Parents, students, bus drivers and transportation association members look to websites for quick, easy access to information relevant to pupil transportation. But how can industry associations, districts and contractors create websites that provide the information users want in an easy-to-navigate format?
SBF spoke with pupil transportation officials to find out what website practices have worked for them and their stakeholders.
Simple navigation is key
According to Tad Kledzik, supervisor of transportation maintenance at Pasco County (Fla.) Schools, it is important to consider your target audience when deciding what information to include on your website.
“The way we decided to organize [the Pasco County Schools transportation website] was, within the navigation, we tried to identify some of those key stakeholders that would be interested in the information we have to share,” he says.
The district’s website navigation includes sections for parents and students, district employees and those looking to apply for school bus driver positions. Users can click on the relevant group to reveal drop-down menu options (for instance, under “District Employees,” users will find information on field trips, school bus safety and more).
Derek Graham, state director of pupil transportation in North Carolina and member of the National Association of State Directors of Pupil Transportation Services (NASDPTS), says that when NASDPTS revamped its website this year, the association chose to organize information by topic: vehicles, special programs and more.
Beach Transportation in Missoula, Mont., also revamped its website a year ago to make information easier to locate. For example, a “Current News” section was added to the site’s home page for quick access to new information.
“We made [the site] a lot more user friendly,” says Anne Davis, special-needs coordinator and marketing director for Beach Transportation. “Before, we had so many pages and so much information up on the website that it was hard for people to find specific information.”
Last summer, the Oregon Pupil Transportation Association (OPTA) chose to scrap its entire site and start from scratch: “The only thing that was saved was the website address,” says Chris Ellison, president of OPTA and transportation director at Greater Albany (Ore.) Public Schools. “Our previous website was difficult to navigate. We wanted [users] … to find information with no more than two to three clicks of the mouse.”
OPTA hired Verb Marketing + PR to design its new website. “There wasn’t a school bus on [the old site], so when people went to the page they didn’t know it was a pupil transportation page,” Ellison says. “The design didn’t really reflect who we are.”
Now, the main design of the site includes the front of a school bus. “[Verb Marketing + PR] actually went out and took pictures of school buses, so the buses on the site are not from stock photos; those are real Eugene School District buses,” Ellison says.
The “Contact OPTA” and “eNews sign-up” buttons are located on the safety lights of the bus that shapes the site. The lights illuminate when a user hovers over them with the cursor.
Davis says that Beach Transportation redesigned its logo as part of its website revamp.
“We tried to simplify [the site], yet make it more appealing to the eye so the most pertinent information was catchy and would stand out for people to see,” she adds.
Pasco County Schools’ old website was HTML-driven, according to Kledzik. “Now it’s content management-driven, so we have a continuity of themes throughout the district’s website,” he explains. “No matter if you’re looking at student education or transportation, there’s a constant theme across our web presence.”
Make safety information available
Davis says that she believes safety information is one of the most important things to have readily available on a pupil transportation website. Once Beach Transportation’s site was updated, “the safety information was much easier, much more accessible, than it was previously,” she says.
One of the site’s main sections is titled “Safety” and includes rules, information about the danger zone around a bus, tips for parents and kids, and the contractor’s video recording policy.
Similarly, OPTA has a “Safety Exercises” tab on its main navigation. The “Safety Exercises” page includes a downloadable school bus safety exercise manual and the results of previous exercises from Oregon’s school districts.
The Pasco County Schools transportation site also provides safety information, some in the form of videos.
“Our supervisor of operations worked with some local students to put together a couple of video resources that the schools are welcome to use … [as part of] a news program in the morning,” Kledzik says.
Members can log in
NASDPTS gives members the ability to log in to its website to access members-only information. Graham says the association depends on its members to identify content that needs to be on the site.
“We have our members-only login, where you can get association documents and … correspondence that is useful to state directors and other members,” Graham says. “And you can log in and get materials from previous conferences.”
Ellison says that some upcoming improvements to the OPTA website will include the ability for users to log in.
“We’re going to be sitting down with the marketing firm again and looking at being able to have people log in with a username and ID, and be able to pay for registrations on the site,” he explains. Users may also be able to view their membership status and other relevant information.
Users can look up bus stops, schedules
Beach Transportation currently lists its full bus routes on its website. In the future, the contractor will also incorporate the functionality of routing software with the site to give users — especially parents and students — added benefits.
“We are not currently using routing software; we do everything by hand,” Davis says. “Once we’ve implemented [the software], then the [website and software] will link up so parents will be able to fill out a form and generate route information right from the website.”
Pasco County Schools does not yet have route information on its website, but Kledzik says that could change if the district adopts routing software.
“We’re still routing manually, so routes and stops are in a constant state of change,” he explains. “If we get to an automated system … I could certainly see us publishing the stops and some general route information.”