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School websites usually grow over many years. New content is constantly being added, thus the overview gets lost. How a complete (re)structuring can help.

School websites often have over a hundred pages

At first you will only find the imprint and contact details as well as a short description of the school. Later on, for example, project descriptions, news reports, curricula, picture gallery, teacher list and much more will follow. Since it is seldom possible to foresee in advance which content will be added, the authors consider at each new content where it fits best. This results in a colourful patchwork quilt which sooner or later becomes so confusing that only a complete restructuring can restore the overview.

Get an overview first

How can a good structure of the school website be found? The best way to do this is to first get an overview of all pages of your school website. This is very easy if your school website already has a sitemap or you can create one automatically. Because the sitemap offers the best overview.

But make sure that the sitemap really shows all pages. If your sitemap is generated automatically by your content management system, you can be sure that no page is missing and that all pages are in the right place in the overall structure.

If you have created the page independently "by hand", it is possible that new pages are missing in the sitemap or are in the wrong place. Then you need to work through your menu and update the sitemap by adding missing pages, putting them in the right place and removing deleted pages. A little trick helps here: If technically possible, open all menu items of your website at once and then save this overview. For example, with Typo3 in the backend of your school website, you can create a sitemap or an overview of all pages by simply clicking on "special elements" > "special menus" > "sitemap". Many other content management systems such as Wordpress, Joomla or Jimdo have a similar function.

Alternatively, you can create the sitemap directly from your school website:

  1. Open as much as possible of the content of the navigation bar and then take a screenshot by pressing the "Print S-Fab" button.
  2. Insert this screenshot into a graphics program, such as the free Paint.net.
  3. Then only cut the graphic to fit the navigation bar.
  4. Now repeat the above steps until you have the entire navigation bar as a graphic.
  5. Finally, create a large empty graphic and insert all graphics of navigation sections one after the other.

The result could then look like this, for example:

structured sitemap

Using this overview, you can now regroup the content and simply cross out newly sorted pages.

Structuring content according to user groups

Now consider how best to structure the content. It also helps to get a visual overview by spreading the content out in front of you.

In principle, there are several ways of structuring content. Two common methods are these:

a) Structuring the content according to the internal structure of the school, i.e. according to the content logic of the school's internal systems into categories, e.g. curricula, teaching times, subjects, extra-curricular activities, etc.

b) Structuring the content according to the interests of the users: students and parents or Year 5, Year 6, Year 7, ... test level, intermediate level, upper level, ...

Optimal is the restructuring of the school website according to the interest of the users. In most cases, parents, for example, will search for relevant information for their child. - Either to register their child at the school or because they are in a year-group and parents are looking for information about it. Similarly, students at a school are usually only interested in what awaits them in their respective year group. Therefore, structuring by year or user group helps a lot to attract students.

Therefore, structuring content according to the interest of the users is the most sensible way, for example like this:

structuring for students and parents

The big advantage here is that parents can get an overview of all relevant content for their child more easily by sorting by user group.

As a result, these parents probably receive significantly more information than with the old content structure. Furthermore, they do not have to laboriously search for content relevant for their child from the content structure. The same applies to pupils: when they enter a new level, the better pupil orientation allows them to quickly get an overview of what to expect and, if necessary, to make their change requests or necessary arrangements more quickly.

For more thoughts on how to structure content for users, see these articles:

Structuring content in distribution of labour

To create the new structure, you can use paper and pencil or a digital planning tool such as Creately:

structuring content with creately

Afterwards, the content have to be moved according to the new structure and, above all, updated and coordinated. Experience has shown that the restructuring as a sideline for school websites with a maximum of 100 websites takes several months, for even more sites it can take more than a year. This is because all websites have to be read, content updated or deleted and finally classified.

One more tip: Let your colleagues help you with this. This will not only help you get the job done faster and make your work easier, but also help you get the best possible result from the restructuring. After all, your colleagues will contribute many good ideas and are usually the experts in their field.

Dealing with duplicate information

Make sure that information is not duplicated on the school website by deliberately checking the pages for duplicate content.

Text which fits into several categories

Likewise, there will be a lot of content which fits thematically in many places. Sport offers, for example, can usually be classified into several age groups. In this case you should integrate the overview of sports offers at the place where it makes most sense. At all other places you should only link to this page.

Conclusion

After a few years, school websites usually require a complete re-structuring of the content in order to become clear again. This is usually connected with a long work phase of many months.

A great help here is to get an exact overview of all content first. Only then a meaningful restructuring according to content AND user group becomes visible and helps to keep the overview when moving. The result is a much clearer school website with much more user-friendliness.

Restructuring the content of a school website causes a lot of work, but it is worth it. As a team you can manage to make the website much more structured and user-friendly.

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