Chapter 1


It's a fundamental and often overlooked step in school website design: having a plan that's carried out by a team of communications champions. This critical component of your communications mix forms a messaging hub with far-reaching impact on your engagement. Learn how to build a team, generate support, and perform the blocking and tackling to build a great website that drives so much of your school communications.

Creating a communications hub

Your website is your school communications hub. It's home base for all your school community engagement. From school board minutes to lunch menus; urgent news alerts to staff directories; social media links to events calendars, your website needs to be designed and built to be the first stop for parents, staff, students and others seeking information they need to stay connected.

Your school community is demanding to stay current with school info, relying on you to deliver time-critical updates and urgent news. And in order to keep pace with the parent engagement best practices, school administrations need to stay current with advancing media, web and remote technologies along with other changing dynamics of digital communication.

Consider the following:

  • The website is your community's first stop for school information.
  • Contemporary school website design is important to your image.
  • A growing majority of your website visitors access via mobile devices.
  • Social media feeds are popular gateways to your content.
  • School websites must be ADA-compliant and fully accessible to those with disabilities.
  • The school website needs to work together with all your digital channels to engage parents.
  • Users and visitors are comprised of diverse audience groups.


A well-designed, well-organized website free of the fatal mistakes of school website design can be a school communicator's best friend: a repository of all the content that keeps your school community engaged.

You can simplify the process of designing a successful website with this helpful 10-step checklist for school website planning.

It will help you achieve your website goals, communications goals, and be fundamental to your larger school communications planning. It can serve as your key communication tactic, making your communications transparent and responsive.

Goal-setting and great website design go hand in hand. With planning, analysis and effective design, you cover all the bases for creating a strong web communications foundation.


How well your website engages your school community depends on how well it works with all your digital channels.

Building support with teamwork

The school website is such an important part of your school's communications plan, even the most accomplished communications lead should not proceed independently or in a vacuum. Besides spreading the burden for the project leader, teamwork will yield a better website when it comes time to launch. Being the lead on a website project is a big undertaking. Even teams with all-pro quarterbacks need receivers, linemen, and a strong defense to put a winner on the field.

Your first order of business in planning for a great, successful website is to assemble a great team or committee of school personnel who can help shape precisely what your school’s website needs to be. How you put together your team depends on the size of your district, communications staffing levels, school leadership, culture, and other considerations.

How to Prevent Unfriendly Websites


The benefits of a team approach on a website planning project are numerous: Team members can brainstorm ideas in the discovery phase, help meet deadlines and move the project along with workload distribution, generate support with consensus building, and instill a level of investment on the part of these key stakeholders. The sense of community around building a new website can also be very gratifying and rewarding.

Your website team, or variations thereof, can serve as an ongoing advisory group for the annual check-ups your website needs for continued good health.

Involve school leadership in communications

Given the prominent role of website and digital communications, it's a good idea to have a high-ranking administrator or two on your website/communications team. You may already have a committee in place. Get your superintendent or principal to participate because your website should reflect school leadership.


"Coming together is a beginning, staying together is progress, and working together is success." – Henry Ford

A roster of champions

Everyone on the planning team should have clearly defined roles, with each bringing valuable perspectives. All team members should be real champions with an enthusiasm for communications and embracing the website and digital communications generally.

You may have a community engagement director. That position would be an instrumental team member, of course. Chances are your school communications or maybe the IT director will be at the point or the leader of this project. In addition to school leaders, others you want on your team include colleagues in communications, technology, admissions or enrollment. (if applicable). 

A teacher – one who’s a champion of technology and maybe has a great teacher website – is also good to include on your team. He or she can speak for many of the classroom-driven concerns of building your new website. 

Don't overlook parents as possible team members. Especially an involved parent that has some communication savvy can weigh in to make sure your website is engaging your parents. Students with good communication skills can also be valuable contributors to your website team. They bring fresh perspectives and knowledge of emerging web technologies. So look outside your staff – parents, students or others who can identify any signs that your school needs a new website.

Once you’re satisfied you have good representation on your website planning team and roles are clearly defined, be sure to develop your plan consistent with your school’s overall communications mission and goals. The website is your school's communications hub after all, so it’s critical that your website planning is in concert with the bigger picture.

TIP: While certainly a good idea to share the workload with a solid website team roster, don't make your team too large. Make it large enough to get great perspectives, but small enough so you're not spending all too much time building consensus.

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If you're just getting started with building a new website for school, ask potential website vendors for their playbook on how they do it. Not all website providers are alike.

Check out this school website planning checklist to make sure you don't leave out the important steps to success.