It is not often that I lose a website to a bad decision, but when I do I go through a sort of business introspection trying to find out when things went wrong and wondering if there is something I could have done differently to keep the client happy and enthusiastic about their website.
In 15 years I only lost 4 clients to bad alternatives for web development. By Lost I mean after 5 or 10 years a new principal decides to use a different provider. 4 it is not a bad number, but it is always a good opportunity to examine my own business practices, and the typical paranoia about where did I made a bad impression or disappoint the wrong school principal.
I manage all communication and 100% of the website development, approximately 90% of the website weekly updates. Only a couple of times during the year I delegate some updates to a programmer that I know can do a better job than me. I can accomplish that type of involvement by not trying to manage more clients that I can safely deal with in person. I don’t simply work on the website I need to establish an amicable and honest relationship with everybody involved on the site, if the relationship can not be established I know I should walk away.
This is the case with my last lost, for more than a year I tried to establish that relationship and recommend the best path to a successful educational website, but the school become extremely unresponsive after my school liaison was changed. My new contact must have been not very happy at the appointment or she or he had her/his own ideas on what to do. ( I am trying to keep it anonymous) so they determined that a networking business was a better fit to re-design the school site and Wham! in a week they went Pre-millennium.
I am yet to see a Developer who can be also a good designer or an ok technician and the reverse applies too. It is an almost well know fact that programmers make bad designers and designers terrible programmers and those who claim can do both they do it very poorly.
I am good friends with all the technicians in the schools that I work with and we help each other when the time calls for it, but mostly our jobs are distinctively different, our roles almost do not connect.
Being married to a teacher and a curriculum writer I know very well how the website can help teachers, parents and students. The secret is to tailor adjust each school website to the specific school needs.
This is what a typical school website should be prepared to deliver at some point or another:
Be a focal point for all communication between students parents and teachers, by incorporating blogs controlled social networks and every day notifications.
Be the port of call for all form downloads to alleviate hours of office work.
Parent teacher interviews bookings
On-line selling of uniforms and canteen orders.
Grade/class website with all its specific resources and extra work, quizzes, video podcasts, class news and almost anything you can think of.
Photo galleries that teachers can access and manage.
the website should feed the school app actually the website an app should be one and the same
The website should automatically create a newsletter replacing the printed newsletter and this saves not only time but paper and aligns with some sustainability philosophy the school might have. Parents should be able to subscribe unsubscribe at will and each grade should be able to create their own newsletter appropriate to the group of students in that class.
Is this rant a marketing tool? definitely no, but I will always use every opportunity to advertise how new technologies can help our kids education and remind me why my focus is on primary schools instead of private businesses. Nowadays I work exclusively for the betterment of primary schools, it is my way of effect change to make more of an impact, my way of helping.
My income is partly derived from this but, a small part.
if you knew my fee you would soon realise that this is more a labour of love than anything else and why I only handle a handful of schools rather than hundreds, love has its limits.
Like the well-tailored job interview response, ‘my biggest problem is that I care too much’ applies perfectly here.
To summarise and to provide some sort of advice to others in similar circumstances I am listing my main point of this introspection.
Always deal with the decision taker in the school.
Be concise to the extreme, but your points must reach your client
Know your competitors and if they interact with your client in any way, find out how.
if you start to feel the cold shoulder, start your retreat, amicably move on and find better relationships and more astute clients.
The avant-garde of technology is not for all at the same time, some need extra time to realise that this wave we ride never breaks.