Your School Website is Not a Book
I came across an article this week that suggested that the average lifespan of a website is currently 2 years, 6 months and 27 days.
That's just about 940 days in total. About the same as a half-decent pair of shoes.
Another article (because now I was curious), talked about the life expectancy of our web content. Apparently, our tweets have a shelf-life of just 2.8 hours, while our well-crafted videos remain fresh for up to 3 whole months. Even this blog will only be good for 37 days.
All this essentially means that, as hard as we try, we can't keep up.
At least, not if we continue to frame what we do as Web Design as opposed to UX Design.
Allow me to explain.
Back when we captured the story of our schools in glossy brochures, we toiled over every word, every photo and even the weight of the paper that it was printed on. Like artists, we took pride in our work and strived for perfection on every page.
So when the final product arrived back from the printers, we eagerly opened the boxes, enjoyed the smell of freshly-printed paper, and flicked through every page hoping not to see any glaring errors that we had failed to spot. And even if we knew that it would be out of date before long, we convinced ourselves that it would stand the test of time - at least until the next print run.
Then websites came along and we started to design them in exactly the same way. We applied the model of the printing press to the new digital environment in which we found ourselves. So we crafted content as if every word had permanent significant. We debated the pros and cons of parallax scrolling as if we were choosing paper. And the day after we published our shiny new site, we literally forgot about it for a couple of years.
When all the time our readers kept telling us that they just want access to clear, simple and up-to-date information.
Here's one the best quotations I've ever read on this subject:
It’s time for us to grow up, because we have been part of the problem: we have helped to give birth to self-righteous web pages that assume they deserve to be watched and awarded just for the time we invested in crafting them. Now more than ever, in a world flooded with cognitive noise, the world needs simple, intelligent, integrated ecosystems of information. The sooner designers embrace this need, the better prepared we’ll be for the future.
At the heart of this quotation is both a challenge and a message of hope for those of us who are trying to keep up with school communications. It is a call to stop designing the page and to focus on designing the experience of those who are reading what we write.
It is a call to say less, listen more, and above all stop crafting websites as if they are books.