After two revisions of their school website in the last 10 years, Carmel O'Neill (DP) at Castleknock Community College has learned the key lesson for building a school website. She has a vision. Not just her own vision, but a shared vision of the parents and staff about how they wanted to use their website as an effective communication tool. The web committee at the school took the time to think about the needs of the interested parties, about all the people who would use the website and how they would use it.
The site had to be user-friendly, easy to navigate and not cluttered with out-of-date information. It had to provide parents and students with information that could be easily downloaded and printed off, from booklists, to policies to the school calendar, all of these key documents were made available as downloadable PDFs. The website also had to be easy to update, and, most critically, it had to be properly resourced. It's great having a shiny new website but if you don’t have the staff or the skills to maintain and update it, well, there's no point is there? Carmel and her team understood the importance of "user first" design, they had answered a lot of these questions for themselves before they approached us about making their vision a digital reality.
We consulted with them about the recent changes in technology, especially the new requirement for websites to be "responsive". This means that the size of a website can automatically adjust to fit inside the screen of a computer, a tablet device or even a smartphone. With more and more of us accessing the internet in these new ways, websites need to respond to this to make sure they are easy to read no matter what device they’re viewed on.
Working together we compiled the information and planned the layout of the site . We put the individuality and personality of the school into the pages of the site by using some high quality images that the 4Schools.ie photographers had taken during a one-day photoshoot at the school. The end result is something the school is very proud of and even got mentioned in the whole-school evaluation:
"The school communicates effectively with parents and the wider community through newsletters and an attractive, informative and up-to-date website."
- Whole-School Evaluation Report - Management, Leadership and Learning (Date of inspection: 16 October 2013).
Since the launch of the website we have visited the school to deliver training on how to use and update the content of the website. Feedback from the training session was very positive, with teachers saying the system was very easy to use. 4schools.ie is already working on another website project for a school near our offices in Finglas. If you are thinking about bringing your school's website up- to- date, think about the points that Carmel and her team considered before they made their decision. If you get it right your school will benefit for years to come.