There is so much involved in creating and maintaining an effective school website. And, to be fair, it is nearly impossible to expect your school staff to have the skill sets required to manage today’s website and social media without specialized training. Even the typical communications director doesn’t have all the necessary skills and must outsource some of the work. So, what skills actually are required to maintain an effective school website?
- Copywriting. Often overlooked, this is one of the most important aspects of an effective website. It should be inviting, conversational, jargon-free, grammatically correct, and accurate. It is the first conversations most of your parents and staff will have with your school. How will it go? If not managed strategically, it could be a less than welcome experience and a flawed first impression.
- Design. Your school’s website design should represent who you are—or at least who you are striving to be—from the colors and use of white space to the photos. In addition to being professional, it needs to be representative of your values, your students and staff, and your educational focus. It should load quickly and be intuitive. It should also be consistent and clean from page to page.
- User Interface. What is the experience your site visitors have when they visit your school’s website? Is it logical and intuitive so they find what they are looking for quickly? Is it what they would expect, or do they have to learn a whole new navigational structure to move around? Are they able to get to anything they need within three clicks, or are they constantly clicking the back button to figure out where they should be? These are just a few of the issues faced by the UI folks. They must know best practices. They need to be aware of what devices your site visitors are typically using and assure that your school website is mobile friendly. They need to be sure photos and videos work and pages look correct on all devices. It all gets very complex in a hurry!
- Proofing and Editing. Especially if you are a school or an educational organization, it is vital that your school websites be nearly flawless. Parents expect it. When there are careless errors in spelling and punctuation, you are setting yourself up for criticism (possibly well-deserved). An occasional mistake is overlooked, but a pattern of carelessness sends a loud message—one that you don’t want to be heard. So, you must walk the talk and be consistent in your grammar and spelling styles, using a style guide, so that from page to page your writing is accurate. You also must proof for working links and broken pages. It shows that you are professional and capable of educating their children. Consistent careless errors get noticed!
- Reliability. The complexity of managing and hosting a website has gotten exponentially more challenging in the past few years. Just watch the nightly news to see who was recently hacked to be reminded of this reality—and those are companies with extensive security in place. Your IT department needs to be focused on its core responsibilities, and this isn’t one of them.
- Resources. Your website should be a go-to resource for parents and students. If you are trying to recruit new students or new staff, it should have answers to the common questions your recruits would have. It should include information about the community. It should guide your visitors as they are trying to make decisions. An informative and helpful website can make all the difference in the world about whether your school is the right match.
- Up-to-date and Informative. If it isn’t current and doesn’t reflect what is happening at your school now, it serves no purpose. Parents need a resource they can count on. Don’t let their only trusted avenue for information be from the gossip at the local gym or from a disgruntled neighbor. Your website should be the trusted resource, and in order to be that, it must be current and informative. And, there’s no reason that it can’t also be fun and inspiring at the same time.
- Integrated Communication. Consistent and trusted communication is essential. That means that the school websites and your social media should work in concert. Social media pushes information out, and the website draws visitors in for more details. When done right, your site visitors will quickly become raving fans and enthused ambassadors for your school.
- Website Accessible. Your school website needs to be accessible to those with disabilities (ADA compliant), by law and because it is the right thing to do. That means that everyone who creates attachments or adds content to your school website, needs to know the standards and maintain them. Those standards are currently WCAG 2.0.
How We Do It?
All of the above areas are managed on a day-to-day basis by our staff. These are amazing folks who are professionals in their fields; from graphic designers to copywriters to website administrators and programmers, they each specialize in school websites. They know best practices and keep our school’s sites looking great all year long. Our staff, mostly women who have left the corporate world to raise children, work from home offices doing what they excel at, enjoying the advantages of work/family balance. Our schools are the benefactors. They receive the benefits of amazing talent and professionalism at affordable prices.
Here’s how it works:
- Project coordinators work with you to determine your needs and create a plan of action for development. They will share proven strategies with you to guide a successful process.
- Copywriters gather data and begin writing your website copy, making sure it is inviting, friendly, and accurate. Best practices are incorporated to provide you with the most informative and useful school website possible.
- Graphic designers create any custom graphics needed for your particular site design. Design prototype is presented to you for your approval. Once you approve the design, comprehensive development begins.
- User interface team (along with graphic updaters and content updaters) proceed with development and create each page of the website along with copy and graphics, including responsive design coding.
- Website administrators (content and graphic updaters) take over when the website goes live and will take all updates your staff submits and keep the website current and attractive throughout the year.
- Monthly reminders are sent to the school staff members whom you authorize to provide us with the kind of information and updates that will keep your site vibrant and informative. We’ll also send them monthly tips and recommendations, so we can take the website to the next level with their help.
- Quality control team reviews the site regularly and makes adjustments and refinements as needed. As necessary, we reach out to school staff members for more current information.
- If desired, we add informative news articles that will be useful to parents and site visitors (so that your website never looks out of date or stagnant).
Unlike other companies that provide you with software, with which you must do all of the above work yourself, we’ll make it easy. You’ll never again need to pay staff to sit through another training for website software management, or ADA website compliance, or how to avoid image copyright infringement. We’ll even do the gentle nagging, behind the scenes, to keep your school website information current and informative by reminding staff to keep the information flowing our way. We’ll take that information and put it where it belongs on the website, following best practices and ADA compliance. We’ll check spelling and grammar and broken links, all as part of our quality control and daily updates.
Your school website is your primary communications tool. Use it well and watch your public relations improve and your enrollment increase. We will make school website management easy and affordable. Contact Jim at 888.750.4556 and find out how we make it all happen.
For more tips to improve your school communications strategies, check out a few of our other blogs:
- 7 strategies for effective school communications
- 3 steps to improve parent engagement
- Telling your school’s stories
- Public relations for schools
- Is your school’s communication becoming irrelevant?
Melanie Guymon, Director of Operations