Improving School Website Usability: Why Direct Content Is Key

I should by start by saying my premise is that a school website should save you time.  It should mean parents and members of the public can find the information they need without having to call and speak with a member of staff.  So, following that, for a website to fulfil it’s objective to be useful and save your staff work it needs to be accessible.  

Recently, I’ve seen a lot of school websites that have a page and the only thing on the page is a download link, no content just a page title and a download link.  I completely understand why schools have done this – they have their uniform policy or opening hours etc as a Word document and need to get it on the website.  What’s the easiest thing for them to do?  Whack the file on there and it’s done in seconds, but that’s not always the best solution.

Table of Contents

Why is having download links a problem?

Well, it can actually cause a few.
  1. A significant number of users will be accessing your website via a mobile device so downloading a file can be an issue
  2. An incompatible file can actually mean it is impossible for some people to view certain content
  3. If the content is in a document or downloadable link, it cannot be accessed by the search facility on your website
  4. It can potentially make your website slower because people have to access bigger files
  5. Files might not appear as intended on a mobile device

What are the benefits of having content directly on your website?

  1. Most modern websites are responsive so will adapt to the device and screen size that your visitors are using so be viewable on any – a file attachment won’t necessarily act like this
  2. It can be opened on any device – desktop, laptop, tablet etc without any additional software or apps
  3. It is searchable so, if you have a search facility on your website, key words within the content can be found

Does everything have to be directly on your website?

No. I definitely think there is a place to have downloadable documents – policies and things like that – but I do think a lot of things could be directly on your school site which would make it a much better experience for users and save your staff those phone calls.

What should be a link and what should be direct content?

One thing I want to say at this point, please make sure any downloads are saved as .pdf or .jpg files and not .docx so that most people will be able to open them without issue.
Statutory RequirementsDirect ContentFile LinkMix of Both / Either
Contact details✔
Admission arrangements✔
School uniforms✔
Ofsted reports✔
Test, exam and assessment results✔
Performance measures website✔
School opening hours✔
Curriculum✔
Remote education✔
Behaviour policy✔
Pupil premium and recovery premium✔
PE and sport premium for primary schools✔
Public sector equality duty✔
Special educational needs and disability (SEND) information✔
Careers programme information✔
Complaints procedure✔
Governors’ information and duties✔
Financial information✔
Charging and remissions policies✔
Values and Ethos✔
Request for paper copies✔

Conclusion

I completely understand uploading content as a pdf is a convenient way for schools to share information but, it is important to consider the experience of the user, after all, if the content of your website doesn’t save parents from having to phone the school office it’s not achieving it’s purpose – and actually it’s created extra work because you’ve put it on the website and still had a parent or member of the public call the school office!  

Including as much information as possible directly on your website not only improves the user experience for all users, but it also ensures that important information is easily accessible to everyone.

Download Our Editable Compliance Checklist

Our School Website Checklist:

  • Is fully compliant with all statutory requirements
  • Has all the current information including the September 2022 
  • Is fully editable
  • Has a generous area at the bottom of each section for notes or comments
  • Has an index page that navigates to each section
  • Has specific versions for academies or maintained schools to ensure you have everything relevant to your school. 

To download, simply complete the form below and you will be emailed your copy.  

Send Me The Checklist

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