I was invited by a local school to come and talk about their website. It was quite a good website as primary school websites go, but it did need some direction and modernisation.
School websites ideally should contain three areas: a brochure style department based on the prospectus; some official pages that contain necessary information required by OfSTED, the LA and the DCSF; and a fun section based on the children’s contributions, with safe links to other child-friendly sites.
Simplicity was also the order of the day, with a basic design which reflects the ethos of the school, as well as its corporate image, uniform colour and surrounding area. There are many sites that offer templates for schools, but apart from there being some terrible designs, you can’t lump schools into pre-determined categories, neither should they be fluffy, animated, cartoon-like or just plain ugly.
Navigation (accompanied by breadcrumbs) should be extremely simple, and as in one of my school designs, colour coded. You should (nearly – hence the breadcrumbs) be able to get to another area of the site via colours, shapes or motifs which are easily recognised by the children. Each site will evolve organically, as that is the nature of school sites, so a mechanism to enable growth in keeping with the recognition facilities is vital.
Keep to very simple link icons or graphics, with absolutely no flash or other technology gimmicks cluttering up the place. School servers are notoriously slow, so anything that aids a quick download is much appreciated. Also, for some reason, school monitors view sites differently than ordinary PCs, so this needs to be taken into consideration when compiling the design, and CSS and other similar techniques may not have the effect you are looking for.
The element of self-edit is something that is deemed essential for a school, hence why there are so many templates available. But I will be putting into place a method of creating a website for a school that can be maintained by themselves later (after a bit of training), made possible by keeping the whole design and process as simple and easy as possible.