So I've been taking some time configuring a Moodle implementation for our induction programs here at the COE. As soon as our lovely network administrator handed me the keys to my new kingdom, I had a look inside.
Before me was a a panoply of options, settings, preferences, and other juicy things that could be changed, customized, and tinkered with. It was, at first, a little overwhelming, but as I settled into this new playhouse I began to see the rhyme and reason of it all.
So with all of these choices, where to start? The course settings? Categories? User enrollment? Dropbox integration?
No. No. No and No.
I'll get to all those first, but you know where I want to start? The place that all too many people and techies ignore: the visuals.
One hour later I had downloaded a new theme, matched its colors to our main website, and created a customized masthead that fits into the theme's space but still jives with our site design.
Why start here?
Because looks matter.
How your website or your system looks affects so much of how users perceive it's functionality, sophistication, and put-together-ed-ness.
The business world understands this (some more than others) but branding, image, and design seem to get lost in the K-12 shuffle. Oftentimes it's due to stretched resources, lack of skill, or plain indifference. This is unfortunate as it can make your organization look not-so-good in the eyes of the discerning public. Now obviously your performance matters more, but your image matters too.
So what to do? Don't go spend thousands of dollars on a consultant or designer. Go find someone who's design savvy and then go find someone who's tech savvy (glory to you if they are the same person), put them together in a room for a few days and give them access to your site.
It may not be perfect, it may not be a work of art, but the point is you are putting some effort behind your image and a like a fresh coat of paint, it livens things up.
Once you've done that, make sure you, of course, make your website useful to people by adding relevant content and updating regularly. That's arguably more important, but please give just a little attention to the looks - it does matter and it's not too terribly difficult.