenues for your sports, band, PTA booster groups. However, e-commerce can greatly increase the cost of building a website and the complexity of the development.

If your support groups and boosters (even your teachers) want to sell items related to their activity or an event, find out from your prospective web designer if they have built e-commerce sites in the past and how expensive they were to build.

How much time will you need to build this?

If you were given the summer to build this website because kids our out of school and traffic is low, you only have about 12 weeks to complete this and have it ready for next year’s first day. So what other IT projects do you have going on that could hamper your ability to get content? Will each teacher have content ready? When will you all be trained on how to use the website? There are a lot of things to consider when it comes to the timeline of building a website.

Find out from your developer how much input you’ll need to give. Websites of this size can take 4-6 months to develop if planning isn’t done correctly. This can make the cost of the build soar as time goes on so if your budget is fixed be sure to cover what your budget is for a minimum viable product and make sure they can truly deliver all of your features in that timeframe.

Where does Build / Create fit into this?

Build / Create has been building websites for organizations like schools for a very long time and have created products like Collegiate, Clubhouse, and Nessie to expedite this process and give schools the ability to do all the things they need in a shorter timeframe and for less than custom developers.

We’re here every step of the way to help in the process. From giving you pointers on how to design and develop a school website to training your staff in making it the most powerful tool in your school district.

If you have any questions, feel free to ask and we’ll work with you to get you in the right direction.