12 Things Every School Website Should Include

School websites have two primary goals.  The first is to act as an on-line brochure for prospective students and parents, providing them with as much information as possible to help them decide if your school may be right for them.  The second goal is to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of communication between students, parents, teachers, and administrators.  Here’s a list of 12 things every school website should include in order to reach those two goals.

  1. Friendly, appealing design.  Parents are looking for a school that exemplifies excellence, therefore it’s vital that the school website – often a parent’s first impression – exemplifies excellence.  If your website looks, cheap, neglected, obsolete, or disorganized, people will infer that your school is that as well.
  2. Pictures of happy, diverse, smart-looking students.  When prospective parents see images of students they’re going to subconsciously ask themselves “Do I want my child to become like that?”  Pictures of actual students are best, but you have to get the consent of the students’ parents to use them and for safety reasons should only refer to students by their first name if at all.  Using stock photos is OK too.  To attract students of all ages, genders, and ethnicities it’s important to represent them in the images you put on your site.
  3. “About Us” page that describes the history and educational philosophy of the school plus any affiliations, associations, accreditations, and awards the school may have received.  If you’re ambitious, create a short video overview and embed it in this page.
  4. Enrollment information.  There should be at least one page design specifically for prospective students and parents that describes the application process, deadlines, and any openings the school may currently have.
  5. Contact info for the main school office
  6. Staff directory preferably with a contact form for every teacher and administrator so parents can get in touch with teachers if they’d like to.
  7. Map of your school’s location
  8. Up-to-date calendar of school-wide events
  9. Schedules for all the sports teams.
  10. E-newsletter with subscription and archives online.  Having an school-wide e-newsletter is a must.  Schools may also want to have e-newsletters for each class and extra curricular activities.
  11. Documents.   Frequently used documents like permission slips, application for enrollment, student handbook, lunch order forms, and so on.  Making these documents available online can save considerable time and expense over printing, handing out, or mailing them repeatedly.  PDF format is usually the best format for these documents.
  12. Class pages.  Each teacher ought to have a page for the class(es) they teach.  Ideally these could be updated weekly with news and homework assignments, but even something as simple as a link to the class syllabus is very helpful

What do you think are the most important elements for a school website?

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Paul Steinbrueck is co-founder and CEO of OurChurch.Com, elder of CypressMeadows.org, husband, father of 3, blogger. You can follow him on Twitter at @PaulSteinbrueck and add him to your circles at Google+ as +Paul Steinbrueck.

12 Responses to “12 Things Every School Website Should Include”

  1. I think that one should also consider how much TIME teachers are required to give to a school website. As a parent, I'm far more concerned with the quality of "one on one" contact that a teacher has with my child. Not so much whether or not she is online updating web pages. This could be taking up valuable TIME spent in the classroom. Some school Administrators can get a little too demanding about government requirements, red tape, and now a website? When, will the teacher have TIME to teach? I'm actually quite surprised to learn that all of the teachers at this particular school are expected to churn out a newsletter every week? One newsletter for an entire school every third week is enough! Are schools expected now to run newspapers? I work online everyday and it is very TIME consuming. As a parent, I would wish to protect my child from this type of demanding work. What I mean is, the teacher should be with her, not online. Teachers have plenty to do without being distracted by PR demands on the school's website.

    It's important for school webpages to also be kept uniform and polished. Many teachers are excellent with kids but don't have the editorial skills needed to keep a website rolling along. And, why should they? This is a job within itself. If they are going to become web masters, why are they teachers? Perhaps, a better way to design a participation method would be to require teachers to submit a "news brief" about one paragraph long to keep parents informed of what's going on in each classroom during the week? One paragraph from each classroom every week is less work and it would be easier to maintain. Teachers could also take pictures of the student's artwork or post their latest creative writing assignment. This would motivate parents to visit web pages! This section on the website could be called something like—The Latest Thing or From Our Classrooms or Student Of The Week. Let the school district hire a "web designer" or give a part-time teacher the responsibility of maintaining webpages, if she has the editorial skill and needs the extra income. If the church owns the school, they can roll over the fees for that website into the fees also for their own church website.

    There is now web software that schools can "rent." Teachers use it to fill out standard homework assignments and report grades. Our children's Christian school uses this kind of software in order to save TIME and industry. Our software is not generally accessible to the public and not attached to their school's website at all.

