Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) launched two major initiatives today designed to improve its online presence and make it easier for parents, staff, students, and community members to find the school information they need.
MCPS has redesigned the district’s central website, which not only has a more contemporary look, but also is better organized to make information easier to find. MCPS also launched a free mobile app today that will provide one-touch access to information and news. The app is available for the iPhone and Android-based phones, and is also available in the Amazon app store.
“The MCPS website is one of the main ways our stakeholders connect with us and is the foundation for many of our communication efforts,” said Superintendent of Schools Joshua P. Starr. “The redesigned website and our new app will make information much easier to find for our stakeholders, regardless of how they connect with us.”
The improvements are being made based on input from users; current best practices in website design and organization; and data on how people are accessing and using the MCPS website. During the school year, the MCPS website receives an average of 1.7 million page views per week and an increasing number of people are accessing it from mobile devices. Since 2012, mobile visits to MCPS web pages have grown by more than 400 percent.
In April 2013, MCPS began building its website using responsive web design, which adjusts the site based on the device being used to access it. This means the way a user interacts with the site is different on a computer than it is on a tablet or a smartphone, but the content is the same.
The improved website has more vibrant and modern colors, with strategic use of pictures and images. The site also places more content higher on the page and has a “tiled” look that is a current best practice in web design. These style elements have been applied to hundreds of existing web pages, and will be used for future pages as well. Among the functionality improvements for the website are:
Top Menus: Visitors can “hover” over each menu title to see results that are the most searched for items in that category;
A new “Academics” tab: This makes information about curriculum and instruction easier to find on the website, which is something our users have told us they want;
Key information tiles: A scrolling, horizontal slideshow of tiles featuring important information that website users need or are looking for;
Embedded video: The new page allows key videos about the school system to be readily available and viewable on the home page.
The MCPS app works on most smart phones and tablets and is free to download.
The app will provide direct access to content available on the MCPS website, including information about schools, the school year calendar, lunch menus, and the Board of Education, as well as news stories and contact information. It will also provide one-click access to the Twitter feeds for the district (@MCPS), Dr. Starr (@mcpssuper), and the Board of Education (@mocoboe), as well as videos on the MCPS TV YouTube channel.
Those who download the app will have the option to receive “push notifications,” meaning they will receive alerts on their phone or tablet about important MCPS news, opportunities for public participation and engagement, and districtwide emergency closures or delays.