What Can You Do With a Footer?

In the early days of web design, the footer was a pretty boring element. Maybe an email address, maybe a copyright. It was usually the same old deal. They were tiny, and they didn’t do much in the way of design.

Then something interesting happened – designers started moving more and more elements into the footer and started paying attention to them stylistically. Gradually, footers even started to phase out site maps on a lot of sites. They went from being practically useless, to being used in really creative ways.

There are tons of different ways to use footers for all sorts of different applications, but in this article we are of course going to focus on how they can be used effectively for Catholic schools.

Ease the Home Page Problem

Like we’ve mentioned before, Catholic schools are large, complex organizations with many different departments and needs. And guess what? They all want a place on the home page. This is usually the starting line of a process that ends up with a confusing, functionally hindered home for your school’s site.

A footer is a great way for the person trying to fit too many elements onto a page for a Catholic school site to create a small index of links that go more in depth than just your top level navigation.

Here’s an example of what a more index-oriented footer looks like, from FOCUS: The Fellowship of Catholic University Students.

As you can see, the footer is substantially larger than usual, and it has much more of a design aesthetic to it than you’d normally give to a footer. The great thing about a footer like this, though, is we have a lot of room to play around with. The next step is figuring out what to do with that room.

An Example

Let’s say that you have a parents section (as most Catholic websites do). When you click on that section you have may have a few pages, but one of the most important is forms. Parents need their forms, and the adminstration office that deals with those forms wants them to be easily accessible.

Usually this means that it is requested (and oftentimes demanded), that there be an easy link to the forms above the fold on the home page.

However, we are enlightened Catholic school web designers and managers and know that putting that link up there isn’t aligned with the goals of the site. The home page needs to communicate, and the groups we need to communicate to don’t need parent forms in their face during their very first impression of the site.

Our solution here is to utilize our more powerful footer and create a column called Parents, and put a link to forms under that heading. Along with it, we should put 3 or 4 more important links for parents so there isn’t just one. The parents are going to find these forms one way or another (if your site is organized correctly). We already knew that, but the administration didn’t. Now we have a compromise that allows them to tell parents to “go to the website, and click on the ‘Parent forms’ link in the footer”, and allows us to un-clutter the home page.

A Sitemap of Importance

We haven’t just solved a home page problem here, though. We’ve started creating something that is extremely valuable for our visitors: a sitemap of importance.

Catholic school sites can have hundreds and hundreds of pages, and we obviously can’t index all of these in our footer. What we’re going through and doing is getting the most important, often visited and referred to pages on our site and creating an index of them. The footer has now become essentially a roadmap to the must-see buried content for the site, and has gone from being something useless to useful.

Your Address, Phone Number, and Fax Number

As long as we are putting useful information in the footer, we need to make a note: always put your address, phone number, and fax number in your footer. A substantial amount of people just want one thing – your address. Many times, it’s to send your school a check, so above all, make it easy for them!

Get Footering!

Take a look at your school website’s footer – is it doing anything useful or interesting? If not, it’s time to take a second look at that oft neglected area of screen real estate.

If you’ve done something creative with your footer, let us know in the comments!

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