For the past 10 years I have been on a journey to create my own website to fill areas I found to be lacking in educational resources. The site was initially created for sharing FSL & ESL eBooks and accompanying resources for upper primary and middle school students, and throughout the years has expanded to include Emergent & Transitional Readers, an educational blog and consulting services. In the beginning, I hired a company to create and design my website, and then re-hired them for a redesign when the old one needed some modernizing. Huge mistake on my part, but reflecting back to when I started on my journey, I didn’t know that I could design a website without programming knowledge. I designed this website, and perhaps it’s not as fancy looking as the previous version, but it is engaging and streamlined, and users will find it easier to access information they are looking for. The big lesson I have learned is that it is entirely possible to create your own educational website from scratch, without paying a large sum of money to a company that hasn’t a clue about education. If you are thinking of creating your own site, here are some steps to follow:
1. Design a Framework: What is your vision and the purpose of your website? Who is your audience? Map it out in detail. If you are not clear on your vision this will affect your web design and the interaction that users have with your site.
2. Content: Before beginning to design your site, create a ton of content – will you be offering teaching resources? If so create the materials, form your packages – this part will be the most time consuming. Will you be adding a blog? Start writing – perhaps have 20 articles or so ready to go for your site.
3. Website Design: There are many companies out there, such as Weebly (which I have chosen) and Wix, that have ready-made templates with drag and drop functionality, making it easy for anyone to design a website and add a blog to it. You don’t need a lot of technological knowledge, just an eye for choosing a nice layout and images. If you are looking to add e-commerce functionality, once you have set up an account with a company like PayPal, uploading products and setting your prices can easily be done.
4. Choose a Hosting Company: Companies like Weebly and Wix offer hosting packages, or you can shop around for a third-party to host your site. I opted for SiteGround based on my need to upload eBooks through an FTP server. Do your research, prices and packages vary from company to company. Find one that suits your needs.
5. Key Words and Phrases: Before designing your pages – brainstorm key words and phrases relevant to your website. For example, if you are designing a website for French resources – some key words and phrases might include: FSL, French, French resources, FSL teaching materials, learn French... Once your website is set up, and you are feeling comfortable, you can also opt to use paid advertising to drive additional traffic to your site using Google AdWords.
6. Design Your Website: This to me was the most fun part! The Weebly template I selected made it very easy for me to upload images and content. Ensure that images you choose are either purchased through a company like iStock, or that licensing allows you to use them on your site. Make sure each page has a lot of content, and that all your links work before going live. Ask friends and colleagues to test your site out and make sure it functions, and is user-friendly.
7. SEO: This is such an important step in the design of your site. Do your research, and make sure you understand everything there is to know about title tags, URL links, page descriptions etc. You can create the most beautifully designed website, but if you haven’t done your SEO properly (as I have learned from the past), people will not be able to find your site.
8. Google Analytics: Set up a Google Analytics account, and add the tracking number to your site. This will allow you to monitor how many visitors come your site and which pages they are most interested in.
9. Social Media: Set up accounts with Pinterest, Google +, Twitter, Facebook etc., and then add them to your site. This will allow you to advertise and post content from your website on various platforms and reach a wider audience.
Have you designed your own educational website? Are there any tips you would like to share?