The Face of Your School

Ten years ago, in an article similar to this one, I stated that more and more parents and guardians of students and prospective students are using the Internet today for all their information needs – from finding the best deals in travel to finding out about the area to which they’ll be relocating.

Five years ago, I stated that it’s not more and more – it’s practically everyone. Today, it IS everyone.  And the computer isn’t at home on a desk, either.  It’s in your hand.  You call it a mobile device.  It’s really a hand-held computer.  You might even be wearing one on your wrist right now.

About seven summers ago, I attended a meeting of parents who were new to a parent organization which supported the activities of a local high school band program. One of the speakers said that all communication is sent via email through the monthly Newsletter. One new parent raised her hand and asked, “What if you don’t have a computer.” Another parent shouted out the answer –  “Get one.” The room erupted in applause.  After calming the group, the speaker said that she didn’t have to do that. The Newsletter could be sent to her via regular mail for a subscription fee of $20. That made her even more upset!  The point is that paper costs money today.  And every business is looking to save whatever and wherever they can today.

Today, the Newsletter is a blog, so if you’re not connected, you’re, well, not connected.  Free WiFi is available at the local public library and coffee shop or restaurant, and for those just looking for a connection, a Nook costs under $100.  Truthfully, there is NO reason not to be connected. “They cost too much,” “I don’t have time to learn that,” and “I have no use for that stuff” are sometimes acceptable reasons for not entering the computer age, but if children are going to be expected to learn how to survive, navigate and thrive in the world they’ll be entering, they’re going to need to be exposed to technology which will need to be supported by parents.

Most school leaders have realized the Internet is the first place today’s parents and guardians will look for information about their child’s potential educational environment, and many have excellent interactive and informative Web presences. Unfortunately, there are those that still have “a Web page” that’s part of the parish’s or church’s Web site.

Folks, your Web site is now the face of your school. If it doesn’t look inviting or seems outdated, your school will be viewed as not be inviting, or outdated – even though it may be the most welcoming, faith-filled and academically top-notch program in the area.  Web site visit is the first step to physical site visit.

Even today, I’ve seen Web sites that are simply text. Sorry – today’s families want to see pictures…not necessarily of your building, but happy students that are enjoying their learning experience. But if a parent/guardian has to wait more than 8 seconds for your site to load once they’ve clicked your school’s Web site address or entered it into their Web browser, they’re gone.

The most common causes of slow loading (other than a parent/guardian’s connection speed) are graphics – most notably, pictures and video. With digital cameras widely available today, it’s not uncommon for pictures to be taken and then immediately be posted to a Web site. However, the larger the size of the picture file, the more time it requires to load a Web site into a browser. Most digital cameras convert images to .jpg files, and, the better the quality of the “j-peg,” the larger it is.   Today, with smartphone technology and video from your mobile device, a properly compressed and ready to post video file is just a phone away.  Schools even have a YouTube “channel” where videos of their school are posted.

While technologies are improving rapidly, there are still some things you want to consider:

1) Consider a professional photographer or videographer for material that will be posted to your Web site to market your school. It will definitely differentiate your school from schools that take candid digital camera shots.

2) Convert those camera .jpg files to .gif files that are smaller in size and load instantly.  They also hamper the ability for someone to copy the picture from your site and save it in their own files for whatever purpose they might have.

3) Linking content like slideshows and videos might be prudent if there’s a limit to the amount of data that you can have associated with your Web site.  You’re not going to want to overload your storage with lots of video. While video files are much smaller in size today than they were even five years ago, they’re still significantly larger than photos or even audio files.

Remember, too, that even though there may be still parents out there without a computer, there are those that have 9-year old Dells, HPs and Samsungs that are still on Windows XP, dial-up rather than broadband wireless, and may still experience the “box with the red x.”

© Michael V. Ziemski, SchoolAdvancement, 2007-2017 (Original Publication Date: 20070723)