How Well Does This Web Site Work?
Madison Metropolitan (Wis.) School District
The Madison Metropolitan School District (MMSD) is the second largest district in Wisconsin, encompassing 65 square miles and including 25,000 students and 3,000 staff members in 46 schools. The district has maintained a Web site since 1996.
The district home page is welcoming and relatively straightforward. The page could be more coherently organized, however- using a wide variety of fonts, colors and formats is jumbled and confusing. A more uniform, consistent design would streamline the page and make it easier to use.
The design quality varies significantly among the separate school pages, as some are well maintained with great features, while others have little content and are out of date. Greater consistency would ensure that students and parents in district schools have equal access to online resources.
The navigation menu, prominently displayed on the left side of the home page, makes access to important content, such as "Programs & Departments," quick and easy. On a PC, each heading opens a topic submenu, but these should be larger, since scrolling through dozens of choices in small windows is awkward and frustrating.
Uniform navigation menus are not carried over from page to page, and many have no menus at all, so navigation can be inconsistent and cumbersome.
QUALITY OF THE INTERACTION WITH THE USER
The "Search" feature uses Google's powerful search engine and works well. The search tool would be more accessible if placed at the top of the page, rather than in the bottom corner.
The "Electronic Library" is a very useful resource, with links to more than 2,000 educational Web sites relevant to students and teachers in the district, organized by subject and theme.
As with many district sites, there are no access provisions for disabled users.
SCHOOL TO HOME INTERACTION
The convenient "MMSD Communications" tool enables parents and community members to subscribe to the district's email newsletter by entering their addresses in the box.
An e-mail directory lists the district staff alphabetically, but also includes a useful search tool so individuals can quickly be found by their last names.
Users have a great deal of access to the Board of Education information, as board pages include member profiles, committee updates, minutes, reports, and high-quality videos of every meeting going back to 2005.
The "Launching into Literacy and Math" page is a valuable resource for parents of children under 5, with developmental milestones, child assessment tools, and advice for preparing children for school. The parent resources also provide content for immigrant families, with Spanish and Hmong translations.
CREATIVE USE OF ONLINE TECHNOLOGIES
The video features under "MMSD-TV" are highlights of the site, and in addition to filmed school board meetings also include student and staff news segments, clips of recent assemblies, and monthly video columns on education by the superintendent. The clips can also be downloaded to iPods.
Since video production is consistently professional and of high quality, the link to MMSD-TV should be featured more prominently on the home page, rather than being relegated to the bottom left corner.
The "In the MMSD Today" news feature displays today's date and district news headlines, and makes it clear that the main site is kept up-to-date.
Identical news items are displayed in several places on the home page. Consolidating information in a single location would be more efficient.
Kurt O. Dyrli is a contributing writer for District Administration. To be considered for a district site review, contact Judy Hartnett at firstname.lastname@example.org.