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Sites for Schools

One of our frequent reviewers, Bennie C. Taylor turns her attention to the "Sites 4 Schools" site and observes a number of good points. In case the site does get a renovation based on this review, we've captured the scene we saw the day of this review. Just click on the thumbnail below.

Do we really need that flash?

sites for schoolsGenerally this site serves its purpose. Here are a few suggestions:

Don't begin with a Flash event and offer a chance to turn it off. Instead, start with an introductory message, and then (if you must) offer a Flash version. Some customers may want Flash, but you should warn them that many visitors will scurry away from anything that takes a while to display.

When I opted to skip the Flash material, I arrived at the "About Us" page. That's okay because I wanted to read more about your business. But there is a "special offer" image covering part of the text; this is distracting.


Overall your navigation is clear and logical. But do not put an active "About Us" link on the "About Us" page. It is redundant and confusing.
      You only have a few sub pages. It would take just a moment to set up a unique navigation menu for each page.


Yellow is not my favorite background color, but it does allow sufficient contrast with the dark blue font color. However, the tiny (and fixed-size) font does present a problem. Smaller font can be attractive, but there must be a limit to what is acceptable and what is not. Here the tiny font looks very unbalanced against the large graphic across the top of the page.
      To me a miniscule font seems to suggest the content is not very important or has been included only because it is expected. Your main message needs a bolder look; give it enough visual weight to indicate its importance.
      Observe that text looks much better when the left margin is aligned. See this: www.mcwebdesign.us/school.jpg.


You wrote:
"With recent teaching experience, allied to a wide portfolio of graphic design works, the company is firmly placed at the centre of knowledge of the increasingly important field of web site development for schools marketing..."
This sentence is awkward and somewhat confusing. Your message should be stated in simple and precise language. Maybe something like this:
"Members of our team have recent teaching experience and a wide portfolio of graphic designs. We are uniquely qualified to create a web site that will effectively market your school."

The Image

The image at the top could use some tweaking if it is intended to support your mission.
      The collage would be more effective if there were some school names incorporated into it and the title of your company Too, your logo or identifier should be present on each page.

Your "Reference" page has some really useful links. Thanks.

Asking Questions about Site Design

When approaching the design of a site one should always ask some serious questions about the site's mission:

  1. Who is the site intended for? Obviously this site is aimed at school administrators, who are likely to be teachers. We have to ask "What will they see to compel them to read deeper?" 99% of the school administrators will leave this arrival page before the FLASH is finished downloading -- and won't click to enter the site.
  2. What is the product? Obviously this site's mission is to sell their services. However does the viewer instantly see promise that their needs may be fulfilled by reading further? Within the first sentence or so has the reader gained enough information to clearly understand what the proposition of this site is?
  3. What messages do the pictures send? These smiling faces of students would seem to be the correct solution. Yet, looking through the eyes of a school administrator will the image be compelling enough to motivate? How did those people in dress shirts and ties get in the water??? If the product the site is selling solves a problem for school administrators, is there a better picture we could use to reinforce that concept?
Answering questions like this give the site developer a profound understanding of the challenge. After considering the site design with the above questions it is painfully clear these questions haven't been asked.

Technical Quibbles

  1. The web page should be "flexible" and condense with the width of the readers' browser. This is clearly not. The width of the graphic locks the site to that minimum width.
  2. Is the blatant blue border on the graphic (indicating it's a clickable link) necessary? The blue here serves no practical purpose. Besides, upon arriving in a web site the first thing you want the reader to do is NOT click elsewhere. The blue border is an invitation to do exactly that.
  3. The "Offer" burst at the lower right betrays the esteem of the reader. If school administrators are looking for solutions to serious problems -- their web site -- then an offer that looks as if it came off of a cereal box may not be sending the right message
  4. The links column is too 'generic' ... "About us" doesn't say much. Perhaps "Who we are" might be better -- and did "About Us" accidentally get duplicated? As Bennie said above, why not jump into the message... you didn't need to say "about us" a second time. "Gallery" ... gallery of what? Is the reader looking for pictures? Would "Success Stories" be better? What is a "Design Brief" and how does it relate to the new reader. "Log in / Log Out" ... we just got here. We see no apparent relationship to logging in, much less logging out. Who is this for? If they are there to log in, then obviously they've been here before. That could be tiny type at the bottom of the screen.
  5. Yellow? Please don't put people's pictures, with flesh tones on a yellow background. It tends to give the faces a surreal contrast -- and a bit of jaundice. The next worse color would have been green. Try something warm, or no background color at all.
This site seems to be colorized and decorated for elementary school teachers -- not adminiatrators. The clients who might use these services are business people. They're looking for solutions to their problems -- quickly, clearly, and financially feasible.
      The site cries out for a more professional, crisp approach that gets to the point and reinforces the bottom line. Back up and visit other sites selling similar services... and position your site to look better than theirs.

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