How to Assess School Software: Flash vs. Substance
When trying to choose a new software for your school, district, or program, it’s common to sit through a demonstration of the system and watch as the company shows you all the bells and whistles.
As you watch, though, it can be easy to get distracted by the way the software looks and, as a result, to overlook the actual functionality of it.
These two components — the way software looks and the way it functions — don’t always work against each other. Sometimes you can have a program that both looks flashy and works well. But it’s important to be alert for those times when the superficial aspects hinder the software’s ability to do what it’s supposed to do. This can be counterproductive to your team’s ability to get the job done.
So, the next time you sit in on a demo, consider the following three questions:
Is the accessibility affected by an attempt to make everything look overly “clean”?
A clean, well-organized interface is important. It makes it easier for you and your team to navigate the software and even helps, to some extent, to remove stress while working (the same way an organized desk helps you to get more work done with less stress than would a messy desk).
Problems arise, however, when your dashboard is too well organized. You might think, “Is that even possible?” but consider this: every time you have to click into a new area of your software and wait for it to load, you waste valuable time. Plus, if you have to stop and try to remember where a particular document, module, or function is stored, and try to recall various complicated pathways to get to it, you’re wasting even more time.
Sometimes, when software developers think too much about making a program look “clean,” they get carried away and organize everything to the point of diminishing returns. In other words, the great “look” of the software comes at the expense of the way you actually need to interact with / use the software.
So, when you sit in on that next school software demo, don’t forget to imagine yourself or your team using it, and ask yourself, “Is this actually going to work for us? Or is it just designed to make me think it will work for us?” That said, be sure to remember that shorter demos can sometimes fall short of giving you the full picture, so it’s important to make sure you give yourself enough time in the demo to learn and consider all the details so you can make an informed decision. This may take longer than the typical one hour, but it’s well worth the time investment to find out the truth.
Do visuals and pop-outs slow down the loading times of your data?
Another way superficial elements can negatively affect your ability to get your work done quickly is in loading times.
Images on the screen, especially animated or moving images, are very intriguing because they make it feel like your software is the smartest, most powerful software around.
But keep in mind that every image you see takes time and digital effort for your software to load it onto your screen. While it may only take a moment for each image to fully render, each of those moments eventually add up, costing you time.
While some images are necessary — a School Nutrition software program that shows images of your food to students, for example — others are merely there for show.
The next time you watch a school software demo, then, be sure to gauge how critical such images are to the actual workflow. If they aren’t helping it, the odds are good that they are hurting it. Here again, though, be sure to get the details about why the images are there when you sit in on the demo.
Will the data transfer to other systems the way other departments need it to?
Effective school workflow is about more than any individual piece of software. In the current fast-paced Education environment, schools, districts, and programs are more like ecosystems. Each software program needs to integrate with, or “talk to,” other software in other departments.
If one piece of software displays your data in an unnecessarily flashy way, but the software to which that data needs to be sent doesn’t recognize the layout, then that flashy layout doesn’t do much good in the end, does it?
The ability for your software to properly and efficiently integrate with other software and accurately send critical data far outweighs any superficial benefits you will get from how your data looks in the vacuum of your own software program.
So, be sure to keep all of your school’s software in mind the next time you watch a demo, and not just the software you’re looking at in that moment. Don’t be afraid to ask specifically about the details of its integration capabilities, even if it means spending a little more time in the demo.
Want to look at some school software programs from a company that understands the real needs of working educators, administrators, and servers?
Choose an area below and click to get started.