The first major update for the Grandview Heights school website since 2007 is now live with a soft roll out. The old website is still up until December 5th, after then a redirect will point to the new site.
An email introduced the new website, and linked to a Pdf file that had some feature listings. (Sigh. Yes, they used a Pdf to talk about a website. Some people will never learn that Pdf files “break the web”.)
The new features for the website are listed as the following:
• Mobile website layout for smart phones
• Focus on news and announcements about student achievement and extracurricular events
• Interactive events calendar with subscription features
• Student, parent and community resource pages including a variety of links and shortcuts to the most common requests
• Teacher and staff pages with links to teacher websites and contact information
• Search features of the site provided by Google
As I wrote in my September 07 review on the old website, a search box on the top of the home page is essential for all websites. The school website was crippled for all those years without this vital feature. The search box has been added to this new website.
In the years since that old review, search boxes have become even more important. People who are in a hurry to find the page they need are frustrated by long lists of links, when a simple search should place them on the needed location. The email warned that Google will need time to index the website, so the search function will be incomplete at first. But when it is finished, users should find a quick link to info inside nested pages of navigation. Finally!
This website has very minimalist graphics. The Home page has a box under the top navigation that randomly displays 10 or so different photos of kids and scenic photos of the school. Some of the sub-pages for the individual schools have photos, but most pages are text. A gray header bar has the main navigation, and three colored tabs link to sub-navigation for three user groups.
The flyout navigation links from the main bar are blue, and a blue link box is offered on some of the interior pages. Good consistency in color use.
Most of the website feels stripped down, with minimal graphics and text. Maybe that is a result of a new website that has not yet been “improved” with dancing Gifs, but we can hope this is an intentional effort to stay simple.
The only graphic overload is at the bottom of the site, every page has a footer that is a near full website map. You don’t need to scroll down that far, but when you view the whole page it can give a text overload. More on the footer in the info design review.
Information Design – I.D. is the method that is used to divide the pages of a website into coherent parts and navigate between them.
The design of the school website always suffered in the past because of the division of the website into five basic units – four schools and the district administration. That works for most people, and there are links on the flydown tabs for those divisions, but the hard division in the old website made it difficult to navigate.
The new site adds tabs above the main nav bar for students, parents, and community. I like this way of dividing user groups, it is easy to know which group you fall in and provides the most important links for each group.
The only design decision that immediately causes concern is the 16 links on the district flyout. Some of these are duplicates from the nav bar or don’t really belong in this section. I wouldn’t put more than 10 links on a flyout.
I understand the effort to place an (almost complete) site map as a footer for all pages of the website. The thought is that you can’t go wrong with too much information mapping at the bottom of pages, that bottom section is ignored by most people who are not lost.
But it really junks up the clean look of the website. A very minimalist list of links would go better here, along with a link to a page the held the full site map. The website has a search box! Trust the search, dump the overuse of bottom links.
Calendars for everyone
Pretty good functionality in the use of the check marks to narrow the calendar to specific schools (but I wish it would remember my choice between visits). The ability to subscribe to the calendar with Google Calendar, iCal, etc., is nifty.
School board pages
I’m really hoping this is just a first version of the school board section of the website, and they have plans to improve the offerings. It would take very little work to link to the meeting notes in HTML format then add a search function. I did this for years with my old website. Not high tech!
The only meeting notes now are a few Pdf files from 2013. No link to a list of older notes. This is going backwards, at least the old site had notes as far back as 2006.