Do These Web Sites Work?

Do These Web Sites Work?

Seattle (Wash.) Public Schools www.seattleschools.org; Wayne (N.J.) Public Schools www.wayneschools.

Seattle (Wash.) Public Schools www.seattleschools.org

Design

The site links to Web pages for each of its 100 schools, with a building photograph, contact information and selected class homework assignments, though much of the content is outdated or incomplete. Many of the pages offer access to separate school Web sites, though this is not clear to users. A How to Use This Site section would be helpful. OED

Faults in design are that secondary pages do not necessarily stick to the stylesheets established by the first page. Actually, the homepage doesn't really make much effort to play nicely with the other content in the style department. This can be easily fixed by defining a stylesheet for everyone to use. KS

Some links to PDF files are marked as such which is a good idea some aren't. Some pages are oddly arranged (Employment, Library), and do not follow suit with a link back to the secondary page on the top of the left navigation. How to solve this? Make use of "breadcrumbs" and provide the users with a visual link trail. It is easy to get lost here. KS

Navigation

Main menu choices access submenus unique to the selections, but some of the items and abbreviations such as SOIC and GED may not be clear to users. OED

Navigation is different, but not confusing. Home | Schools | Map | District Calendar | Contacts is present on all of the sub-pages but de-emphasized by its smaller text size. However, it works. This navigation is a good idea, even if it's not the best possible positioning. KS

Homepage information is grouped strangely: it's pertinent and timely, but the Chief Academic Officer search link is right above the link for inclement weather closing

information. KS

Quality of the interaction with the user

Many of the menu choices, even short selections, are presented in PDF rather than HTML form, which adds unnecessary steps to accessing the content. OED

The site presents an amazing amount of information pertinent to the large district, but specific items are often difficult to find, so much of the content needs to be better organized. A site map, with a prominent link from the top menu, would help. OED

School-to-home interaction

The site offers a convenient link to the School Kids Come First service that allows parents and the community to make online donations for specific school and district projects, such as purchasing school uniforms. OED

Creative use of online technologies

A section with outstanding video clips on topics including school board meetings and curriculum presentations is included. Unfortunately the section is hardly noticeable as an SPS TV menu item, so it should be made much more prominent. OED

Up-to-date information

The site is generally kept up-to-date, with notable exceptions such as library resources that haven't been updated since 2001, and newsletter archives that end in January 2004. OED

Wayne (N.J.) Public Schools www.wayneschools.com

Design

The site offers links to separate Web pages for each high school, middle school and elementary school, as well as to community programs, but offers only limited content targeted specifically to user groups of parents, students and staff. OED

They've done a good job in posting who's who with pictures and bios of the administration. E-mail links are posted so contacting people is easy. KS

Navigation

The navigation system is effective, where each selected page displays a sub-menu listing the major site sections, which makes it easy to move to another content area. Other sections can also be accessed through the content menu that is carried over consistently at the bottom of each page. OED

The FAQ section is divided into four sections, but I think "Can I borrow money from my pension?" was intended for the Employee Resources section. KS

Quality of the interaction with the user

Some content areas such as the board of education section are tightly focused, whereas others address a wide range of topics such as general information, that includes forms, guidebooks, handbooks, a township overview and employment information that might better be organized into subtopics. OED

All links to PDF files should be labeled as such. Clicking on one

without expecting a PDF to open is annoying. KS

The site is particularly weak on curriculum content, and offers no online educational applications for students, or links to related resources. OED

School-to-home interaction

The effective Contact Us link from the opening screen brings users to a directory of district administration and board of education members, featuring links to personal Web pages with photos, contact information and job descriptions for each individual. OED

Creative use of online technologies

With the exception of color photographs, used only sparingly, the district does not take advantage of online multimedia technologies such as audio, video, animations, live cameras and online simulations. OED

How about a blog since the From My Desk note is perfect blog content. Open Office Hour is a great outreach tool to the public and employees alike. Users can request a meeting and submit a topic for discussion with the superintendent. KS

Up-to-date information

The site provides no area for daily information such as announcements, bus schedules and lunch menus, and several of the staff pages have not yet been completed. OED

For what the site may lack, it seems to be making a sincere effort to communicate with the public. The board's meeting agendas and minutes are accessible and up-to-date. Meetings are posted in advance. Newsletters are also available for download. KS

Odvard Egil Dyrli, dyrli@uconn.edu, is senior editor, Web site editor and emeritus professor of education at the University of Connecticut.

Kirk Snedeker is a freelance writer and professional Web developer.


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