Having an outstanding website for your school is probably one of your top goals as a school marketer. After all, it’s the crown jewel in your marketing arsenal and only has an average of 7 seconds to do its job. But getting the balance right is not an easy goal to achieve.
Your school website needs to communicate a lot of information whilst making this information easily digestible as well as ensuring the website has a fresh and professional design.
At Ambleglow, we think that an effective school website is three very important things:
- Visually appealing
- Easy to navigate
And we’ve put together nine top tips to help you achieve an effective school website.
#1 Who is your audience?
The first thing to think about is your target audiences. If you don’t have a good idea of who you’re aiming to target through your school’s website, the messages you’re communicating aren’t going to be very strong.
This is where your customer personas come in really handy. By having a really good idea of who you’re targeting, the messaging instantly becomes stronger. If you haven’t already created a set of customer personas for your school, use our free template.
#2 Think like a parent
An effective website engages your largest audience – your school’s current families. If the information they want isn’t up-to-date they will stop using the website and won’t trust it as a source of information.
Parents will be checking your website frequently when they’re looking for information on subjects such as:
- School lunches
- Term dates
- Extra-curricular activities
- How to assist their child at home
#3 Don’t make them look too hard
This follows on nicely from our last point. All that information (and more!) is crucial for parents, but it’s no good if they can’t find that information, and they need to be able to do this quickly and easily.
Apple founder, Steve Jobs, once said: “Design is not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works.”
An effective website should have easy to navigate menus with clear, short titles. All of this key information needs to be accessible in three clicks or less, otherwise, your current and prospective families will not take the time to look for it, and all your hard work creating a page will go to waste.
However, try to keep your main headers to a minimum as too many options to choose from on your homepage will appear daunting.
We’d also suggest using data to pinpoint your most popular pages, either via Google Analytics or a tool such as Hotjar. You can then add them as quick links. These will save your audience a lot of time by getting them where they want to go quickly.
#4 Start a school blog
An effective website should definitely have a blog! A blog has many benefits but the most important one is that it gives current and prospective families an insight into school life.
When you’re creating a blog for your school, you need to make sure that the content is engaging and regular. You don’t need to add new content every day, but we’d recommend at least once a week. This doesn’t need to always be written content either, videos work brilliantly, and people often prefer to watch a video rather than read an article.
So, what could you publish? Here are five ideas for you:
- The Head’s Vlog
- 30 seconds with…
- News updates
- How-To Videos
- Department highlights
Watch our video marketing webinar with Simon Jones for a more in-depth look at these video ideas.
#5 Make sure your website can be found online
Your school could have the best website in the world, but if no one can find the website, what’s the point?
Your school website should have a strong SEO strategy in place that guarantees you Page 1 visibility in the searches that matter most. Have a read of this piece on skyrocketing your school’s organic traffic with 16 simple tips. We’ve also created an SEO checklist for you to download.
#6 Your website should communicate for you
Your website is your best tool to communicate effectively with your school’s community.
If you direct parents to your clear and informative website when they’re asking for information they will eventually start looking there before asking, as they will know they can rely on it as a reliable source.
A noticeboard with school updates, in-depth school calendar, social media feeds and access to PDF letters are just some of the items your school’s website should include. This will also reduce the paper that your school is using, therefore you’re also doing your part for the environment.
#7 Make sure it’s visually appealing!
Including all your school’s information is so important, but it’s not going to be useful to current and prospective families if they’re having to view it on an unformatted webpage or the font colour doesn’t show up on the background, and that’s just a couple of examples.
You’ve all heard the phrase “a picture can speak a thousand words”, and this is so true when it comes to your school’s website. Make sure you’re communicating your information alongside eye-catching imagery or videos. This will make them want to read more or find out more about your school if they’re currently looking at schools for their child.
There’s also a tendency to focus all of your time and efforts on having a beautiful homepage for users to land on, but don’t let it be to the detriment of other pages. All pages need to be as well laid out, coherent and visually engaging as your homepage, otherwise your ‘time on site’ data will start to nosedive.
Your website is likely to be the first contact prospective families have with your school. That’s why you need to make sure your website design is strong and professional as well as ensuring your school’s branding is prominent on each page. Don’t forget that we’re all now digesting information ‘on the go’, so make sure it’s optimised for all devices. Even better, develop your site ‘mobile-first’, given that Statista shows that in the last three months of 2019, mobile devices (excluding tablets) generated over 52% of global website traffic.
#8 Have you got strong call-to-actions (CTAs)?
With engaging content, strong imagery and an easy-to-navigate website, people will definitely be intrigued enough to continue exploring your website. But then what?
You need to have clear CTAs every step of the way. If you want prospective parents to download the prospectus, tell them, if you want them to enquire about your upcoming open day, let them know how to. You also need to make sure these CTAs are obvious, make them stand out!
Without CTAs, prospects will drop off your website without you being able to data capture.
#9 Be unique!
When you’re designing your school’s website, it’s tempting to look at competitor school sites, but as you dig deeper, you’ll see that many have very similar and follow a very templated look. Every school is unique, so why would you want your website to look the same as every other school you’re competing with? Some of the best school websites we’ve seen have been created by agencies that have a variety of clients, not just schools.
Look at a range of different websites. Take inspiration from these websites, what features do you like? But always be thinking about how your school could do it better, how you could improve it and put your own spin on it? For example, we wanted a chat function on our website, so prospects could drop in and chat with us on an informal basis to begin with, as well as an online meeting booking tool, to fit around our current and prospective clients’ calendars. Many seemingly clever integrations are usually just plug-ins that are relatively easy to purchase and install.
Plus, in our eyes, a website is never complete. We’re always updating our website and making changes to stay up-to-date with current trends and the needs of our business. So don’t ever think you’re done, trust us, you’re not!
You should look at your school’s website as an online brochure for your school.
For prospective families, it needs to communicate everything your school stands for, it needs to showcase how much fun children have at your school and it needs to show them why they should choose your school. And for current families, it needs to tell them everything they need to know from term dates and school developments to online homework and staff information.
Your school’s website is such a crucial element within the overall marketing strategy, and making sure the website helps you hit your goals and targets isn’t an overnight fix. It takes time, and as we said earlier, this isn’t a project that you’ll be able to tick off the to-do list. But done properly with some careful planning and a forensic eye, your school will reap the rewards in the long term.