If you're a webmaster, communications director, or IT manager – or even simply someone who contributes or just visits your school's website – do any of these scenarios sound familiar?
- It looks like your website has crashed. You’ve no idea how long the outage has been, but you know need help and you need it now.
- You’ve got to get six new teachers and your new secretary trained and up to speed fast on how to load content to the website.
- You accidentally deleted a file and need to retrieve it from back-up.
- You’re wrestling with building the architecture for your new website, and are looking for guidance in the best way to organize the menus.
- You hit the “publish” button and the webpage apparently explodes. There's 15 minutes you'll never get back.
- Your superintendent is having trouble accessing your website on her new mobile phone, and you need answers fast.
- You want to insert a rotating banner of photos from the school’s recent performance of Our Town, and are not sure where to begin.
Pick one. These and countless issues are not uncommon in the world of website hosting. It comes with the technology territory. Unfortunately, what’s also common is unresponsive website support from the website hosting provider or CMS supplier.
A demonstration of knowledgeable, accessible and dependable support is a critical criteria schools should use when searching for a new (or evaluating your current) website hosting provider. Strong, capable support is an important component to a school website, for schools simply cannot afford to handle and keep up with technological issues.
How a school website software vendor delivers support can make or break a website launch, training, and the ongoing software and outage issues that might arise.
Impact of website support on a school:
1. It can make or break a smooth website launch.
Some of the most common glitches encountered by schools using website providers with sub-standard support occur before your new website is even launched. Whether it’s help with migrating content, assistance with how to organize your website with intuitive menus and navigation, or attentive and reassuring hand-holding, the kind of support your school gets during the pre-launch and launch phase can be a strong indicator of your support going forward. If there are unwarranted delays from your provider’s support team before you even get your site up and running, imagine how responsive they’ll be when you’ve online problems.
2. It reflects how your website users perceive your IT team.
If your CMS provider has great support, that means fewer headaches and hassles for you in terms of internally supporting the website. Your IT group can take the credit for helping administer a smooth-running, well-supported website. On the other hand, if your CMS support team is not up to snuff, then your internal IT team will bear the brunt of any and all of the shortcomings of a poorly supported website. It’s not fair to expect your school’s own IT team to be able to troubleshoot the website. That’s what a good CMS vendor should be doing. A good website support team at the provider level makes your support team look – and perform – even better.
3. It reflects how your website users perceive your staff, faculty and school.
In addition to making your IT team look good or bad, the impact of a poorly serviced and supported website can make the whole school look outdated, sloppy or otherwise unconcerned when issues go unresolved. Bad links, outages, and stale content can make everyone from your coaches and teachers to your principals and superintendent appear in a not-so favorable light. Conversely, if your website provider’s support team trains your staff thoroughly, is responsive to outages, fixes any problems, and issues timely updates and upgrades, then that reflects a positive, professional image – not only for the staff and faculty managing the content, but for the entire school.
4. A strong website support team helps you stay current with technology.
The ever-evolving landscape of mobile devices, social media and web technology makes it hard for any school IT group to stay up to date much less effective if they try to handle it themselves. Part of the beauty of a website vendor support team that manages all the issues for your website is that it saves valuable IT resources at your school. In the short and long run, outsourcing your school website with a well-supported software provider who keeps your school up to date with advances in web technology will also save you money. Web technology is moving at warp speed, and a website provider who stays up with the technology helps you focus on education and educational services, not staying out ahead of the fast-moving world of website technology.
5. Support and training can make your staff better communicators.
Let’s face it, there’s a lot of push and pull these days on teachers and school administrators to be more accessible and more accountable than ever. A school staff that’s adequately trained to use current website technology is one that is using the most powerful communications tools available today. An effectively utilized website can go a long way in helping you connect to your entire school community. User training is an important facet of your website provider’s total support offering, so make sure it’s comprehensive and ongoing to keep pace with changes in your staff and changes in technology.
Common issues require uncommon service
Issues are going to arise with any website software. Remember though, it’s not – nor should it be – the responsibility of a school’s internal IT team to be able to handle all the myriad issues that can occur with a school website. How your website software provider’s support team responds, solves and, in many cases, prevents the common problems can make the difference between a good website partner and a weak one. While there are many similarities in the functions and features of the software itself offered by school content management system providers, what can distinguish a good one is how thorough and professional their team is. A strong website support partner can have a dramatic impact on many aspects of your school's communications. When looking for a website hosting provider, find one with a track record of being accessible and capable of solving the most common school website support issues.
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 email@example.com or follow him @jay4schools.