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Website Guiding Principles
Website Guiding Principles - Less is More and More is Often Less...

You have been given an RWD website to help you communicate with your community - parents, students, potential families - more effectively.  The web is a universal medium that can save you a great deal of time in letting students and parents alike know what is going on in your school.  

Maintaining a great website is easy and won't take very much of your time at all if you follow some simple guiding principles.

1) Define Your Audience
Why are you going to all the trouble to publish a school website?  Who cares?  Well, lots of people do actually.  The parents of the students you teach aren't all the same, but a good number of them are anxious that their children get the best education possible, and a subset of that group actually want to participate!  Unless you want to be making a LOT of telephone calls, answering a LOT of telephone calls, sending and receiving a LOT of emails, and reading a whole bunch of cryptic, crumpled up notes in backpacks, you should consider using the web to communicate to the families in your school.  The web is a wonderful tool for keeping the community up to date about what is going on in your school and, if you do it right, you don't have to quit your regular job to be a really effective web publisher. A website has the wonderful advantage of being a time saving way of posting information once and referring any number of people to that content - you don't have to do things over and over..

So, given that you have a whole bunch of people that want to know (and often need to know) what's going on in your school, make a point of listing who you are talking to when you post content to the web.

Your Audience:
  • Parents and Guardians of your students
  • Your students themselves (once they can read of course)
  • Families that might want to send their children to your school
  • Local businesses and groups that might want to help you out
Not Your Audience:
  • Hollywood producers seeking out writers for their next blockbuster
  • Graphic arts and design companies scouting for talent
  • Animated .gif enthusiasts
  • The Pope (except in very rare circumstances)
  • The Dalai Lama (again, except in extremely rare cases)
  • YOU!  - YOU are NOT your audience, this isn't about YOU, nobody cares what YOU like, this isn't Karaoke for goodness sake...
Sorry, that last one probably was a little mean and might have stung a bit, but its true.

The people you are publishing your website for:
  • Don't have a lot of time and want to spend as little time on your website as is humanly possible to get what they need
  • Need information that is reliable and current
  • Will come back again and again if you meet the first two criteria

Non Confusing, Somewhat Uncomplex Examples of Non Ambiguous, Non Redundant Profundity.... er.. what I mean to say is..
2) Clarity

Yeah, that's it, clarity.  Your audience wants clear, concise, relevant, succinct, and easy to find information about what is going on in the life of the school. That is ALL they want.

Keep it SIMPLE!  
Less is More

Please believe us when we say that simpler is better!  Parents and other visitors to your website are there for one reason ONLY; they want to know what is going on in the class so that they can help you educate their children.  Putting too much 'stuff' in your site doesn't make it better.  Too many images (ESPECIALLY flashing or moving images) is annoying to everyone and is a huge distraction from the content in your site.  Just post the information you want parents and students to have and you will have a loyal following.

3) Be Consistent

Only bite off what you can chew for the long haul.  Once the website has all of the boring, everyday information on it (address, school history, policies, yadda yadda yadda), the focus just on what is new.  Regularly posted news and events truly are 90% of your website's value.  Its the ONLY reason people will come to see your site.  But they won't come back if you start out well and don't keep up the stream of information.  That's why you shouldn't set your sites too high and make a huge site that will take you a great deal of time to keep up.  Remember what road is paved with good intentions....

3) Use The Right Tool For The Job

Use web pages for information that doesn't change very often at all; things like class rules, your materials lists, your course expectations and other static information is idealy put on a web page at the beginning of the year and then left alone as a reference for visitors to your site.

Homework, News, Calendar events and other things that change (or are added to) often, are much better published using dynamic methods where you simply add the new information to previous information.  Blogs are a wonderful way to post news, reminders, special events, and of course homework and assignments.  All it takes is a simple message to your blog and the information will instantly be on the web in a printable form, at the top of the list of posts.  As new posts are added, older ones get pushed down - but they don't go away unless you want them to.  This means that kids who are away from school for several days can see all of the homework you've posted when they get back.
If you consistently post homework, assignments and other news, you will find that your website will be well used and worth the time you spend keeping it up to date.  You don't need to do very much work to make your website a crucial resource for parents.  

Calendars are a great way to keep the community appraised of upcoming events.  Calendars in FirstClass have a great big document body below the event, just like a message to a conference does.  You can use this document area to enter the content related to the event, including pictures, videos, and attachments - and its printable from the web!  The new Priority Calendar feature in RWD allows you to feature only a select few of the many events in your school's calendar - perfect for the really important things you want to draw attention to.