  2. Hi Kathy, thanks for sharing your thoughts and opinions. I think you make a good point that the time it takes teachers to manage their website needs to be taken into consideration so that it doesn’t detract from their ability to teach and meet with parents.

    A class web page and/or eNewsletter does not necessarily mean writing lots of articles every week. It could (and probably should) just be a list of the activities, topics covered, and homework assignments. This is probably info most teachers already have in a word processor and could easily be copied and pasted into a web page and eNewsletter.

  3. Lowell Brannen Sep 10, 2008 at 9:01 pm

    I think the point was “12 things every SCHOOL website, not TEACHER website, should include.” I agree that the school district should hire a web designer, or someone who knows how to keep the website up to date and I think that is the case in the district where my wife teaches. There are some teachers who have their own class websites but I’d not be surprised to know that they do it on their own time and not on school time. Item number 12 is the only one that is directly aimed at the teacher, and the webmaster could spend the time posting any of the updates for news, homework or links that are referred by the teacher. I do hope that it never becomes the responsibility of the teacher to spend their valuable time designing web pages – not if they are still expected to teach our children.

  4. Hi Lowell, thanks for your comment. If a school website is done right (with a Content Management System like Custom CMS Express) then teachers don’t have to “spend their valuable time designing web pages.” They simply login and using a word-processor-liked editor, they simply update the information about their class.

    Even if a teacher decides to create their own website, it doesn’t have to take much time at all. A teacher can create a website in just a few minutes with something like our NE1 Web Builder.

    The other thing to note is that if a teacher updates their web page with valuable information like homework assignments, it can be a net time saver because parents won’t have to email and call for that information.

  5. Great list Paul,
    I would add:
    Home page to have location, who, what of the school – many schools fail this one.
    "Contact Us" form on lots of pages – make it REALLY easy to take the next step.
    A message and photo of the Principal – who is leading this place?
    Video – adds some life and warmth. So many school sites are lifeless. We offer a free DVD School Tour.
    LOTS of photos. Our school website has over 7,000 photos. Visitors can spend hours there if they want to. Text can lie but it is harder to fake lots of photos. I want parents to see school as it really is not some glossy brochure.

  6. I think that one should also consider how much TIME teachers are required to give to a school website. As a parent, I’m far more concerned with the quality of “one on one” contact that a teacher has with my child. Not so much whether or not she is online updating web pages. This could be taking up valuable TIME spent in the classroom. Some school Administrators can get a little too demanding about government requirements, red tape, and now a website? When, will the teacher have TIME to teach? I’m actually quite surprised to learn that all of the teachers at this particular school are expected to churn out a newsletter every week? One newsletter for an entire school every third week is enough! Are schools expected now to run newspapers? I work online everyday and it is very TIME consuming. As a parent, I would wish to protect my child from this type of demanding work. What I mean is, the teacher should be with her, not online. Teachers have plenty to do without being distracted by PR demands on the school’s website.

    It’s important for school webpages to also be kept uniform and polished. Many teachers are excellent with kids but don’t have the editorial skills needed to keep a website rolling along. And, why should they? This is a job within itself. If they are going to become web masters, why are they teachers? Perhaps, a better way to design a participation method would be to require teachers to submit a “news brief” about one paragraph long to keep parents informed of what’s going on in each classroom during the week? One paragraph from each classroom every week is less work and it would be easier to maintain. Teachers could also take pictures of the student’s artwork or post their latest creative writing assignment. This would motivate parents to visit web pages! This section on the website could be called something like—The Latest Thing or From Our Classrooms or Student Of The Week. Let the school district hire a “web designer” or give a part-time teacher the responsibility of maintaining webpages, if she has the editorial skill and needs the extra income. If the church owns the school, they can roll over the fees for that website into the fees also for their own church website.

    There is now web software that schools can “rent.” Teachers use it to fill out standard homework assignments and report grades. Our children’s Christian school uses this kind of software in order to save TIME and industry. Our software is not generally accessible to the public and not attached to their school’s website at all.

  7. Christopher & Co May 13, 2011 at 12:31 pm

    Obviously a school website should be made by an external company. We are planning to create a product for schools in our company.

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