Words, words, words

I’m reminded of Eliza Doolittle’s song in My Fair Lady. In looking at what schools are putting on their websites, I realize that they are trying to be fortune tellers in one sense. They try to guess what is most important to the families who are currently attending their school while at the same time try to guess what will draw in new families. Not necessarily an easy task. Some go the route of showing lots of pictures and not giving a whole lot of useful information. Some go the complete opposite direction and overwhelm the unsuspecting visitor with a plethora of verbiage.

So, how does one go about keeping current families, while wooing prospective families, while providing useful information, while avoiding both fluff and death by words? I don’t know that the answer is an easy one but I think a good place to start is to check the sites of schools who seem to be doing well. How do you know they are doing well? Look at the amount of involvment on the website from families leaving comments, posting pics, sharing events and happenings. Look at the enrollment trends in that school for the past few years. Consider your own response to what you see and read on their site. Even if you don’t have kids, if their site appeals to you as a place you’d send your kid if you had one, then it’s fair to say they have an appealing and useful site.

I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about this because I currently am a teacher and I am passionate that what exists about our school on the web is an accurate reflection of the amazing work going on daily in our classes and school community.

Some of us like to read, a lot. I can hear my 10th grade English teacher cringing with my use of those words — a lot. In this case, though, I think she’d let me get away with it. I am one of those people who really enjoy reading. When I am at a website to gather information, however, I do not want to spend loads of time trying to sift through paragraph after paragraph to find what I’m looking for. In this vein, I think that schools do themselves a disservice when they present information in paragraph form.

Bullet points serve the purpose much better. Parents are generally in a hurry and appreciate finding information quickly and efficiently. This is not to say that schools shouldn’t be updating parents on the latest and greatest news items coming from their campus. A more respectful use of space is to give a teaser to the article with a link to continue reading. This allows parents to see some of the cool events happening at their child’s school while having the decision of when they will read the information.

Schools have got to move into the current flow of communication and sometimes that means that no matter how pretty the words, they need to go away.