Our website is nothing fancy. No dropdown menus, no Flash, just information. I ginned it up this summer as a way to get information out to parents and staff and keep moving spiffing it up down on my very long to do list. I don't think the problem with our website is a lack of spiffiness, though. This isn't meant to be sales or marketing, although the case could be made PR efforts are important for a school looking for community support. I think the real problem is more cultural in nature.
We've never had a web presence before. It was simply never a priority and there was never anyone at a district level to administer a website. Although a site bearing our domain existed, it was even more out of date and unattractive than the one we have now.
Given that, people simply didn't think to check the website for information. If I need specs on the latest Apple equipment, I pop over to the Apple website. If I need to know Barack Obama's position on healthcare, I go to his website. If I need to know when final exams are, I look at the calendar posted on the district website. I just happen to be the only one, since a calendar has never been posted there before.
So how do we get people in the habit of looking to the website first for information? We've started posting school closings and dismissals on the site and used our automated calling system to inform people of the address. We did a press release in the local paper noting the web address. It still is certainly not the first place people think to get information about the schools.
Of course, part of the problem is a chicken and egg issue. Since people don't tend to look at the site, staff in the schools don't tend to post information to the site. Without compelling new information, community members won't look to the site.
So it looks like it's up to me. Next snow day, it's time for an overhaul with some serious new content. It's time for some PR and it's time that the site grew up. I see some surveys in my future for parents and staff. To what information do you need ready access? What documents or functions would make the website more useful?
The other piece of the redevelopment will be to include consistent sites for each of the schools. While some schools have their own sites, a single point through which people can access information for individual schools would be useful.
What else? Twitter feeds from staff? Blogs and newsletters from staff? What are the "killer apps" on your district's/school's website?