When you order a blogsite from us, the first thing that will happen is that we will send you a questionnaire about the design and setup of your site. This page is designed to help you with some of the basic questions you might have about blog design and to help you help us to produce as stylish and cool a blogsite as we can for your school.
1. Choosing a domain name
Choosing a domain name is not as simple as you might think for several reasons:
- The domain needs to be very simple so that the children can type it in easily;
- Check that similar domain extensions don’t link to dodgy sites. In other words, myprimary.net might be available, but myprimary.com might be taken by an organisation whose website you wouldn’t want the children to visit;
- The name is shared by lots of schools, for example, stpaulsbolton.net might be better than stpaulsblogs.net.
It’s easy to check if a domain is available. Here is just one domain provider that you can try: Namehog. Note: DO NOT register a domain as we will do that for you and it’s part of the service we offer.
In some cases the spelling of your blog might be complex, or the sponsors might insist on a full name. In this scenario we can also register a second simple domain for the children to use and redirect it to the main domain. For example http://oxfordroadcommunityschool.net and http://orcsblogs.net take you to the same website.
What if I already have a domain registered?
You can assign registration of the domain to us: http://www.nominet.org.uk/uk-domain-names/manage-your-domain/transfer (you must pay the fee). This can take a little time to sort out and will certainly add to the time it takes us to build your site. In most cases it’s easier for us to set up a new domain and if necessary you can organise the redirection of the old domain via the hoster of that domain. Currently we charge £25 per annum to host extra domains on your behalf.
What if I want to use our .sch.uk domain?
In the case of a .sch.uk domain, these are usually administered by local authority teams and it’s often fairly easy to get them to redirect this domain to a new blogsite domain that we set up, or they may configure the domain to point to our servers – they may well charge you to do this. We can transfer .sch.uk domains to our servers but unfortunately cannot host them for free. Currently we charge £25 per annum to host extra domains on your behalf.
Under no circumstances will we build blogs on servers other than our own as we cannot guarantee the ability to support those blogs.
Why do we use .net domains for most of our blogs?
Simple: the domain registrar is efficient and we can start building sites very quickly upon registration. Others, such as .org.uk can take a little longer to become available for use after registration, or are less suitable for schools (.com and .co.uk are normally associated with buinesses).
Will Google find our new blogs?
We don’t do search engine optimisation (SEO) as part of our normal service as we find that once your blog becomes established, it rapidly rises to the top of the search rankings for your school. See our blogpost on how to make your school website visible.
Can we use our domain for other services such as email or Google Apps?
We always try to accommodate your needs and for Google Apps we are usually happy to do the necessary authentication at no extra charge. However we do reserve the right to make charges according to the time required to make any changes necessary. We do not provide support for 3rd party services and our service is limited to editing the necessary domain records. Please discuss your needs with us and we can advise.
2. Choosing a theme for your new blogsite
We have over a 150 schools up and running with blogs now so there are plenty of designs to choose from, however, some themes are more popular than others so here are some of the top designs to look at:
Simplicity theme – far and away our most popular theme, simple large slides with easy navigation and mini features underneath the main slides.
http://leverhouse.net – great photography on this one (note also, integrated Google Calendar);
http://horwichparish.net – using lots of minifeatures and some striking images;
http://leamoreblogs.net – using the minifeatures below the slider to link to web services such as Google Docs, Purple Mash etc;
http://pebblebrookprimary.net – a good example of a school that uses their blogsite as a website as well;
http://standrewscofe.net – note the custom graphics they use for the header. The school provided these themselves, but we are also able to provide custom graphic design – ask us;
http://hawardenvillage.net – another school website, this time bringing the news content to the fore.
A content driven theme that uses “Featured Images” to automatically build a custom slider at the top of the page that features your most important posts.
http://barnsleytsa.net – the website of the Barnsley Teaching School Alliance including features such as fully integrated calendar function
http://norbridgeblogs.net – This theme is designed for restaurants, but it looks cool set up as a school blog. Note how good a professionally designed logo looks on this site
Responsive themes automatically resize and optimise themselves according to the screen size that is viewing them. On smaller screens, such as mobile phones, the menu will be replaced by a menu button (three bars or “hamburger” button). Over 80% of visits to school websites tend to be from mobile devices so responsive themes are definitely worthy of strong consideration.
