My parents recently began a kitchen remodel. There are essentially two types of people when it comes to home renovations—those who do it themselves and those who would rather hire someone to do it for them.
Once upon a time, my dad undertook a home-plumbing project. He thought it would be simple and figured he could do himself. He was wrong; it was a fiasco. In the end, he called a plumber to come and fix it anyway. Ever since then, he has not tried to complete a project he knows he can hire someone with the education and experience to do for him.
Even though my parents hired experts, the kitchen remodel has been stressful. One of the biggest stress factors has been the lack of communication from the contractors. On the one hand, my parents trust that they know their business. On the other hand, it is a foreign process and understanding the process would have been nice.
If you are contemplating undertaking a school website development process, I imagine you’re feeling a little stressed. There are definite pros and cons to building a school website the DIY route. If you have tried it and are ready to hire professionals, you’ve come to the right place! Just as it would have been nice for my parents to know what to expect from start to finish, we invite you to take a behind-the-scenes look at the School Webmasters’ website development process.
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What to expect during website development
As you search for a school website developer, it may be difficult to differentiate one option from the next, and many of the processes may seem similar. But there are a few key services we offer during the development process that set us apart.
First, we assign your project to a project coordinator; this is your single point of contact for the duration of the website development process. Your project manager will send you a development questionnaire. This helps us gather information about your school or district and understand your website redesign goals. After you complete the questionnaire, you’ll meet with your project manager to talk about what you’d like to see on your new school website and determine a development timeline. You’re welcome to show examples of websites and features you like, and your project manager will help you choose a template from our library of Standard and Customized website designs. If you’ve opted for a Premiere website, you’ll discuss your layout preferences, and a graphic designer will develop a unique prototype for your approval.
School website development is often a team project, with lots of individuals at your school offering input and feedback. Having a single point of contact on our end improves your customer experience. Your project coordinator will be available and responsive throughout the development process. To really streamline the process, it helps to designate a single point of contact at your school too.
At School Webmasters, we understand that your school website is a key communications tool for connecting and engaging your community. Your project manager will want to know what your school communication goals are and what you want to accomplish with your new website. They will also help you decide what pages you need, what kind of calendar to use, and whether you want to use your own photos or have a graphic designer find great stock images.
In addition to your project coordinator, your development team will include a professional copywriter, graphic designer, user interface designer, content and graphic layout staff, editor/proofreader, and quality control team.
Any communication specialist will tell you that “content is king.” So while the layout and design of your website is very important; the text that fills your pages is arguably more important. Many website developers require you to provide the content to fill the pages of your new website, or they simply copy and paste your old content to your new site. Chances are, your staff is too busy to write pages of new content for your website, and using your old content on your brand-new website wouldn’t help you meet your school marketing and communication goals.
That’s why our copywriters develop a new site navigation that is intuitive and organized and then rewrite and update your existing content. We have years of experience with school website content best practices. And don’t worry! You stay in control of the content. We gather information from your old school website and interview key school personnel. We’ll fill your website with current, useful information written in a friendly, professional tone. And we will edit and proof the content before adding it to the website. Trust us, it’s easier to edit and approve new content, than write it all yourself!
Graphics and branding
Branding your school website is an important step in the design process. Our graphics department will use your logo or mascot to create unique headers and footers for the site and select a relevant color scheme based on your input and school colors.
Your colors and logo are just one element of school branding. Beyond that, the graphics and photos throughout your website communicate your school culture and market your school. We prefer to use images and photos of and from your school; we even provide you with a list of recommended photos for your website to help you build your image library and visually tell your school’s story. However, if needed, our team will select stock images to fill your pages, based on your communications goals.
Our user interface designers add the approved content and graphics to your new website design and build a responsive, ADA compliant website that will look great on a desktop, tablet, or phone.
Your user interface designer will build the functionality for all the required features of your website and, depending on your chosen package, will code the buttons, menus, icons, and hover effects that will make your school website stand out.
Your school website then goes through a harrowing system of checks and double checks to ensure a quality user experience and cross-device and browser compatibility.
Finally, your website is proofed one more time and sent to you for final approval.
What happens when the website is complete?
Your school decides when to take your website live. If needed, our team can help with that final launch.
Our hosting services, including the “housing” for the website, are permanently connected to the Internet with 99.99% uptime. Your website stays safe and protected with managed backups, scheduled server maintenance, and security updates to assure that your data remains secure.
Where a self-hosted CMS would leave you to troubleshoot on your own, we have real, live people available to help with any issues or problems that may arise.
What happens after the launch?
Your school website is kind of like a living entity in that it requires updates and maintenance to be the communications and marketing tool it should be. With most school website developers, once your website is launched, you might get some training on how to keep it updated, but then you’re on your own.
On the contrary, we don’t leave you with a fond farewell after the launch; we are in it for long haul. You stay in control of the content, but we handle all the time-consuming, back-end work. Send us your news, upcoming events, meetings, and announcements, and we’ll take care of navigation, placement, formatting, organization, punctuation, grammar, tone, and ADA compliance.
Sending us your information is as easy as sending an e-mail. Here’s an example of how it might work:
It’s the start of summer vacation for Ellsworth Elementary School and Josie, the school’s administrative assistant, needs to add the summer food program hours to their website. She logs in to the School Webmasters customer service portal and copy/pastes the following information from the e-mail she received from the district administrator:
School hours to add to homepage:
Summer Food program at Ellsworth
May 30-June 30
Breakfast 7:15-8:00 am
From start to finish, the process takes Josie about a minute.
Renee, one of School Webmasters’ updaters, takes the information provided by Josie and creates an update that has a friendly tone and active voice. The announcement is formatted and styled according to best practices.
