TBO.com: Tampa Bay Online, The Tampa Tribune and The Tampa Times - breaking news and weather.
Tuesday, Sep 30, 2014
Education

Hillsborough schools launching revamped website

By
Published:

— Each day, the Hillsborough County school district’s website draws more than 150,000 page views — from parents, students, employees and community members.

And Tuesday, at www.sdhc.k12.fl.us, the site is scheduled to get a makeover. District officials promise a sleeker style and easier-to-navigate pages.

After about seven months of work, the result is a site they say is easier on the eyes, more consistent and generally easier to use. It uses colors not quite so bright and more airy white space.

“It was clear from the onset it was a patch quilt of different styles,” said Jason Pepe, the district’s communications manager. “It didn’t have any type of theme. We put our arms around that and decided right away to bring back a more centralized theme and give it a much cleaner look. This was a long time coming.”

To help with the redesign, the school board approved a $65,000 contract in December with Ospro Systems, a technology services company headquartered in Cape Coral.

The company beat out Orlando Web design agency Next Horizons in a request for proposal process.

The redesign was led by Web services manager Greg Hart and Grace Posada, the district’s director of strategic initiatives for communication and marketing.

The district used input from parents, the school board and employees when designing the new site. Students’ ideas were gathered at a forum that included representatives from each high school.

“Our students were actually very insightful,” Posada said. “They were the ones who said, ‘I want to know what’s going on at my high school.’ They were very interested in the athletics calendar. They wanted a quick click to what’s required for Bright Futures (scholarships).”

Those who visit the new site will still be able to look up information on enrolling at a particular school, transportation routes and applying to work for the district, among other features.

There will be drop-down menus for students, parents and community members and a slide-out sidebar with information on individual schools on the right side of every page. The sidebar will include a search box. Users can type the word “go” before typing in the search term, which will bring them directly to the page they are looking for, rather than providing a list of all possible pages.

For example, typing “go transportation” links directly to the transportation department’s page.

“The philosophy behind the redesign is make it cleaner, make searching more intuitive and allow our community to access the information they’re looking for in as few clicks as possible,” Posada said.

The district serves a number of families who don’t speak English, so visitors to the site can choose from a menu of more than 70 languages. Google Translate converts the text to the selected language.

One of the biggest changes is that the district’s employee “self service” portal will be moved to a separate site. A link will appear at the bottom right corner of the district home page.

“We wanted to make a clear separation between the two,” Pepe said. “The website we’re launching is strictly for the community.”

Visitors to the site will also be able to subscribe to the district’s calendars for testing, athletics and other events.

“If I have a high-schooler, I can subscribe to the SAT calendar, or the ACT calendar,” Posada said. “It can be targeted to my particular interests as the user of the site.”

The work won’t be finished after today’s launch.

The district staff will continue to tweak the site as needed and seek feedback from the community.

Anyone with comments can email jason.pepe@sdhc.k12.fl.us or call (813) 840-7063.

ekourkounis@tampatrib.com

(813)259-7999

Twitter: @ErinKTBO

Subscribe to The Tampa Tribune

Comments