For The Cause Theme
A “one pager” style theme which is very trendy these days. This theme contains very large images so if you want us to build your site with it we would recommend professional photography to make it look great. Beneath the main slide you can display your blog, a selection of posts filtered by category, porfolios of slides and more.
It’s a mobile friendly theme that is popular with schools combining blogs and website.
http://crosthwaiteprimary.net – note the custom graphic header, social media integration with Flickr and Twitter.
http://haggonfields.net – again a custom header
http://kehsteachingschool.net – another teaching school site
http://northwheatleyprimary.net A responsive theme that automatically resizes to your screen, right down to the smallest mobile. This theme is great if you have stunning images.
http://kehsblogs.net – a simple responsive theme that works well as the homepage of a multsite community. Uses a featured slider similar to Delicious above.
http://greenparkschool.org – yet another simple responsive theme that can be used for many blog projects.
What other themes can we choose from?
Our premium themes are supplied by Woo Themes and you can select any one of their themes – the cost is included in your design charge. Please note that in many of the examples above we have written custom CSS script to provide the precise combinations of colours and typography required. If we are using a brand new theme we may need to write custom CSS script for your site which may slow down the delivery of your site a little. We will always advise you of this in advance.
If you have particular thoughts about design, please don’t hesitate to share them with us.
3. Graphic Design
Many of the examples above include extra graphic design (included in our Enhanced and Website packages). We work with an experienced graphic designer who will take your logo and build beautiful blog headers at incredibly reasonable cost. Sometimes schools want us to go further and redraw logos, create custom graphic buttons etc. and all of this can be done at great rates. If you want a completely new logo and corporate image designing just ask and we will provide a quote.
4. Choosing images for your blogsite
The single most striking aspect of any blog is not the design template, they all look pretty cool in their own way, but the images on the site. We often point schools to Leverhouse‘s blog simply because of the stunning images on the homepage. Frankly, with photographs that good it’s hard to make a site look a turkey.
- Good quality images are worth paying for: consider hiring a photographer (see below);
- Look at the shape of the images on the designs above, most of the best photographs are close-ups;
- Middle distance shots of school buildings and playing fields rarely look good. Where photos aren’t great we’ll tend to make collages;
- Poorly lit photographs or shots across heads in assemblies don’t work;
- The bigger the slide, the better the photograph needs to be;
- Photographs formatted vertically don’t fit well into letterbox shaped blog headers – avoid tall trees, towers, buildings, children standing to attention etc;
- Obviously posed pictures rarely work;
- Occasionally, features of a building or a piece of art can work really well: http://nottinghamhighblogs.net
As a rule of thumb, we would rather have 6 very good photos than 20 randomly chosen images. It’s very true that having an eye for a good picture is something that most people are not trained for, however, by looking at the above examples it’s usually possible to pick out something suitable for your photo collection. The bottom line is we are very good at making nice collages of pictures that might not stand up on their own so we will always do our best to make your site like as exciting as possible.
We now offer a professional website photography service as part of our mission to make your blogsite look as good as possible. Please contact us for details.
School logos are another whole area of discussion in themselves! In short, if you require a school logo on your site you must send us one in a graphic file format such as .jpg, .png or .gif. Ideally it should be at least 300 pixels x 300 pixels and have a transparent background (not a white background). If you are really stuck and can’t find the original graphic file for your logo, send us a link to an existing website which has your logo on, or even send us a Word document with your logo one and we will let you know if we can use it. We do not do graphic design work ourselves, but we do outsource logo work at very competitive rates, so if your school has existed on a cobbled together logo of images and Word Art for years, we can get it converted for you into a format that will work on a blogsite. Contact us for details.
What’s the best way of sending the pictures to you?
The easiest way is to use a photo hosting service such as Flickr or Picasa to upload your photographs to and then share the folder with us. You can also do the same with Dropbox. If none of those are possible, then it’s best to zip them into a folder and use a link download service such as Senduit . Finally, if you must, use email and send them to firstname.lastname@example.org
What about pictures of children on blogs?
This isn’t the place to have a whole discussion about this subject, except to say that you will note that in none of the above examples are the children identified in any way. Striking images of happy learners present your school in the best possible light. But please note that all the images that you send us MUST conform to your school’s policy on use of images and under no circumstances will we accept any consequences from posting images online that you have sent us. See our blog post on “How safe are blogs?” for more.
Image used with permission of Leverhouse Primary School, Leyland, Lancs