Rather than clutter the Home page with information that will be outdated in a few months, Renee places the announcement on the News page and links to it from the news teaser on the Home page. The announcement will stay on the News page until July 1, when it will expire and be removed. She may also add it to the Ellsworth Elementary calendar, so that any parent checking there first won’t miss the dates and times.
The news announcement reads:
Summer Food Program
Our summer food program returns to Ellsworth Elementary from May 30 to June 30. The cafeteria will be open Monday through Friday for breakfast from 7:15 a.m. to 8:00 a.m. Lunch will be available Monday through Friday from 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.
The best part? Josie doesn’t have to give this update a second thought. Placement, formatting, organization, punctuation, grammar, and tone are all handled. And because the announcement will automatically expire and remove from the website, the site will never be cluttered with outdated information.
Sometimes after a few months, and definitely after a few years, a school website can start to look stale and outdated. But you won’t need to waste precious budget dollars on a redesign unless you opt for a whole new look; our graphics department will also post and update pictures, create slideshows, organize navigation, and add buttons or any other design element that will keep your site fresh, clean, intuitive, and welcoming for years to come. We also make sure your images are at the optimal size for your website so page download times and responsiveness are ideal for desktop, tablets, and phones.
We complete all of your requests as quickly as possible—within two business days at the longest. Our update team’s goal is to complete requests within 24 hours. We even have team members working over the weekends, and we complete most requests within just a few hours. You can even mark a request “urgent” if it is particularly time-sensitive.
Our school websites are also equipped with emergency pop-ups to which you and designated staff members have direct access. With this feature, you can post school closures and any other immediately necessary information on the forefront of your websites. We also have an incredible customer service department available to help you with your requests; our team is available for advice, technical support, and troubleshooting when needed.
Behind the scenes, our quality control (QC) team monitors and audits your school website. We check your school website at least every two months for broken links, errors, or anything out of place. This team makes sure your website continues to perform optimally in multiple browsers. We also work hard to ensure our update team is careful and accurate with your updates by performing monthly quality checks.
QC will contact your school if there is anything outdated, redundant, or that might work better on another page. They will also reach out throughout the year with reminders and tips and tricks for keeping your website fresh, up to date, and working toward your communication goals.
A school website’s primary purpose is communication, right? As educators, communication doesn’t always play a key role in the day-to-day activities. But marketing and school public relations, features of school communication, are becoming more and more a necessary role for schools. For that reason, we also offer additional services to turn your school website into the school marketing and public relations machine it should be.
Website Accessibility Training, Audits & Document Remediation
Anyone who creates documents for your school needs to be trained in website accessibility. At no additional cost to our clients, we offer ADA training for your school staff. Training is available for all of the major programs used to create public-facing documents including Microsoft Word, Microsoft Excel, Microsoft Powerpoint, Microsoft Publisher, Google Docs, Adobe Acrobat, Adobe InDesign, and YouTube Video captioning. With our training website, you’ll be able to track who has completed the training and print reports (which are required if you’ve received a complaint from the Office of Civil Rights).
If you have received a complaint from the Office of Civil Rights, or if you’re just curious about the accessibility status of your school website, we offer affordable website accessibility audits. We’ll provide a detailed report of the accessibility issues found, a list of criteria that do not meet guidelines, recommended changes, and a corrective action plan to help your school undertake the task of bringing your school website into compliance.
Finally, maintaining the accessibility of your public-facing documents is an important part of maintaining accessibility. This means that all of your past and current documents need to be accessible. Not only do we have the services to train your staff to make accessible documents, but we can help remediate (bring into compliance) all of your existing documents.
Logo Design & Print Services
If your logo is looking a little dated, your mascot could use a major makeover, or your school brand needs an overhaul, our graphics department can help you out. We have a team of graphic designers who can assist you with any project you can dream up—from brochures, flyers, posters, and postcards to promotional event products and document template design.
Social Media Management
A strong school social media strategy goes hand-in-hand with your website in engaging your community and marketing your school. Your school needs to make an effort to communicate with your audience in places they habitually check every day. And as social media rises in prevalence, social media is more and more the place to be.
We offer a variety of social media packages for schools that range from page set-up and support to full channel management. Our social media management services become an extension of your school website. Your personal social media manager monitors the website updates you send in and drives traffic from your social connections to your school website.
It’s easy enough for many schools to send us announcements, events, and meetings to keep the school website and social media updated. But if you want to set your school apart from the competition, especially in this climate of school choice, your school needs to engage your audience with news and stories from your school. Gathering those stories and writing them up is something for which most schools have zero time.
Your School Deserves So Much More Than a Website Developer
We do all this work for your school because we want to be your school’s communication partner. We offer a complete system that truly allows you to manage your content—easily and cost-effectively. You maintain control of your content and message without worrying about all those other nuances of keeping a website updated and compliant.
You probably began your school website development project by looking into school website content management systems. But what you found was a lot of content management software—programs that will allow you to update and manage your school website. That’s pretty par-for-the-course when it comes to school websites. A designer will charge you thousands of dollars to build a fancy facade for your school website. But in the end, you’re left with the old content you started with and the same system you’ve always used for maintaining your website. We find that without help, new school websites become outdated, out of ADA compliance, and disorganized, sometimes within a few months of launching.
We claim to be the proverbial “orange in the apple box” by offering the whole system schools need to develop a new school website and then keep that site, beautiful, fresh, updated, and useful year in and year out.
Give us a call today at 888.750.4556. We’d love to tell you more about what we do here at School Webmasters.
To learn more about our processes, check out the short video below and meet some of our staff as we tell you how it works when we go to work for you!
Katie Brooks, Public Relations Manager