Redesigning your school’s website is always a tough process. Will people like the new changes? Did we make the right changes? Does it match our school’s culture and personality?
Over the summer, we redesigned the Park Tudor website. But the process began back in the spring with a high school English class. One of our English teachers came to the communications office with the idea to do a project with us. She was exploring the idea of visual rhetoric with her class and wanted to dig deeper into digital rhetoric — how information is conveyed digitally. We decided to have the students mock up their own redesigns of our website and present their proposals to us.
Here’s the outline of the project:
- Think like a prospective student. What would you look for on our website? What features on a website would make our school appeal to you? If you could build our website from scratch, how would you design it and what would you include?
- Research other schools’ and colleges’ websites. What do their websites tell you about the school? What features do you like? What don’t you like? Do you notice any trends? Start thinking about visual appeal, content and page layout.
- Look at our current Admissions site and then redesign it, with prospective students as your main audience. Make a visual mockup and present your proposal.
You may be wondering ‘why use an English class; why not a computer science or graphic design class?’ While our computer science and graphic design students would have had more background in a project of this scope, it provided a new learning experience for many of the students in the English class. Because it was new material to them and something a little out of the bounds of a typical English class, they were excited to work on the project and came up with some really creative ideas. Plus, we weren’t looking for professional design work, we were looking for ideas and content, a good exercise for an English class.
At the time we started this project, I had been thinking about a redesign, but we hadn’t made any immediate plans to embark on one. However, after seeing our students’ ideas, I couldn’t wait to get started! This class project actually led us to pursue a redesign, and it provided a ton of research to present to our web solutions company.
Many of the students’ ideas went into our redesigned website:
- more emphasis on school colors
- less text
- more pictures
- bigger videos
- integrated social media
- dropdown navigation
- less confusing navigation and more.
All throughout the design process and when I was adding new content to the website, I kept going back to those project proposals. Knowing what our students wanted to see on our website was a gold mine of information.
In August, the new site launched with great praise from parents, faculty, students and prospective families. On the first day of school, when the students saw the new website pop up on the library computers, some of the students who were in that English class immediately recognized some of the concepts and features they had proposed to us. They were excited to see their ideas and work put to use and had pride and ownership in our school’s website.
Next time you start thinking about a website redesign for your school, think about how you can get your students involved in the project.