Your school online: is it a site for sore eyes?

—Hands up if you don’t have a website… Good. Are you sure, Jack?

Yesmiss!

—Now, put your hand down if it isn’t mobile friendly.

Mine’s friendly, Miss. It even likes you, Miss.

—You know very well what I mean, Jovan.

Yesmiss.

—Now, if you’ve still got your hand up, put it down if you don’t have a self-managed backend.

[General hysterics and uproar.]

Twenty years ago, it was cool to have a website. It meant you were ahead of the game. How things have changed. If you don’t have a website in 2020, do you even exist?

The fact is, having a website is no longer enough – and having an inferior website can damage both your image and your efficiency. It can also become a bit like a car that requires more repairs than it is worth.

Websites are fundamentally about presentation and communication. Just as a person will be judged – sometimes unfairly – by the way they look and speak, your school or business will be judged by the way it projects itself and delivers messages and information to the community.

Next Learning director Shane McGurk put it this way. ‘You wouldn’t like your stakeholders to see you grumpy in your pyjamas before that first coffee. But that’s equivalent to what they see when they deal with a clunky website.’

With Next Learning already a leader in the ed tech teaching and learning space, it has increasingly branched into the design, creation and care of websites for the education sector.

‘Time and again,’ McGurk says, ‘we have seen schools keen to integrate technology into learning while neglecting their own web presence. There has been a tendency to set and forget. As information portals, they fall short. That’s why we’ve ramped up our capacity to advise schools in this area.’

Next Learning’s digital marketing specialist, Massimo Galardi, believes the recent COVID-19 outbreak taught schools just how crucial online communication has become. ‘Online learning was only part of it,’ he points out. ‘It was also about communicating with parents and other stakeholders. Linkages across platforms has never been more important.’

Galardi brings years of digital and social media experience across Europe and Australia to the Next Learning team. He has a particular interest in mobile technologies and the role social media plays in our lives.

‘With schools now getting back to a new post-COVID normal, it’s a good time to reassess underperforming or tired-looking websites.’

According to Galardi, more than 80% of web traffic in Australia occurs via mobile devices – yet many websites are difficult to use on phones. ‘Imagine a parent who wants specific information after school hours, poking at a small screen for half an hour and getting increasingly frustrated,’ he says. ‘These days, responsive, mobile-friendly design is vital.’

High quality images and a clean site structure characterise the best sites, with the home page enabling visitors to quickly decide where they want to go. An accessible calendar or news section is essential for schools, conveying all important updates and information.

But about those self-managed backends?

‘One common issue we’ve seen in schools with hard-to-use sites is that staff are too busy – or don’t know how – to update the site,’ Galardi says. ‘Often, schools fall back on Facebook pages, which can be handy in some instances, but these exist in a relatively uncontrolled environment that the school doesn’t own.’

With the benefit of insight into school and education priorities, Next Learning builds tailor-made websites in WordPress, which currently powers about 35% of websites worldwide1. ‘That means that there’s a huge community of developers working to keep the software up to speed,’ Galardi explains. ‘We also offer the security of low-cost care and maintenance plans.’

For a free assessment, call 1300 457 122 or email info@nextlearning.com.au.

  1. Usage statistics and market share of WordPress https://w3techs.com/technologies/details/cm-wordpress (accessed 2 June 2020).
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