Serving an audience of more than 125,000 visitors each year, the award-winning Sacramento County Office of Education (SCOE) website is a critical tool in communicating useful and accurate information to the public, education, and SCOE staff. The sixth major version of SCOE’s website was launched yesterday evening.
Coming amid the crush of information being published related to the 2019 Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, the launch of the new website allows SCOE to communicate important public health information about the virus, along with details about school closures and related program changes. In addition to timely news articles, the newly launched website offers prominent links to things like a collection of remote learning enrichment resources for families, students, and educators. It also offers a new section with information about managing emotional well-being during COVID-19 and a catalog of SCOE-produced educational videos.
Development work on the new website began in mid-2018 with a direction to expand the website’s utility and focus the user experience. The previous website, which launched in 2016 and was fully completed the following year, was created using a Microsoft content management technology that is no longer being actively developed. The back end of the new website is based on open-source server software and was developed in-house with custom features written to meet SCOE’s needs. With the switch to this new content management system, SCOE continues its aim of involving laypeople in publishing online resources. A group of more than 40 staff members has been assigned to maintain department information and is being trained to directly publish updates.
As visitors explore the new website, they will find a short video loop that describes SCOE’s important role and highlights some of its noteworthy accomplishments. Staff and student login links have been moved to the header for easier access. Highlight boxes feature links to sub-pages and sub-sections with additional information. Course titles from a separate professional learning website are integrated prominently on the main page for additional exposure. The alphabetical listing of key programs and services has also been replaced with links to functional groupings, allowing users to drill down through categories and sub-categories to find information
Alongside the development of the new website, a new SCOE logo has been deployed—the result of an internal staff logo design competition. The new identity piece will be rolled out over the next coming months as signage, business cards, stationery, and other printed materials are systematically updated.
With direct input from Sacramento County Superintendent of Schools David W. Gordon and Al Rogers, Ed.D., who was then the Deputy Superintendent, the SCOE Communications Office worked with a five-person Website Coordination Team, which convened a Design Committee and a Content Committee. The Design Committee developed mockups that were presented to the Superintendent’s Cabinet for review, feedback, and final approval. The Content Committee, employing feedback from an employee focus group, reviewed and restructured existing website information to fit the committee’s vision. Credit goes to SCOE’s Technology Services and Internet and Media Services (IMS) departments for their continued role in building and supporting the new system. Templates and features being written for the SCOE website will be able to be customized and deployed by IMS for other department and client websites.
Providing Feedback and Updates
Due to the new organizational structure and focus on departments making edits, web addresses for many pages have changed, causing bookmarks and links on outside websites to need updating. The Communications Office has worked to minimize disruptions, creating custom redirects for key information, and working with partner agencies to proactively update their links.
A custom “file not found” page provides clear instructions for reporting broken links. The site is currently a work in progress with previously implemented and planned new features on hold due to technology staffing shortages. Archive files, previous news articles, and less frequently used materials are also still being added to the new site—a process expected to be completed in the coming months.