West Moreton Anglican School recognised the importance of having a website they can use as a marketing tool.
With competition for enrolments in the western district higher than ever, WestMac wanted and needed a website that clearly showed potential enrolments the schools facilities, history and culture in a visually appealing , accessible manner.
Taking on a redesign project of this size for an established school is something we specialise in. When redesigning a school’s website you must still consider the users who have been using the current yet outdated website.
We always try and keep some sort of consistency wether its colours or some navigation elements, so the users do not feel completely alienated when they logon and see a new website.
In our initial meeting with WestMac marketing manager Harry Ling, the website objectives were clearly defined:
- To improve communication between parents, students, potential enrolments and the school
- To showcase the school’s point of difference and convey a warm welcoming image of WestMac
- To be able to maintain the website in-house by use of a Content Management System
With some research we were also able to define the users objectives:
- Easily find information about the school news and upcoming events
- Be able to search for a particular page without having to look through endless menus to find what it is the user is looking for
- A warmer more welcoming look and feel
- An easy to use navigation system
What did we do to achieve WestMac’s redesign objectives and enhance the users browsing experience on the new WestMac website? There are many factors I can list, so I have compiled a list of 8 major factors that have clearly made a difference to WestMac's online presence.
1. Implemented a search function
It is amazing how many school websites still do not include a search function for their users. School websites are usually rather large incorporating many pages.
Providing a search function for your users helps them find the content they are looking for quickly therefore creating a better browsing experience. A usability study by “Jakob Nielson” found that more than half of all users will head straight for the search function on a website.
2. We made the website more Accessible to visually impaired users and people with disabilities
Many web agencies to this day still choose to ignore the importance of providing websites that are accessible to all. Whether it is due to cost, time blowouts or lack of education, in 2010 there is really no excuse.
There are many advantages of making your website accessible to all and the practice should be implemented and improved on in every website you develop.
We are always looking to improve our websites with every design especially by making them more accessible to people with disabilities.
The following are some accessibility techniques we implemented on the new WestMac website.
- All images have associated alt attributes – We have given all images on the new WestMac website the appropriate description. This describes the image to visually impaired users and people who are using screen readers and of course search engines crawling the site. Adding the appropriate description to images aids the accessibility of the new WestMac website
- Links Labelled correctly – The Text contained within a link should describe that link without context (Paul Boag). Screen readers have the ability to read all links on a page as a single list. Labelling a link “Click here” gives no guidance to the user. A better description for the link would be simply “School Fees page” not “Click here” for school fees. Correctly labeling links again adds to the accessibility of the WestMac website
3. Simplified the navigation menu
Using our Information architecture techniques such as Card sorting, we were able to simplify and build a new structure for the WestMac website. The following findings were implemented:
- We grouped all appropriate pages into 7 main categories. We also added many new relevant pages that previously did not exist
- We moved the Main Navigation menu from a left hand side vertical menu to a top horizontal menu. We did this to make navigation more obvious and intuitive to the user
- As every section on the site has many pages we provided an “In this Section” menu, which sits on the right hand side of the page in that particular section. We used a split menu instead of a dropdown menu, as they can be ugly, annoying and hard to use
- We provided a Quicklinks menu on all pages aiding navigation to important and most visited pages on the website.
4. Incorporated Breadcrumbs and Highlighted links
One aspect of the old website that really stood out to me was that you did not know what page you were on or how you got to that particular page on the website.
We implemented the following to again, enhance browser experience and support search engines.
- Breadcrumbs are a type of secondary navigation scheme that reveals the user’s location in a website. This small but essential technique enhances the way users find their way around and is also good for search engines crawling your website
- Links are highlighted giving the user knowledge of what page they are on
5. Content Management System
One of the key objectives was the ability for WestMac staff to update the website in-house. We built the new website using a Joomla Content Management System providing WestMac with the following features:
- It reduces cost and increases productivity
- Has a secure administration area
- The ability to update and change your content anytime from any computer that is connected to the web
- The ability to add video, images and documents to the website
6. Added new functionality
The Old WestMac website was severely lacking in functionality. It did not promote the school by use of galleries, had no banners, search capabilities or latest news section to name but a few. The new WestMac website incorporates the following functionality:
- Video, audio and image galleries. This again highlights the schools point of difference, attention to modern technology and creative thinking
- Revolving banner to highlight WestMac’s school achievements, upcoming events and general information
- Request a prospectus form that also catches the users details and stares them in a secure database for future reference
- Easy to update news articles on the home page allows the school to communicate upcoming events and the latest news to parents, students and staff
7. New look and feel
The majority of people judge a website by the way it looks, not by the way it functions or achieves its objectives. Yes the look and feel of a website is very important as are all the other elements that go into designing and developing a website.
We kept the colous consistent with WestMac’s school colours and all branding material. We incorporated new images and image galleries highlighting WestMac's activities in a visually appealing manner.
We incorporated typography techniques to make content easy to look at and easier to read for users. Some of these are:
- A headline style for the introduction paragraph on every page
- Boxed bullet points to highlight the importance of information
- Download icon and style to highlight links that are for downloading
- Dark font on a light background to aid readability
- Good use of chunking important information with appropriate images
- Highlight style to emphasise important information on a page
8. ScreenCast tutorials
Coming to grips with new technology and a new Content Management System can be quite daunting for any staff member assigned the duty of updating and maintaining the new website. In my experience these staff members have little or no experience in the web, so providing a 100-page user manual is not going to do them any justice.
- We created a custom-made user manual with key exercises designed to WestMac’s needs. Each exercise has step-by-step instructions supported by images to aid the user in achieving their goals.
- We didn’t stop there, we also provided WestMac with all tutorials recorded to DVD using our ScreenCast software Camtasia. The benefits of providing your clients with this are enormous and can make life for them a lot easier when it comes to maintaining their new website.
These key factors and more all contributed to the new WestMac website achieving its objectives. Remember the first step when taking on a redesign project is to clearly define the websites objectives and how you plan to achieve them. If you would like a website redesign or are looking for a new online strategy for your business, please contact Margin Media today.