Built hundreds of website and helped countless schools realise their potential online. Ian should be called upon for straight-talking advice and to make a difference to the way you present your school through every outlet.
Since we built the new website for Walmsley Primary School in Bolton a few months ago, both we and the school have literally been inundated with requests for 'a site like that!' Somehow we have struck a nerve. There is something about this site that captures that imagination of other schools, parents and OFSTED alike. What is the secret?
The answer is that there is no secret and we believe that everything that went into this particular school website is perfectly attainable by any school. We can't argue that it is easier if you have a bit of money to spend but by being smart it is entirely possible to create a GREAT primary school website.
Let's tell the story ...
Let's get the little bit about us out of the way as soon as we can. The design of the site is clearly of vital importance but it is just as vital to note something about the design we have used on this site. The content drives it. Everything we build, we try to make sure that the life of the school or college is what shines through on their website.
We could make all the school websites we design have shiny pencils and animated lions and giraffes. We choose not to. Parents, students, potential students and parents, and OFSTED all need to get a feel for your school in as short a time as possible.
We believe that a great design that lets your ethos and life shine through is key. On the Walmsley site, this is exactly what happens. We have a very good theme, that responds well to different devices, is easy to use, can be customised to suit the branding and colours of your school, but the content is king.
What the Head Says: "Within a few minutes we were completely sold! The website we had was cumbersome, difficult to add to and navigate. Our new website is 'amazing' - well we think so, and many other schools are asking about it."
If content is driving the site, the first thing that any visitor will see are the photos. I say photos rather than images because saying images leaves room for the possibility that clipart might be a good idea. I know it is subjective but in my humble opinion, clipart is BAD.
Do you want to give the users of your school website an instant snapshot of what you are about? Clipart will always fail.
We use a fantastic photographer who is capable of getting a feel for your school or college and bringing that ethos to life on film (will in digitally enhanced TIFFS actually but hey ho). You could use him (his name is Charlie Hedley, get in touch!), or if you have somebody at the school or college then get them snapping everything at the highest possible quality that they can produce.
Even if they aren't amazing, THEY ARE ALWAYS BETTER THAN CLIPART!
Content is of course massively important. One of the main reasons that the Walmsley Primary website is so highly regarded is their focus on producing content that their audience wants to read. Let me say that again - CONTENT THEIR AUDIENCE WANTS TO READ.
Of course the statutory content is there and easy to find but, day to day, parents want to know what is going on with their children in school. Most of them do anyway.
This particular website is very well kept up to date with news, upcoming events, teacher blogs, children's blogs and a fantastic Twitter profile fed straight into this specific primary school website. If that all sounds like there is too much work involved in keeping the site up to date you have a point. We do make our system as easy as possible for staff and children to use but it does indeed come down to how much time you are willing and able to put into it. We will cover that in the next section.
Just as an example, on a recent school trip to Rue, near Amiens, with the Year 6 class, the school kept parents up to date with regular blogs and Tweets which were informative and great fun. They were a brilliant way of telling the story of the trip but, more importantly, the information was of enormous value to parents left at home. The feedback the school received was fantastic and just that little effort proved such a hit.
What the Head Says: "The system is easy to use and is a real point of information about our school as well as showcasing what we are about."
We are friendly and always try to be helpful. We don't always get it right and I sometimes get out of bed on the wrong side. Most of the time my family see that more than our clients. But I'm not talking about having a bad day.
Think about why you are putting together a website. Is it a box-checking exercise? It may be, and you may be perfectly happy with that. Please be aware that if that is how you come to the table you will never have the greatest school or college website in the world.
Your attitude to the process is crucial - if you want to create something special that gives your community an insight into your school and you truly want to open your doors, that can be achieved online.
How does that statement affect your attitude to the way you present yourselves online? Do you think a website is just a box you have to check off your list for OFSTED? Do you want the school community to feel truly part of that community?
What the Head Says: "Ian and his team have accomodated all our needs and wants - as we, well I am fussy. We have mithered him and changed and added things - changing our minds on numerous occasions and it has been sorted. Schudio have also been a valuable contact for other resources we are looking at in the future."
We would be delighted to have a conversation about what we have done with some of our fantastic clients. Please do get in touch. Which ever system you are using, or are planning to use to manage your primary school website it is possible to make some serious improvements to how you engage your community by looking at what other people are doing and being open to ideas.
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