It's the nerve center of any school or district communications. The page that parents visit the most; staff too. The school website calendar.
But many school website calendars can be a major frustration for those both trying to find information, and those responsible for loading it. Parents or anyone trying to access info, or school staff members who are charged with managing it, their calendar experience cannot be an irritating one, or else they won’t come back to it.
In a related article, Campus Suite designer Steve Williams asks the question: Is your website school calendar making parents happy? Parents, after all, are the true litmus test when it comes to your school calendar usability.
New technology means better school calendars
As web technologies advance, the school calendar is just another facet of school websites that has stood to benefit greatly. Time was when the school calendar link would often lead you to a static (sometimes PDF) or page, and if you were lucky enough to find the event you were looking for, just maybe the info would be up to date.
Now, no technology in the world can guarantee your school’s calendar content is totally accurate and not stale, but as website content management systems (CMS) keep pace with widespread advancing platforms like Google, Microsoft and others, there is a rising tide of better, seamless integration that’s benefiting school communications.
Regardless of who your school website CMS provider is, the following features are the four must-have features for a school website online calendar that keeps pace with the way your parents and staff should be connecting with your school.
4 must-have school calendar features:
1. User-friendly for staff and parents
It’s a term that’s frequently tossed around in the world of software, meaning, of course, that the ‘interface’ is simple to use. User-friendliness is the price of admission these days – and ought to be – for not only your whole CMS package but especially the calendar, which is the most popular, most used, most visited part of your website.
And ‘friendly’ applies to both the parents accessing the info and the staff managing it. Look for a clean, simple, intuitive interface, one that is easy to maneuver on a mobile device. Ask a few of the least techie people at your school to take it for a spin. They’ll tell you just how friendly it is.
2. Customizable views
What can be ‘friendlier’ than the ability for your users to be able to customize the calendar experience? Can your parents and staffers easily access the master calendar and all the various calendars to choose from – district, high school, department level? Do they have the ability to customize their experience?. Why be forced to view, for example, all district-wide events when all you’re concerned about is your child’s elementary school calendar events?
Users should be able to select calendars from the master calendar and display them on one, single, customized calendar. Can they choose from graphical, list view or printable view, and have the ability to save settings?
3. Integrates with personal calendar apps
Another key feature related to customizing the user experience is the ability to synchronize school calendars to individuals’ personal calendars. This is a beautiful thing.
At the heart of productivity is the ability to plan, organize and schedule, and school events need to be easily integrated into your parents’ schedules. Google Calendar, Microsoft Outlook, Apple Calendar are the most popular online personal calendars. The two main reasons to have a calendar in the first place is to schedule and remind everyone of events, so make sure you make it easy to get your school and your school events on their schedule.
4. ADA-compliant and accessible for all
Finally, another key feature of your school website online calendar should have is full accessibility. It only follows that especially since the school calendar is the most popular section on your website, you need to be certain you eliminate barriers to people with disabilities.
As with the rest of your website, calendar content must meet WCAG 2.0 AA standards for web accessibility. A built-in, dedicate ‘Accessible View’ button can accommodate people with disabilities so everyone can stay engaged with school calendar info.
The calendar of events is indispensable to effective communication for a school or district. It needs to be comprehensive, fully accessible, useful and manageable – for you and your school community.
Together, these four features will improve how your school calendar information is managed and accessed. So look for them from your CMS provider. These four must-have features will help your school eliminate the frustrations of parents and staff alike who can’t find or load in the most critical of school content.
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Marketing director and content strategist for Campus Suite, Jay’s a former school public relations specialist who’s helped businesses, schools and colleges use the power of web communications to improve their image, generate support, and optimize relationships. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him @jay4schools.