We Need a Website....why?

Our department watched a demo of the free version of a hosted website for the school district this morning. My boss has been rolling through the demos and calls in response to her RFP that she put out for webhosting….and this was just another step in the horrendous but necessary Erate process. For those of you not in education, don't ask. Erate is a pain to deal with, although it does allow schools to actually afford technology.

But I digress. As we were watching the demo, a flash of "duh" hit me: what do we even want to accomplish with our website? Everyone knows that if an organization does not have a compelling website, it, in essence, fails to exist. The world does not revolve around yellow phonebooks anymore. But why do we need one with a bunch of bells and whistles? And who is it for? It seemed that we were focusing a lot on comparing shiny things from one CMS company with the perhaps more-shiny tools and widgets from another CMS company.....

As I sat there and thought, I came up with several questions as to our motive of why we, as a school district, need a website. While this is not an exhaustive list, I feel that these are some very important questions we need to ask ourselves:

  • Who is our target audience? Do we want to reach the community? Are we trying to increase our ADA (if so, we'll want to feature more prominently our most attractive offerings)? If this site is meant solely for students or staff, it will have a much more functional and not rely so much on the wow factor. Who are we trying to impress? If we're trying to attract more talent in the way of teachers and/or administrators or even students, we'll have to really push the wow and shininess and have some pretty good content.

  • What information do we really need to publish? What is our community, students, parents, teachers, administrators and staff really interested in and need to know? What content is truly necessary, and worth sharing?

  • Do we want collaboration and social networking? This was a big question that came up from our discussion today. Social networking is huge. Collaboration is huge. Do we want to leverage either one? How? Are the benefits really worth the time and effort, and will our teachers and students actually use it? Interaction can really drive the use of a website.

  • Who is expected to manage the website and how? I refuse to be the only one updating and maintaining content on the website--not only do I not have enough time in addition to my other duties, I'm not the expert on what's going on at the sites. The people on the front lines need to be the ones creating and updating content. Which begs another question: is the website easy enough for my most computer illiterate teacher to use on a daily basis?

  • What do we want our website to say about us? A website gives visitors a first impression of what the school or district is like. Just as first impressions are vital in job interviews, they are no less important when considering the look and feel of a webpage. As someone who has grown up with the Internet, Google has all the answers to my questions, and if a website does not provide the answer to what I'm looking for--you might as well forget it.

I am not a web designer, so I'm sure I forgot some questions in there, but as a department I felt like we were getting off track in the sense of focusing on the bells and whistles and shiny new things, rather than focusing on what information we need to provide, and to whom we need to provide it. There are many more technical questions that need to be answered when considering a website, such as whether it integrates with a current authentication system, but schools need to figure out the intent of the website before considering the technology that is going to provide the answers to that intent.

And, yes, it appears that upgrading our website is going to be another project in addition to everything else we are doing this summer.


  1. Hi Matt- Our children & I were looking at Rachel's pictures from Bear River Camp. They wanted to see if you posted any pictures. Then, we read your soap-box message and saw your blog. I just read some of it. Once upon a time in a prior life I used to be a techy. I enjoyed reading some of your blog entries - even though I'm too out-dated to be up-to-date with current technology. But, this one about why we need a web-site was very good. It took me back to when we were implementing a new job-posting system and what we wanted and why. Have a good day!

  2. yes,i like the post, schools really need to figure out the intent of the website before considering the technology that is going to provide the answers to that intent.
    i agree 100% with that

  3. Whats up very cool web site!! Guy .. Excellent .. Wonderful .. I'll bookmark your blog and take the feeds also?I'm satisfied to find so many helpful information here in the publish, we want work out extra techniques in this regard, thank you for sharing. . . . . .


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