When you realise you’ve landed on a good website, there’s something that makes you go “this is a nice site”. Admittedly it’s often a combination of things – design, photographs, useful information, ease of navigation etc – but the impression it leaves is a good one. And that’s what your school website needs to do.
With your prospective new parents, you only get one chance to make that initial impression, and like a job interview, if you get it wrong at the start it’s very hard to turn it around. After all, you wouldn’t leave litter lying around your school front entrance on an Open Day, because first impressions count.
So what makes your site great? Here are 6 factors that can transform your site and ensures it competes in the hectic world we all live in:
A Content Management System That Works
The Content Management System (CMS) is the platform the site is built on. The ease of use of the CMS can have a huge impact on how well the site is kept up to date, which in tun impacts on the success of the site as a marketing tool.
If your school site is built on a bespoke and specially created CMS, the chances are high you will run into problems just maintaining the site, let alone adding new content etc. There is also a high chance you will need specialist support which costs you money!
We build all our school sites on WordPress, the world’s largest CMS for websites and one of the easiest to update. This allows you to update the site yourself following a little training, and the chances are high you can google an answer to pretty much any problem.
Accessible And Mobile-Ready Design
The design of your site is key to first impressions. If it’s too busy, without clear headings, your visitors will soon lose interest. Web design evolves quite frequently so every 2 to 3 years you should consider making some changes to keep it fresh. Design techniques such as video banners, scrolling functionality, menu placements and icons have all been introduced in recent years and are likely to evolve and/or be replaced in years to come.
Your site must be mobile-friendly! Your audience will view your website on many different screen sizes and the site needs to work on all of them. If the content doesn’t fit onto the page, or the design is corrupted as you scroll down, there goes that good first impression.
Content That Engages Your Audience
Your site may look great but if what you say is boring and out of date, you may as well not bother at all. Put yourselves in the shoes of your audience: what do you think they would want to see on your site? Chances are it’s content such as images of their children working hard or having fun, information on events/opportunities coming up and practical information on school lunches, uniform, diary dates etc that make their life easier.
In addition, you need to satisfy certain requirements of Ofsted on your website, which tend to change quite regularly. You need to make sure you stay up to date with requirements, which is especially important if you are due an inspection.
Speed Of Your Site
How quickly your site downloads can impact the viewing experience for many people. If a video takes longer than a few seconds to download, you can bet a proportion of the audience will give up waiting.
The same goes for photographs, so if you are uploading images to your site regularly (as you should be doing), you need to make sure they are optimised for web use, and ideally categorised so you can find them again!
There is nothing more infuriating than getting lost on a site, and not being able to navigate your way back. Or alternatively not being able to find simple information as it is hidden behind a myriad of headings and sub-headings. A search option that appears on all pages can be a simple solution that is often overlooked.
Clear simple navigation is a pre-requisite on a school website, so parents can instantly locate, for example, your school calendar, the school lunches booking form, the link to your parent pay system or, in current times, your latest covid-19 update.
There is an art to navigation – you need to think how your parents will think, not how you might structure it. Remember, just because you organise things one way in school, your website exists to do a different job entirely.
Secure Hosting and Maintenance
Finally, how safe and secure is the hosting of your website? As sad as it may seem, cyber-attacks on school websites are on the up, as the protagonists seek to cause chaos and confusion. You need to make sure your website is suitably protected with the right level of security, and that security is kept up to date.
A regular maintenance support service can be invaluable to give you the peace of mind that your site is being monitored, and that if it was to go down for any reason it would be restored as quickly as possible. We combine our hosting service with a maintenance package that updates your security patches, backs up your site every night and ensures you have the latest software updates applied when applicable.
Your school website is your primary marketing tool. Existing parents will visit it to find information and prospective new parents will visit it before they visit you in person, so a good impression is vital. Sometimes, good is good enough but with a website it needs to be great, with a modern design, engaging content and a CMS that works.
As we rapidly approach the start of a new school term, why not cast a critical eye over your website, or ask us to do it for you.