Addressing a frustrated audience
When Batavia Public Schools’ new website goes live this month, mobile users will be pleasantly surprised at just how well the site responds, looks, and feels on their small screens. Up until now, the same users were “pretty frustrated over our semi-responsive website,” admits Tony Inglese, CIO for the Batavia, Ill., district, which serves 6,200 students across eight schools. “We know that more and more parents expect to be able to communicate with us, hear from us, and access district information from their phones.”

Driven primarily by the feedback it was receiving from parents, and the fact that 30-40 percent of its web hits were coming from mobile devices, the district decided to overhaul its site to accommodate the shift. “Based on the sheer numbers, it was pretty clear that we needed to do something about it,” said Inglese, who kicked off the initiative by assembling several focus groups for parents, teachers, and administrators. “We talked to them about how they use our website, what their expectations were, and whether we were meeting them.”

From those interactions, the district was surprised to hear that much of the information it was posting online wasn’t even being accessed. Parents, for example, were primarily interested in hearing about athletic events, school lunches, grades, and registration. “All of the other information on our site was distant in terms of their priorities,” Inglese explains.

Next, Inglese and his team considered whether to create a mobile application or “go entirely web-based.” They chose the latter. “We felt that if we could do the web right, it would serve as a basis for all of our communications,” said Inglese. “So we went with creating a solid website that was responsive in its design and that included all of the information that we needed to communicate.” As part of that commitment, Inglese said the district factored in the site’s structure, organization, and even its “educational vernacular.”

“We wanted to make sure we were on the same page with our users, and that all of the expectations and assumptions discussed in the focus groups were reconciled and addressed,” said Inglese. For example, the district will now be using Google calendar to post all of its events, board meetings, and athletic activities. “There are thousands of events going on during any given school year, and parents can ‘subscribe’ to various sections of the calendar—based on their interests—and receive the relevant information.”

Next page: Driving more traffic