How Well Does This Web Site Work?
The Clarkstown Central School District is located in a largely residential middle to upper class community in Rockland County, New York, 25 miles from New York City, and has a population of more than 70,000 residents.
The Clarkstown district site is well designed, sleek and professional in appearance, and presents a simple layout effectively with easy-to-access information.
The slideshow of photos at the left links to corresponding school pages, but it would be helpful to have a caption for each photo so users know what it depicts. The major purpose of the slideshow is unclear, however, and the pictures seem to have been selected randomly.
Some of the linked pages are relatively bland and could be enhanced with better fonts, colors, graphics and page layouts.
The use of a consistent site menu at the top of the page is effective in making navigation easy and straightforward. In addition, the helpful site map lets users see all the menu links on a single page.
Most of the school pages in the district share the same navigation format, but four schools adopted different layouts that make navigation inconsistent and confusing.
The school sites show varying degrees of development, and particular items may appear in menus to the left, the right or across the top.
Navigation would be greatly enhanced through adding a search tool on the home page for quick access to specific topics. Many of the school sites offer search tools, however, but some do not work.
QUALITY OF THE INTERACTION WITH THE USER
The site provides amazing amounts of useful content for staff , students, parents and the community, organized logically for each target audience.
Faculty and staff have easy access to the district e-mail system, downloadable payroll and benefits forms, and human resources contacts via a separate "For Staff " menu selection.
There are no access provisions for disabled users, such as visually impaired staff , students and parents.
In the "About Us" section, the "School District Policies" page links to documents in Microsoft Word format, which are slow to load, difficult to read and awkward to scroll through. Policies could be more simply presented on summary pages without these extra steps.
SCHOOL TO HOME INTERACTION
Parents will appreciate the "Parents" and "Contact Us" sections, with immediate access to calendars, news, downloadable forms and contact information.
The site provides a superintendent's page, board of education updates and a useful e-mail link to the Webmaster.
Faculty e-mail addresses are not displayed for every school, though some, such as the high schools, list addresses and also provide convenient hotlinks for sending messages to each teacher.
Those new to the district will value the clear maps and driving directions to the administration building and every school, accessible through the car icon in the top right corner.
CREATIVE USE OF ONLINE TECHNOLOGIES
The site makes little use of new Web 2.0 technologies, as every page is predominantly text with limited graphics.
While a few of the schools have multimedia links, additional audio and video features would engage users and enhance the interactivity of the site.
Improving the quality of photographs, adding captions and linking them more effectively would help immensely. The photos of school buildings are blurry and were taken from too far a distance. Similarly, classroom photos are too small to tell what they depict, and in larger pictures students too often have their backs to the camera.
The "In the Spotlight" section on the home page is kept current. Since this is the location of important dates, there is no reason to have a redundant "District Events" page under the "News" tab, and the page is blank.
The "Day in the Life ..." photo album may have been intended to be a regular feature, but it links to outdated photos and was evidently forgotten.
The valuable "district report card" evaluation is included in many of the school sites, but it also needs to be prominent on the district site.
Kurt O. Dyrli is a freelance writer based in Connecticut. To be considered for a district site review, contact Managing Editor Judy Hartnett at firstname.lastname@example.org.