Like all businesses, schools use their websites to promote their brand and attract top talent. That’s why website management has become such a popular approach among schools to drive traffic to their websites.
However, delivering good traffic (eager parents) to a lousy or average site is a waste of time and effort and may also cause more harm than good. They will not return if they don’t find what they like or don’t like what they find.
We all know the qualities of a poor website since we’ve all visited terrible school websites—but only for a short time and never returned. But, the question is, how can you manage your website so it does not fall into that category? That is the purpose of this article.
Get to Know Your Audience
There are many things you can do on the technical side to optimize your school website, but all of those should be in service of your specific goals.
Before you can start setting goals, you must first determine who your target audience is and what its specific needs are. Then you can go through those needs and determine which will contribute to your goals.
Determine your target demographic and then research their needs. You will get reliable and useful information if you can communicate directly with your target groups (in an anonymous and unbiased manner).
Define Their Requirements
When managing your school website, start with those closest to it: your personnel, teachers, students, and parents. After all, they are the main website visitors.
Aside from collecting useful data and validating what you already know, surveys and focus groups are excellent methods to gather information about your site visitors and to discover their needs. That’s the only way to keep them coming back for more.
Create a survey you can distribute to the school community. It’s not as difficult as you may assume. Online polls on the school site are both quick and easy. Keep it basic, and analyze the results to improve the new school website.
Many schools devote a lot of time and attention to the content side of the site but have little understanding of the underlying analytics. Using Google Analytics, you can assess how your school site is being used—or possibly not.
Google Analytics provides a wealth of data that can help you understand what’s working and what’s not on your current school website. With Google Analytics, you have all the data you need to acquire critical information, such as which pages are popular, where users are coming from, how likely they are to return, and what they are looking for.
This information serves as a benchmark for the future, so you can evaluate the improvements you’re mapping out on your site and have an ongoing way to measure your website performance. The best part is that Google Analytics is free and easy to use.
Define Your Specific Goals
After gathering data from your surveys, Google Analytics, and other resources, your team should create a document outlining the website’s goals and requirements. Of course, achieving all the goals at once may not be possible. Therefore, it is better to focus on a few now and see how you should optimize the website to achieve them.
For instance, if you plan on improving parent and student engagement, you can incorporate social media buttons prominently on the homepage. Managing a school website requires collaboration between different departments. Some schools even work with dedicated website service providers.
Design the Perfect Homepage
By perfect, we mean getting visitors to the next click swiftly and neatly, with minimal scrolling and navigating. A quality site must look fantastic and be attractive, but if your users spend too long on the homepage, they’re likely to be confused. You can make sure your website visitors start off on the right foot by keeping a few things in mind:
Don’t Overcomplicate Things
The finest designs are often the simplest. Sometimes schools mistakenly try to put too much stuff on their website’s homepage. The greatest sites are easy to read and bring you to vital information immediately.
Of course, sometimes it’s not just about the words. A poorly designed outline, broken links, irrelevant pictures, tables, and videos can wastefully occupy the space that’s better left blank.
Don’t Forget Calls-to-Action (CTA)
CTAs are vital because you have only about 10 seconds to capture the visitor’s attention. But, keep in mind that you don’t have to use different CTAs for every visitor type. In other words, the CTA designed for prospective parents or students won’t be as effective on school personnel or teachers.
Also, don’t point everything to landing pages. Target your links to the specific segment that you want the visitor to see. You can even use two or three different CTAs—then choose the one that gets more clicks based on analytics.
Incorporate Social Media Buttons
Social media provides a ripe opportunity to post inspirational videos, cool pictures, breaking news, and anything else that makes your school stand out. If you manage to attract people to your social media channels, it will be much easier to show a parent, a prospective student, or a talented teacher that this is the right place to be. To achieve this, you must make social media buttons highly visible on the homepage.
Make it Mobile Friendly
As of June 2022, 59.77% of website traffic comes through smartphones and 37.96% belongs to desktop computers. The number could probably be even higher for younger demographics, such as school students and prospective employees looking to work in schools.
