Editor’s note: We reached out to Lisa Taylor, Director of Communications at Berkeley Hall School to share her favorite feature from onMessage, our content management system. In this post, Lisa highlights how she organizes content to help parents find and access school information easily using the Resource Board.
When we first got onMessage, one of the most exciting features for us to present to our constituents was the Resource Board. We couldn’t wait to get started and put everything anyone ever needed in one place. And we did! Yikes. It was a bit overwhelming – it was visually messy and had no cohesion. It didn’t solve the problems. People didn’t know where to find what they were looking for. We realized very quickly that we needed a better plan, an approach to making it all click and be an effective tool.
The first problem to solve was the visual noise – the messy feel. The second problem to solve was the organization of information. We sat and thought for a long time to figure out how to organize the look and the content. We took our time. After we put ourselves in the parents’ seat and thought through their intuitive path to finding information, we came up with a clean and simple way to organize the look and content that we could follow consistently without a lot of effort. By following some basic rules, we got great results and get rave reviews from our constituents. First we’ll review the look of the Resource Board, and then review the content.
The look needs to be simple, clear, and consistent. It needs to work within your branding, be easy to digest visually, help guide people to information, and prompt people to take action. The look should not distract from the message or hinder the end goal.
The first step in consistency and simplicity is the size of what we’ll call, your buttons (graphic elements that you click on). Pick a size (600×400 is a good starting point) and stick with it. We should mention here that the process by which the Resource Board is managed and remains consistent, comes down to a very simple rule – have one person be the final decision-maker and gate-keeper of what is on the Resource Board. If the decision-maker cultivates consensus, their life will be easier.
After you determine the size of the buttons, choose a palette of colors that works within your branding and stick to it. Use simple graphic elements that are singular and clear – don’t worry too much that the graphic match the message exactly – parents will learn what the graphics stand for. (e.g., The light bulb is used for our After School Enrichment Programs.)
The buttons should be visually simple and not crowded with text. (Hint: to use a graphic without a “title” which puts text below it, just enter a space as the title.) If you decide to utilize the title field, the size of the image is 330 instead of 400. (If you choose a ratio other than 600×400, you’ll have to do the math.) When using images rather than graphics for your button, use a singular image that isn’t visually busy. Or use an image that has instant recognition (e.g. Disney Hall, Half Dome, pencil, clock, etc.). You can always take a screen shot to accomplish this. It may take a few tries to screen shot the right ratio (mac: shift-command-4; pc: accessories-snipping tool).
The content on the Resource Board is just as critical as the look. You want the content to make sense, guide people intuitively to what they’re looking for, and make it easy for them to accomplish what they came to the Resource Board to do. Remember your audience when choosing which items to publish to specific roles.
First you’ll want to categorize the content. What information are you trying to present on your Resource Board? Identify the content: long-term vs. short-term resources, events, and special one-offs, or similar items.
Determine the best way to display the information that’s been grouped: a straight link to a singular resource or a Detail Page to display more information or multiple items? One of the basic rules of organization, which applies here is: Group Like Things Together.
Making the decision to use a Detail Page or Direct Link can be tricky. Think it through from the perspective of the user. What are they thinking? What do they want? How is it most intuitive for them to get from signing in to their goal?
The content on a Detail Page should guide the user to take the action you want them to take. Use the graphics for events to bring color to event detail pages and reinforce the look of the event. Repeat those graphics on the credit card page, in the Pushpage, in a news story, etc.
We all deal with the never-ending stream of events throughout the school year. Consider the graphic needs for each event and plan ahead. Every event needs a Resource Board graphic button (600×400 or whatever ratio you decide), a banner (used for both landing pages and Pushpage header), and related buttons needed for a call to action (sponsor now, volunteer, sign up) – all produced in the consistent graphic look chosen for the event. If you can create graphics that will last from year to year (without a date on it), you’ll save yourself time.
Manage the priority sort of your Resource Board according to the level of importance and immediacy. The upper left button is always the most visible and easiest to reach for people. That’s your “power spot” – use it wisely and don’t be afraid to change it according to the current needs of the audience. Balance the current need for something to be visible with the comfort that comes from people learning where things are and knowing where to find them. Once people learn the organization of the Resource Board, think carefully about how much it gets moved around. Therefore, think through your priorities carefully.
Lastly, don’t be discouraged if it takes time to educate your constituents to use the beautiful Resource Board you’ve set up. It will take constant repetition and training to drive them there. Be consistent in your message and directions on how to get there. Be sure teachers and parent volunteers are on board with your messaging and are using the same words when they speak with parents.
Repetition is your best friend here. Take a “belt and suspenders” approach. Use the same graphics in Pushpage, on news stories, and on course pages when driving parents to take an action or find information. If you want to link to the library from the Resource Board, Class Page, and a Pushpage, use the same graphic to get people to do that. Continually reinforce the graphic image with the information behind it and over time, when they see the image, they’ll know they can find that information when they click. Don’t be shy. Mention the Resource Board at parent meetings, Back-to-School, messaging channels, in marketing materials, etc. Brand your Resource Board as the resource that’s always there for them, and the place for them to go to find what they’re looking for.
Most important: keep your look and approach to content simple and consistent, and you’ll keep it simple and intuitive for your users. Have fun with the process.
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About the Author
Lisa Taylor is the Director of Communications at Berkeley Hall.
More Content by Lisa Taylor