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  • Writer's pictureMario

Make Your School Website Parent Friendly

Your website can be the first point of contact most parents have with your school. As such, you want to give priority to parents being able to navigate around, find exactly what they want, and engage the people they need to engage. Here are some ways to put parents first when designing a school website.

Focus on the parents

When you set out to design or redesign your school website, it’s important to prioritize just who it is you’re trying to engage. So often, school communicators use too broad of a brush stroke when creating their websites. Many schools do a poor job at organizing information in an intuitive manner. As you proceed with planning your next site, be sure to organize it so that it is more useful for your main constituents - the parents.

Sure, your students, faculty, staff and the broader school community are also very important audience groups, but in our experience is that all too often, parents get short changed as websites try to be all things to all people. It’s important to survey all your user groups – including parents – to get up to speed on what they’re looking for in a school website.

While there are going to be certain mandatories and trends across just about any school website, don’t assume you know all the answers for yours, and don’t assume you know what parents want in a website. Informed and engaged parents, after all, can improve outcomes.

Make teacher and staff directories useful

Right up there with calendar access is the staff directory – a very popular spot on any school website. Your parents need to be able to access their child’s teacher or other support staff quickly and dependably. The best way to do that is to have a searchable online directory.

Many schools simply list teachers and a few administrators in alphabetical order. Go a big step further and organize your directory by grade and departments. Also, there is nothing worse than omitting a teacher or staffer from the directory or having stale content, so make sure you keep it up to date with current email addresses, phone numbers and class websites.

Build a dedicated page for important forms

There are a number of forms that are required for parents to complete each year. By dedicating a page that houses all of the forms, you can simplify the search process for your parents.

Your website’s content management system should have some sort of form builder feature built right in. If yours does not, be sure to include the type of file (PDF or Word) and any clear instructions on what to do with it upon completion.

Be sure to include contact information to reach the appropriate person should your parents have any questions about the form.

Create a quick-links section on the homepage

Dedicated quick links on the homepage can make it quick and easy for parents to find what they need.

This is valuable real estate on the homepage, so make the most of it. Parents don’t want to have to dig around through multiple clicks, and they shouldn’t have to if the info they seek is frequently accessed.

One way is to take the Google approach and create a “How do I…” section for the most common subjects and concerns.

Promote events with banners on the homepage

Events are some of the best ways to boost parent engagement, so it’s critical to promote them on your website. Not just list them, but promote them and make it easier for them to participate.

Your website can help increase attendance at events too. If you’re using email, for example, to drive parents to your website, then either through a landing page or a prominent feature spot on your site you can seal the deal. You can even include a direct link to online registration using a form embedded in your web page. Make it easy for parents to attend your school events.

Dedicate a parents section on the website

Many schools are creating sections on their sites dedicated to parents. Even if you link to other sections of the website, it will make it easy for the parent to find the information they need.

A parent section is a great way to keep all the content parents seek very organized. You can have links to the following:

  • Parent handbook

  • Resources

  • Calendar links

  • Lunch menus

  • Fees and registrations

Synchronize personal calendars with school calendars

Time waits for no one, so you better be doing all you can to grab some of your parents’ valuable time. So, get your school on their calendars. Literally.

The school calendar is one of the most frequently accessed parts of any school website, so why not ‘automate’ that process for your parents by synchronizing your school calendars with their personal calendars? Calendar page visits to a typical school website can represent as much as 30% of the site traffic.

Standard downloadable formats such as iCal allow the user to import your school calendar into their mobile phone calendar or personal calendar. What’s more, you can allow parents to tailor the calendar content that suits their interest. For example, a parent can choose to just receive information that pertains to their child only (e.g. clubs, classes, groups, sports, etc.)

To make it easy on your parents, create a dedicated page with instructions on how to download and import calendar files to different personal calendars – Google calendar, outlook, yahoo, etc.


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