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Achieving project success

Top tips to keep your school website project moving

27 July 2021 Katie Sixsmith

We’ve worked on thousands of school website projects over the years and whilst each school is different, the challenges faced can often be the same.

Juggling a school website project and everyday tasks within your school can be difficult, which is why we’ve shared our top tips to ensure success and keep your project moving.

Plan for availability over holidays & half-terms

Project timelines are usually calculated based on a period of consecutive weeks which include holidays and half-terms.

This may seem unusual for a provider whose key customer base is education, but a lot of schools and trusts have staff in administration or IT who are contracted throughout the holidays on full year contracts (or term time + a set number of days).

Pausing progress during the school holidays can stretch your website project from only 3 months to 4 or even 5.

For example: if a 12-week project timeline fell over the February half term and a late March Easter holiday but the key contact was unavailable during these periods, the project timeline could end up being extended by an additional 3 – 4 weeks. Progress would be halted if we are unable to get feedback on designs or there is no-one available from the school to add content during the final phases.

If you have a specific launch date you are working towards or are concerned about deadlines, make sure you speak to your website provider at the very start of the project and keep them up to date with any changes as the project progresses. They may be able to suggest alternative options such as an interim website, phased approach or a fixed timeline with set dates to work towards.

Share your design feedback promptly

During the design phase of the project, you and your team will need to provide prompt feedback on initial and subsequent designs as well as ‘sign off’ on the final visuals.

To avoid any delays, plan in an internal meeting to feedback on designs as soon as they have been received and then send your feedback across to your designer whilst your ideas are still fresh in your mind.

While we understand you may want everyone at your school to feel involved, ‘design by committee’ can often cause internal disputes and dilute the end design result, especially if there are varying different opinions and preferences between individuals.

To avoid this situation, start by creating a cohesive brief that has been agreed by all the relevant stakeholders and appoint an overall decision maker who has the authority to make changes and approve the designs on behalf of the wider school or trust.

Identify your decision makers

It’s important to identify who will have overall responsibility for signing off designs and confirming the website is ready for launch at the start of the project.

If your CEO or headteacher is the final decision maker, then try and anticipate when you will need their feedback so you can book in a chat or bring it up as part of a regularly scheduled meeting. This will be crucial to keep the project moving as their calendar will likely get booked up weeks in advance.

Anticipate their needs and help them to respond promptly by sending them visuals ahead of any discussions, so they have time to look at what you’re asking for and digest any information they need to know.

To reduce the amount of administration time required by a busy decision maker, appoint a proxy who can respond to the website provider on their behalf signing off designs and dealing with the day-to-day project tasks and questions.

Have your content ready

The content phase of a website project can be as long or as short as you require - depending on how organised you are with your content and your availability in school to upload any remaining content once your website has been built.

At the start of the project, make a plan internally as to who is responsible for writing, editing, collating and approving the content prior to it being loaded onto the website. You may be lifting content from your existing website, or you may want to write new content from scratch. Often, schools end up doing a little bit of both.

Speak to your project coordinator to determine when you need to have your content ready by and find out when you will get access to your new content management system so that you can upload your additional pages of content.

If time is tight, determine the key pages that you must have ready for launch and then plan for a phase 2 to add in the remaining content as soon as possible after you have gone live. Make sure any pages which have no content on them are moved to a hidden area, as empty pages can make visitors think your website isn’t finished.

Understand the process

By understanding each step of the project and what will be needed when, you can plan for your team to react accordingly and keep your project on track. Your project coordinator will be able to advise you on these milestones from the very start and will be there every step of the way to assist and advise.

Communication is key to any successful project. By maintaining open channels throughout the project with both your provider and your school or trust, any challenges can be averted and overcome.

If you’d like to find out more about the e4education project process, or our school website offering

 

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