Your school website is your public face. It’s how you introduce yourself to prospective families and how you communicate with families who already entrust you with their children every school day. With that in mind, you want your website to serve the needs of both groups.
Are parents in your community really using your website? If they are, you’ll want to make sure you know what they use it for most often so you can stay on top of those services. If they aren’t, then you’ll want to know why so you can make changes to better serve them.
So, what are parents looking for when they visit your school’s website? Depending on their needs, the parents in your community want to be able to access different information throughout the school year. How well you provide that information may determine whether they ever bother to pay your online home another visit.
In this digital age, parents looking to find a school for their child are likely to visit your website before ever visiting your campus. Does your website provide the answers they’re looking for? Prospective families look for:
- information about your school’s curriculum, programs, and staff;
- photos that illustrate the general climate of your campus;
- self-explanatory, printable online registration forms; and
- updated tuition/fee schedules.
These days, parents are also likely to want to register for the upcoming school year and pay fees online. Does your website have these functionalities? If not, it may be costing you student enrollment you didn’t even know you were losing.
When your students’ parents access your website, they are looking for a way to connect to their child’s educational experience. They’re looking to stay informed, so it’s important to provide them with up-to-date, helpful web content that addresses their most immediate concerns. To do that, you need to predict what parents want when they log onto your school site. Most parents are looking for information that will help them plan the following, for example:
- district and school calendars
- school menus and the ability to add money to their child’s lunch card online
- a straightforward way to contact their child’s teacher
What’s more, parents need these items to be up to date and easy to find. If you’re going to refer parents to your website as a convenient resource, then you must update it regularly with easy-to-access information. An active website is a great indicator of active home/school communication.
Using parent surveys to improve your website
So, how can you find out for sure whether parents are using your school’s website? If they are, what services are they using? If they aren’t, why not? Performing a survey is a great way to find answers to both questions. You can find out what you’re doing right and what you could be doing better. For online surveys, Survey Monkey is a great place to start. You can create your own questions and email the link to your focus group, parents, or PTA to get a good idea of how well your community uses your website.
Make sure your school website can be read from any device
In addition to content that your website visitors are looking for, it must be readable on any device they are using. If your content is difficult to read, they’ll be gone within three seconds (really, that’s the average length of modern patience). In 2020, 61% of online users are accessing your website from a mobile device, and that increases yearly. Make sure your school’s website is responsive.
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Stay on top of your content
Whether enrolled students and their parents or prospective parents looking for the right fit for their child, they are all looking for information about what is happening at your school. Here are a few vital areas we recommend you focus on:
#1. Calendar events. Make finding dates and times for upcoming events and activities easily available. This can be from an online calendar, a downloadable PDF of your annual calendar, or an iCal that allows visitors to download school events into their personal online calendars. This keeps parents in the loop, students from missing out on important schedules, and prospective parents aware of what your school has to offer.
#2. Upcoming events. Create pages that outline special events, and link to them from your online calendar. Tell why it is part of your school, what value it adds to the students and their educational experience, and what the students think of the recurring or traditional events.
#3. News. Use a news page to promote upcoming events and activities. Be consistent and reliable with your news. Once parents learn to trust that your website provides news that is useful to them, they will return again and again to your site to stay informed. Also, be sure to use news articles to follow up with activities. Let everyone know what a success your school’s events and activities are and how students benefit from them.
#4. Welcome packet. Help new parents acclimate to their child’s school by providing them with a comprehensive welcome packet (available online as well as from the front office). Create a guide to help answer new and returning parents’ common questions in one inclusive guide. You might want to include the following:
- Welcome letter. Be sure the tone in your letter is personal and welcoming. Let them know your staff will be helpful advocates for parents and their students. Include contact information and the invitation to reach out with their questions and submit suggestions.
- Important dates. This might be as simple as a link or a copy to your school calendar, but provide information that helps them with advance planning for upcoming activities so they can integrate student events into their own schedules.
- Volunteer opportunities. Many parents are willing to get involved with their child’s school. Outline the opportunities your school has for volunteering, including the contact information for each type of volunteer opportunity (include time commitments required). You can even include a flyer for volunteers to sign-up.
- Key contacts. Some school website managers are hesitant to include contact information on their websites (like emails) to avoid spam. But, you can use a welcome packet to provide this type of information returning or new parents need like email lists for key contacts, links to e-newsletters, PTO or PTA contacts, your school Facebook page, etc.
It may be time to take a hard look at your school website and see if you are providing a resource parents are using. If they are not, why not? If it isn’t a resource that provides parents and prospective parents 24/7 access to the information they need when they need it, then it is the school’s job to turn that around.
An effective website promotes enrollment and retention and improves customer service and school branding. If this seems overwhelming, remember that School Webmasters has the expertise to make it possible while saving your staff time and your school money, so give us a call at (888) 750-4556 and speak to Jim or reach out to us.
More helpful tips to improve your school website:
Using school websites and social media to encourage parent engagement.
Roll out the welcome mat for your school.
How to engage and connect with busy parents.
Posted by Bonnie Leedy, CEO