How Well Does This Web Site Work?

How Well Does This Web Site Work?

Carmel (Calif.) Unified School District www.carmelunified.org

The Carmel Unified School District, located 120 miles south of San Francisco and including the population centers of Carmel-by-the-Sea, Carmel Valley, Pebble Beach and Big Sur, enrolls 2,166 students and employs 335 staff members.

Design

Overall, the pages are contemporary and visually appealing, with vibrant colors and professional designs. The page layout, which generally divides content into three long columns, too often results in a great deal of wasted space, since some categories are lengthy but others are short or empty. The home page, for example, has a lot of information under School News, but the Calendar and Contact Info categories have limited content, so about half of the page is blank.

Navigation

A menu bar is maintained in the middle of the page, making most navigation consistent and straightforward, and summary descriptions appear as the mouse hovers over potential selections. However, the menu headings need to be consolidated. For example, Food Service and Maintenance/Transportation do not need main menu headings, as they are also listed under Departments. Similarly, there is no need for separate Human Resources and Employment headings, as one simply links to the other. Streamlining the main menu to the fewest possible choices would further improve navigation.

A Quick Links bar at the top provides a shortcut to frequently accessed pages.

Interaction with the User

The Search function is sophisticated, offering a variety of criteria to narrow searches, but the buttons for All, Any or Exact Words do not function. Individual search selections also open up in a new window, which makes it easy to return to the search results.

Individual school pages vary widely in quality. A few pages are well designed, but one offers only a short school description, and others are plagued with dead links. More consistent quality would provide online resources for everyone in the district, and not just those in certain schools.

The District Profile, Mission Statement, and Nondiscrimination Policy are all incorrectly listed under the News column on the home page. It would be more appropriate to create an "About the District" page for such items.

There are no access provisions for disabled users.

School to Home Interaction

Basic contact information for the "front desk" of the district is displayed prominently on the home page. But on the Contact page there are no additional phone numbers, the Staff Directory does not work, and the only e-mail resource is a single unusual form that states, "We will forward your message to the right target." There should be more direct ways to contact administrators and teachers.

The Forms page is a convenient collection of important documents for parents, staff or the public, such as calendars, waivers, complaints, and emergency contact information.

There is a distinct lack of introductory or biographical information about the superintendent or school board members. The Superintendent Department page is impersonal-lacking an introduction or welcoming message-and simply lists district goals.

Likewise, the Board of Education page includes meeting minutes, agendas and calendars, but offers no member profiles.

Such detailed information is important to parents and the community, and it should be included.

Use of Online Technology

The LunchBox resource enables parents to log in and view their children's lunch accounts as well as make deposits online. Unfortunately, users can access it only from the Food Service page, since the LunchBox Quick Link is not functioning. The high school site displays student artwork at the top of many of its pages.

Overall, even though the district names its site "The Digital Campus," there is a lack of creative media to justy such a label, with no audio, video or interactive online resources. The few photographs on the pages are essentially simple stock background images.

Up-to-Date Information

The district New/Events/Calendar selection from the main menu displays timely information and upcoming events. The District Events Calendar is also searchable and can easily be printed out for reference. Current information about Board of Education meetings and the activities of other committees is also readily available.

The Accountability page includes recent selected bar graphs representing test scores in math, reading, science and social science assessments, and more extensive information can be found via the link to the California Standardized Testing site.

Kurt O. Dyrli is a contributing writer for District Administration. To be considered for a district site review, contact Judy Hartnett at jhartnett@edmediagroup.com.


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