I recently read an article by a prominent technology provider that discussed the reasons why design matters to K-12 schools when looking at their websites. While I agree with the premise of their discussion, in general, I was left scratching my head a bit as to why they weren’t practicing what they preached. You see, I am familiar with a lot of their work, and while they certainly have beautiful sites, they all look the same. Actually understanding design, and the impact it has on a website and its audience. So lets talk about why design matters.
Your Website Represents Your School
It doesn’t matter what market we talk about; bakeries, manufacturers, small stores, big stores or schools, their image is all represented by their website. But many schools overlook this and don’t consider how their website impacts their image, and this isn’t something that should be overlooked. Image is everything in today’s society. Some schools spend good amounts of money on their image, some don’t, but there are clear reasons why image is important to a school. Let's consider donors and alumni. These people have the potential to provide tremendous things to the district. Some successful alumni will donate just because they are proud to be associated with your school, and the public image your website displays will now represent those donors and alumni.
User Experience Matters to Parents
Parents lead busy lives, I have a school age child and can personally attest to this. Many parents, myself included, want to stay as current and informed about what is going on in my child’s school as possible, but I don’t have time dig around to find information that is relevant to me, or that is out of date. When user experience is taken into consideration during the design phase, relevant information is made easy to find for your users. Whether the information is portal based and unique to each student/parent combination, or whether it is static to a particular school or class, finding the relevant information quickly is the user's primary function.
Schools are Unique
Each school that we have ever worked with provide unique services and values to their students. While it might seem like most every school is the same, leadership, faculty, and community guide each district to leave a unique trademark. Schools have been traditionally wrangled into similar and very stock designs, but this doesn’t allow for districts to show the unique nature of the service they provide to their community. Custom design allows districts to express their individuality beyond a couple of main colors and a logo. Your website should represent your district, not just your school colors.
What's the takeaway?
All in all the big thing to understand is that design is far more important than it may seem on its face. Having a goal in your design is important. Do you want it to be usable? Do you want it to represent your school? Do you want it to be modifiable in the future? These are all things to think about, but it is important to know that all of these elements play an important role, and have a potential impact on the success of your web presence.