What is user experience and what does it mean for school websites?

In brief…

  • User experience is about providing a simple, accessible and intuitive experience.
  • It tries to identify what people want to find and helps them find it quickly and easily.
  • Schools can help build a positive user experience by keeping their website up to date.
  • Establishing a good user experience will encourage parents to come back and stay engaged.

In recent articles, we’ve discussed the idea of user experience design and highlighted it as an area of key importance for anyone developing a new website in 2019. In this article, we are going to take a step back and talk about what user experience design actually is and why your school should care about it.

What is user experience design?

User experience design, commonly referred to as UX design, is the process of designing a website with the objective of ensuring that visiting, using and navigating it is as easy as possible. This means creating a simple, accessible and intuitive design that anyone can be confident using, regardless of what device they are on, their ability with or their confidence level around computers.

Let’s assume a parent is visiting a school website that uses the navigation menu shown below. If the parent in question wants to find out when a particular school trip is taking place, the most logical assumption to make is they will look straight at the ‘News & Events’ section, as this is where any information on events is expected to be.

User navigation

Once the parent hovers their mouse over ‘News & Events’ the menu then automatically expands to display the additional options shown below. At this point the parent will probably expect to find the information they want in the ‘Calendar’ section, so ensuring the calendar is kept up to date would be considered to be a good user experience.

It may sound a little obvious, but details like this can be easy to miss. If that school trip had not yet been added to the calendar section and had only been mentioned in ‘Newsletters’, it would likely create a frustrating and negative user experience, as the parent would have to go and actively search around for the information.

User navigation

The situation any user experience design is trying to avoid is one where the user leaves a website in frustration and doesn’t come back. Websites are such a powerful tool for schools to use when engaging with parents and maintaining this level of engagement is important. Sharing news and updates is a lot easier and cheaper when there is a highly engaged audience of parents already visiting the website on a regular basis. On the other hand, if a school’s website gives a frustrating experience, it will be harder to share that information effectively online as parents will be more inclined to avoid using the website and will therefore not see what is added.

Much of user experience design comes from putting yourself in the shoes of the people visiting a website and trying to understand the experience through their eyes, identifying what their expectations will be and what they are likely to do with the information presented to them on the website.

In the busy world of day to day school operations making sure the website gets updated regularly can understandably be a challenge but doing so can be worth it to build the kind of online experience patents wants to engage with regularly.

When it comes to the initial design and build of a website, this is what our team at PrimarySite do and why we have UX experts working in our team. We strive to ensure that every site we deliver is one that provides a pleasant experience that is simple, easy and intuitive to use.