Arlington Public Schools will launch a redesigned website this summer

A screenshot of the current APS website (via APS)

Arlington Public Schools is giving its website a facelift.

A redesigned website is set to go live on July 1. It culminates more than a year of work to revamp a website last redesigned seven years ago, which is well beyond the industry standard of 3-5 years, says Assistant Superintendent of School & Community Relations Catherine Ashby.

“The redesign aims primarily to address a common complaint about the current website, that it is difficult to find information because there is so much available,” she said. “The new design also shifts to a more graphics-oriented, intuitive layout which should make navigation easier for all audiences.”

The navigation scheme, she continued will be “centered on student and family needs, to make it easier to find the most-requested information like registration processes, school boundary zones, and student health and wellness information.”

Indeed, last month, an ARLnow reader reached out to highlight difficulty she experienced when trying to find information about the elementary school options.

“It just seems a little strange that out of the five option schools, three have broken links for their school profiles, and the other two link to press releases, not profiles,” the reader wrote. “One of the press releases is a story about a reading carnival held at the school. It is oddly difficult to get information about the schools.”

Since then, some of the pages have been updated. Another problem she identified — a broken link on a webpage about requesting a transfer — remains.

Ashby says work began with an internal committee of school-based and central office staff, who reviewed feedback and website use statistics and reviewed current best practices and trends in K-12 education websites. Last summer, an outside consultant reviewed the school system’s plans and tested out navigating the website.

This month, Ashby says, the visual design has been completed and the technical development is well underway. APS will invite staff, parents, students and community members to form a robust testing panel to try out the website in mid-April.

There will be various page layout options to make it easier for staff editors to present information that gets uploaded to the website clearly and accessibly. It will continue to feature instantaneous translation, compliance with web content accessibility standards, interactive calendars and quick access to common tools.

After the APS website launches on July 1, the school system will start rolling out the new design to the sites for individual schools.

The division webmaster will work with each school web liaison to prepare their site for the new design and to communicate with school staff and families, Ashby said. All 39 school sites should get upgraded to the new design by the end of the 2023-24 school year.

Progress on the information architecture, visual design and technical development has been reported to the Superintendent’s Cabinet and to the School Board, most recently in January of this year.

“I’m very excited about the website redesign this has been a long time coming,” Ashby said during that School Board meeting. “We’ve wanted to do this for a long time.”