Time and time again, schools complain of their portals being messy, difficult to use and outdated. But in an increasingly digitally connected world, where parents expect to have access to accurate and reliable information in a timely manner, this will no longer suffice.
A school portal solution needs to be designed to seamlessly connect your administrators, teachers, parents and students 24/7 from any location and device. It is an extension of your school's brand, and a well designed school portal reflects positively on the school’s reputation. Here are some must have features for the perfect school portal design.
An Easy to Use, Intuitive Design
A school portal should never be a challenge to navigate. Designs should begin with a consideration of what the users need to accomplish and, from there, every effort should be made to let them navigate to that information quickly. School portals should adhere to current web standards and should undergo substantial usability testing. Watching real users is the only way to ensure that a school portal functions the way it should. It's not always easy to guess what users will or won't find intuitive.
Many school portals make the mistake of trying to include as much content as they can on each page. Though this may seem convenient, it is usually just confusing. Having a hierarchy of information and making sure that all of the information is appropriately linked is far easier for most users.
Personalised Content Tailored to User Roles
One way you can eliminate clutter on your school portal is by personalising content based on user roles. Parents, teachers, students, and other staff members should have different dashboards and user experiences. This content will ensure that each user gets only the information and functionality that they are interested in. It will also substantially reduce confusion. Content management systems can be easily customised to tailor content to each user type.
It's always ideal for any education portal development to include this kind of functionality, rather than individual portals being developed for parents, students, and teachers. Though it is possible to create different portal systems for students and teachers, it generally duplicates the amount of work that needs to be done by IT and content authors. A good school portal design will seek to share as many resources as possible between the different user roles.
A Complete Mobile Experience
Designing for mobile is no longer an option: it is a must. Students and parents expect to be able to access their school’s portal on their mobile phones. That includes all of the important functionality that can be found in the desktop version, to be easily viewed on smaller mobile screens.
For example, SkoolBag will soon offer a complete mobile app solution, integrated to the Elcom portal solution. This enables teachers, parents and students to access important information such as calendars, contact details, student records, from any location and device.
Deciding to rely on a mobile responsive site vs. designing a mobile app to use alongside your desktop portal solution will depend on your unique needs. Though there are key benefits to offering a mobile app, including:
- Push notification alerts: These can be sent directly to mobile phones, and ensures parents and students view important school information, notices, and other news items in a timely manner.
- Mobile-first design: Mobile apps often appear more polished and professional, as they have been designed to be viewed on mobile only, and follow the specific requirements of each mobile device operating system.
- Faster loading: Much of the content on an app is already pre-downloaded on the user's device, making it faster to use and navigate from page to page.
- Seamless access: Mobile apps such as schoolAPP requests a single log on and allows parents to remain logged in for future visits.
Easy to Use Communication and News Systems
Apart from finding information about classes and events, many users of a school portal are going to want to communicate with each other. The perfect school portal is going to make it easy for individuals to communicate. This often includes:
- Instant messaging systems or internal mail systems. This consolidates all of the student, teacher, and parent correspondences within a single system.
- Forums or message boards. Class-related content can be easily distributed through forums and message boards, and forums can be an excellent way for students or parents to ask questions.
- Chat rooms. Many classes can utilise internal chat rooms so that students can discuss a class with each other or teachers can quickly review information.
Additionally, it should be easy to setup both announcements and events in a school portal, and to distribute them to the appropriate users and user roles.
Easy to Use Forms and Well-Formatted Tables
There are two design elements that school portals often get wrong: forms and tables. Forms need to be easy to use and easy to submit. They need to be designed so that they can save data quickly and so that they are intuitive and easy to use. They also need to be clean and attractive, because a lot of information will be submitted through forms.
Likewise, tables need to be constructed so that they are clean, polished, and professional. Well-formatted tables can display a lot of information quickly, in an intuitive and easy to read structure. Poorly formatted tables will often "break" a portal, especially when viewed on smaller screens.
When properly thought out, your perfect school portal design will lead to a highly connected community of administrators, teachers, students and parents - all enable to easily access relevant and accurate information in a timely manner.