District 16 plans launch of website redesign

District 16 School Board members had their first peak at a newly redesigned website the district plans to launch and roll out in stages starting next month.

Jim Elert, communications coordinator, and Tom Cash, of the district’s technology and web service department, unveiled a sampling of the website in the communications and connections discussion segment of the March 27 board work session.

Today’s technology and software demands have started to exceed the district’s current site’s technical abilities, according to the district.

The current website design has been in use for five years.

“The technology and needs can be outstripped in a hurry,” Elert said.

The district website gets more than 100,000 visits a month, more than a million per year, Elert said.

“On a potential snow day this year, it more than doubled,” Elert said about usage of the site.

A year of plans

Plans for the redesign started a year ago. District staffers Tom Cash, Steve Halvorson, Jerelyne Nemanich, Jim Elert, Bill Zimmermann and Kathy Linder served on a redesign committee.

The district contracted with August Ash, Inc,. a Bloomington web design firm for assistance at the cost of $22,500 (for block of hours), according to Elert.

In January, website information transfer and reformatting of thousands of pages began.

Although the initial date planned for the new design to go live is in April, the district will continue rolling out the design throughout the remainder of the school year. The idea is to introduce staff to the new design and dialogue about current content and future ways to best present web page content.

The new website will be easier to navigate. Among its many features are: A district home page with rotating banner featuring relevant information and current events, a consistent look for each schools’ pages and an interactive district calender. The calendar can be added to an iPad or an iPhone.

“It can work on every device and not be limited to our product,” Cash said.

The new design will have a mega menu in which the user will click on the menu once and scroll down for an area of interest.

A language translation feature will allow users to translate information into 58 languages.

Schools will have a staff directory page with photos of teachers and contact information. Staff will be able to blog post.

The new site will also have a spot for social media for Flicker, Facebook and Twitter accounts.

Parents will not have to visit Twitter or sign on with a YouTube or Facebook account.

“It’s on our website,” Cash said.

But the site won’t go live until it’s “good enough and ready,” Elert said.

“The bottom line is getting it ready and having it look good when it gets out there,” Superintendent Jeff Ronneberg said.

Said Board Chairwoman Colleen Vranish, “It’s a great look. A great idea.”

Elyse Kaner is at [email protected]