It’s time to update your school website for mobile

mobile-cheshireStreamlining the process
With a growing number of its website users accessing its site from their mobile devices, Cheshire Academy of Cheshire, Conn., decided to enlist outside help to get its site up to speed. With about 400 students in grades 8-12 (plus some post-graduate pupils), the private institution called on WhippleHill (now Blackbaud K-12) for help creating a single, mobile-friendly website that would just “shift itself around to adjust to the device that was being used,” said Stacy Jagodowski, the school’s director of communications.

Previously, the school had used an app that had become “dated,” according to Jagodowski, and that required the oversight and management of two different products. To streamline that approach, Cheshire Academy’s web master worked with an outside designer to develop a mobile-friendly site. As part of that process, all of the site’s existing content was rewritten and its design was adjusted to accommodate a wider number of screens and devices.

Like Inglese, Jagodowski and her web master conducted a number of focus groups and interviews to find out exactly what users wanted and expected from the new site, which went live in August 2014. The site includes both a public-facing platform and a password-protected section that’s specifically for school use (parents, students, teachers, etc.). “Our families appreciate it because now they have one place to go to get everything that they need—whether they’re using a computer or a tablet or a phone,” said Jagodowski. “Our site traffic has increased, we’ve had more return visits, and we’ve also seen a decrease in the number of pages visited (due to the fact that people are now finding what they need faster).”

To schools that are looking to make their sites more mobile-friendly, both Inglese and Jagodowski say one of the first steps is acknowledging the fact that responsive web design is a necessity—and not a luxury. From there, decide between web-only and an app, based on your district’s needs and capabilities, and then solicit input from the people who will be using the new site. “Make sure your content hits users’ expectations,” Inglese adds, “around what they’re going to be able to see, read, and learn from the site.”

Bridget McCrea is a contributing writer for eSchool News.

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