2014 Online website evaluation & rating

Whole website evaluation

School City Weibsite Rating
Iowa City High School Iowa City The Little Hawk Superior
Atlantic High School Atlantic AHS Needle Excellent
Cedar Falls High School Cedar Falls Tiger Hi-Line Excellent
Davenport Central High School Davenport The Blackhawk Online Excellent
Johnston High School Johnston The Black and White Excellent
Pella High School Pella Pelladium Excellent
West High School Iowa City Westside Story Excellent
George Washington High School Cedar Rapids CRW Surveyor Honorable
PCM High School Monroe The Outlook Online Edition Honorable

Reviewer general observations: (Each school received individaul feedback)

I came away rather impressed by the overall effort. I was really happy to see that a large portion of content on the sites were local stories. There was a great mix of hard news/sports/entertainment/opinion pieces.

There was also an attention paid to other forms of media be they photos or videos, and that was good to see.

Where I think most of the sites fell short was a sense of community. Very few had great calls to action to engage their student bodies in online journalism. I would have loved to have seen live chats with some of the sports coverage, or a place for conversations about important school topics, but very few examples of these existed.

I believe a high school journalism site has a chance to be hyper local, and something that the student body can take an interest in. More so than a regional newspaper, a high school’s site has a very targeted audience, so writing to that audience and getting that audience to want to engage is something that I think should be the school’s main focus when tayloring their news coverage.

Another takeaway is that in design, sometimes, less is more. Clean and elegant design can result in a much more user friendly experience. And while some of the sites excelled at this, there were other with gimmicky layouts or busy home pages that made it hard to focus on the content. If a site is designed to be simple, easy to navigate, and puts the content front and center, more people will be able to engage with that site.

And then lastly, update more frequently.

For a reader, there is nothing worse than going to a site, reading stories, then coming back in a few days and seeing almost the same stories. A site can die if the content is stale, and for these high school sites the only way they will be successful is if they get their student body to feel like something fresh and interesting will always be there the next time they check it out.

– Max Freund, Interactive Media Journalist, The Gazette