Let’s face it. When it comes to the information highway and school communications, there’s a lot of road kill out there.

Even a quick internet cruise shows too many messages from administrators and not enough focus on the very real successes kids and teachers are having each and every day in thousands of classrooms across the country.

Lousy links, old data, poorly constructed HTML, burdensome download times and tired graphics just compound the problem.

To find out if your web site is a clunker or a classic, consider taking a side trip to Web Site Garage (see link below) for a free, online tune-up.

In seconds, you can get a quick diagnostic report on several key elements, including browser compatibility, registration deadlines, load time, dead links, link popularity, spelling, and HTML design.

If the initial check spots trouble, you can easily dig down for more specifics. Checking against the six most common modem speeds, for example, “garage mechanics” ding our otherwise high performing web site for hefty download times.

“Slow load times may cause you to lose potential visitors,” the report notes. “Surveys indicate that the majority of visitors would not wait longer than 20 seconds for a page to download. Yahoo! loads up in only six seconds on a 28.8K modem!”

Suggested solutions include reducing image sizes or the number of images, simplifying color schemes, identifying and correcting images that take up the most bandwidth, and keeping home pages under 40K.

Checking the data behind the diagnostics is critical, however. Garage mechanics still haven’t figured out how to keep key acronyms and domain names–like CMS (Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools)–from showing up as misspellings.

In addition to the tune-up service, Web Site Garage offers a variety of affordable, online tools and folksy advice for aspiring webmasters. Launched in 1997 by AtWeb Inc., of Sunnyvale, Calif., the “garage” already has several million web tune-ups under its collective belt.

Web-based services range from instant image compression (GIF Lube) and site registration to tracking hits and archiving materials. All services are easy to use, even for web novices, and many are free.

The goal, company officials say, is to help clients improve, maintain, and promote their web sites more effectively.

If your school or district is still suffering from the “field of dreams” marketing illusion (“If you build it, they will come”), the promotion strategies and tips offered through Web Site Garage’s “Register-It!” and “Hitometer” services are worth a look.

Web Site Garage also has great links to related sites, including Usable Information Technology, which offers such “must reads” as Jakob Nielsen’s Alertbox classics, “Top Ten Mistakes in Web Design” and “Top Ten Mistakes Revisted Three Years Later.”

With internet traffic growing exponentially, building a web site is relatively easy. Keeping it running smoothly–and getting it noticed–takes hard work, strategic thinking, and technological savvy. A spring tune-up might just be the place to start.

Links:

Web Site Garage
http://www.websitegarage.com/


Usable Information Technology
http://www.useit.com/


LinkExchange
http://www.linkexchange.com/


SmartAge
http://www.smartage.com/


NetMechanic
http://www.netmechanic.com/


Web Side Story
http://www.websidestory.com/


Microsoft bCentral
http://www.bcentral.com/