The best school websites are now developed with mobile devices in mind first, and desktop computers as a secondary factor. That has become the new norm. So, the website must first look good on a mobile phone before a desktop computer.
Don’t reverse the priorities here because there are many school websites that load perfectly on desktop computers but are just terrible on a smartphone.
Use Quick Links to Simplify Navigation
Suppose a parent is reading an article on your school’s website and sees something interesting about payment plans. Now there are two scenarios: A direct link can take them there quickly via navigation. Or they have to scroll back up, find the relevant section on payments, and then scroll down to find the information they need.
Do not let that happen on your website. Organize the navigation buttons so visitors can find their way to the crucial website information in two or three clicks. If they can’t, there’s a good chance that they will head to another website.
Use Eye-catching Images & Videos
People perceive images and videos before they notice anything else, so photo selection is critical. They can articulate a narrative in a split second. So use them to tell your story. They are not just a substitute for empty space. You can choose:
- Pictures or videos that parents can relate to, such as images of children having fun. Choose them to reflect your school’s diversity.
- Branded images of students or faculty wearing the school’s logo. This conveys a sense of confidence and unity.
- Clever or funny videos/pictures of faculty, personnel, students, and administrators can humanize your school.
Make the Information Pop Out
People skim the internet rather than read it. They mostly see titles, photos, and bullet points. Parents will pay more attention to the website because it’s about their kids’ education. So, “spoon feed” the information by creating a clear, simple outline with a logical progression where readers can follow through and not get confused.
Avoid Clutter at All Costs
Clean, white space is highly effective. People hate seeing massive blocks of texts. Keep things clean and neat. There’s one way to do that:
Be Informative & Concise
No one will read a 3500-word website article about “why people should choose your school.” Remember why prospective families are visiting your website: to get information. So get straight to the point, tell them exactly what they want, and cut out the fluff. Using clear charts, tables, or graphs will allow them to get the information and discover how your school will meet their unique needs in a fraction of the time.
Put in Some Time
Successful management of your school website will require a regular, assigned percentage of your time. This can be a challenge, as teachers’ and administrators’ primary duties and obligations leave little time for it. For this reason, many schools work with website service providers.
In truth, the most difficult problem with websites is not the initial setup in a content management system but the ongoing maintenance of the website content, which is why you need a strategy or a third-party expert for long-term success.
Provide Regular Updates
Users (prospective and current parents and students) expect your school’s website content and images to be up to date. Scheduled updates must be prioritized. Make a plan. Consult with people involved in running the website so you can provide frequent updates. Collaboration and planning are critical in the case of a school website. School websites should highlight past events, general data, and upcoming events.
Never Forget Interior Pages
Interior pages are frequently overlooked throughout the search engine optimization process! But not everyone comes in through the “front door.” If parents do a targeted search for your school, they will likely land on one of the interior pages. Again, you have about ten seconds to capture the user’s interest before they decide to stay or leave.
Here are a few crucial design components to add:
- Images to boost engagement
- Tabs and headings for clarity
- Links for quick navigation
- CTAs for taking action
You must remember that you’re never done. This is not a one-time thing. You need to regularly measure your school website’s performance and use tools such as keyword analysis to find out what people are searching for right now—and tailor your message accordingly.
If you’re running a school, there’s a good chance you and your team have your plates full! That’s completely logical because your time should be spent running the school, not the website. On top of that, if you do it on your own, it’ll probably be trial and error and may only waste your time and money.
That’s why it’s a great idea to get help managing school websites. If you use an expert provider, the website will be top-notch and save you a lot of effort, time, and in the long-run, money. Plus, it’ll boost your school’s online presence and turn it into a reliable, up-to-date source of information.
We Can Help
You may be looking at all of the hints and tips above and wonder, how is my team going to handle all of this on top of running an entire school? That’s where we come in. Many, if not most, schools choose to work with a website management provider to save themselves time, money, and headache.
Of course, managing a school website may not be the same as a fashion website because they each require a specific skill set. Therefore, it’s wiser to turn to a reliable school website service provider like School Webmasters. At School Webmasters, our dedicated team will help you understand your competition and design a roadmap that will put you well ahead of the curve.