Santa Cruz County Office of Education needed a website that serves students, parents, educators and community members in a streamlined, focused way due to its sheer amount of content. Its previous site was a bit lackluster, leaving visitors with a ton of content but little in the way of style to organize the information in a user-friendly layout.
Starting from the top, we reorganized elements to get visitors where they wanted to go quickly. Since most people just needed contact information, a directory button was emphasized to get them to a powerful directory listings page with search functionality (by name, division and/or department). We also moved the language options from the bottom left to the top right to serve a large Spanish-speaking demographic. A powerful, customized search bar replaced the previous standard Google search box. The main menu was completely revamped as a mega menu and reorganized for easier and quicker navigation in a complex site.
Below the header on the homepage, we placed an inspiring image and message followed by large links to student, parent and educator resources with the goal of quickly funneling visitors to their intended destination.
Next, we redesigned the latest posts to introduce news, student voices, and letters from the superintendent with an eye-pleasing layout.
The old site didn’t have a functional online calendar so we integrated the Modern Events Calendar plugin with a virtual event addon so the community could easily participate via Zoom.
Lastly, we added “Community Impact” stats, a slider to announce relevant programs, and a space-saving carousel for showcasing partners.
The footer anchored the site with general contact information, social media links, newsletter signup, and quick links to major sections and legally required content.
The site’s white background not only kept the site bright and cheerful, but it served a purpose in allowing it to meet online accessibility requirements with the organization’s branded colors. We were careful to choose colors with enough contrast to meet WCAG guidelines for legibility.
Besides the staff directory, we implemented a form plugin to give visitors a general contact form as well as a direct method of communication with board members.
To give each main section a slightly customized look, we created templates with varying headers. Section templates were also created so that the staff would be able to easily duplicate and customize most sections, whether they contained a list of PDF links, a table, or a contact box with accompanying staff photo. Every decision was made with the staff in mind to allow them as much flexibility as possible while maintaining ease of use and manageability.
One of the most challenging aspects of this site was user permissions. Since permissions can open security vulnerabilities, we found a solution from a reputable company. Vetting plugins is important to us and the choice of plugins as well as the need for them is crucial for security and performance. In this case, we reduced the number of plugins to almost half of their previous WordPress website.
Once the site was launched, the staff was trained via online webinars and given access to a library of custom-made tutorial videos for future reference. Providing our client with solid training and tutorials, coupled with a powerful easy-to-manage site, granted them a degree of self-sufficiency rarely found in most websites of this size.
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