The Devils' Advocate

District launches new website design

Jenna Kleshick, Reporter

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Just when you get the hang of something, it changes.

That was case for students, staff, and parents when the district launched a new website interface this summer.  Along with a new color scheme and design, the site allows the district to meet federal standards to accommodate the American Disabilities Act. It had been eight years since the last redesign by technology and arts supervisor Mr. JC Martino.

This time around, high school graphic design teacher Mr. Matt Arena oversaw the design and implementation of the new standards.

“There are new rules where school websites have to be ADA compliant,” says Arena. “What that means is that if somebody is visually impaired or has some other disability, the website had to be able to be  accessed by those people, so we had to make some changes to make that happen, so we felt like it was time for a fresh start.”

Arena is correct. Any technological website that can be considered a “public accommodation”, is required to meet certain standards and guidelines called Web Content Accessibility Guidelines. These specific guidelines are enforced to provide a single shared standard for web content accessibility that meets the needs of individuals, organizations, and governments internationally. As of January 18, 2018, these same websites will be required to meet new ADA accessibility standards with the release of WCAG 2.1 which provides 17 additional success criteria to address, such as mobile accessibility, people with low vision, and people with cognitive and learning disabilities.

Even though the site meets its legal obligation under the American Disabilities Act, the site has not been without its issues, including loading times and phone compatibility. For example, a crucial area of the website that students constantly need access to are the eBoards. Those students who attempt to approach the eBoards via smartphones have had challenges though, noting that the cell phone interface is uncooperative and makes it difficult to access

Arena responded to those points.

“The mobile version of the website can be improved. It’s just a matter of time,” he said. “Taking on a website is a huge project. I probably have 200 to 300 hours of work into making that website work.”

Another issue users have encountered on all platforms, such as smartphones and computers, is the slower loading times as compared to the old site. Arena disusses this inconvenience:

“We know exactly why this problem is happening,” he said. “Our website is stored on a computer that’s owned by the company that we build our website with. So we’re trying to figure out if there’s a way to get our website onto a faster computer, and its unclear right now if the company that we use will allow us move our website to a different computer.”

Arena explained that the old website contained similar issues yet they were able to take that website and put it onto a faster computer within that company, which clarifies how the old website operated faster and more efficiently.

According to Arena, the team at the website host are working to remediate these exact problems, including possibly having to move to a different platform and perhaps rebuild even a portion of the website to make that happen.

The new site, which he refers to as “a work in progress” as it seeks to address issues related to the new specific WCAG guidelines, subsiding loading times and improving the accessibility to eBoards.

 

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District launches new website design