Is your school designing a new website? The task can feel daunting, but we’ve created a list of ten things to get you started when thinking about a new design.
1. Understand your user
Before you can build a website you need to know who you are building the website for. Who are your target audiences and who is your main audience? Common audiences for schools include prospective and current families, alumni, community members, etc. What kind of content do they want/need? Build your website and pages with your school’s specific goals, strategic planning documents, and other priorities in mind.
2. Well-organized navigation
A cluttered navigation is frustrating to users. Keep short navigation titles but avoid acronyms. Prospective families who know nothing about your school may get confused and frustrated when they can’t understand what you are referring to. Have seven or less main navigation categories. Too many options can be overwhelming.
3. Useful homepage
A homepage should direct traffic to other areas of your website. Use clear call to actions that highlight the major initiatives and goals of your website. Do you want visitors to schedule a tour, attend an open house, apply online, sign up to volunteer, or something else? Prioritize your website goals and only place the most important call to actions on the homepage as this is your prime real estate.
4. Responsive design
Users should be able to view your website content on smartphone, tablet, or computers. Nearly 80% of internet usage is expected to have been mobile in 2018. You can use analytics to see the device usage of your specific website, but expect to see over half of visitors using a device other than a full-sized computer.
We wrote another post all about accessibility for your website. Get some tips here to make sure you are building a website that can be used by all people – even those with disabilities.
6. Search Engine Optimization
You want prospective families to find your website in online searches. Things like being responsive, accessible, using alt tags for images, using keywords in page titles and throughout the content of your page will all help increase your rankings with Google. (See another other blog post on SEO here.)
7. Use your analytics
How do you know how to improve your website if you aren’t tracking data? What pages are users on when they leave your website? What are your most-visited pages? What pages are viewed for the longest amount of time? What are people searching for on your website? Use data and metrics to make action plans and tailor your content to your audience. Google Analytics is a great tool to use.
8. Engaging images
Images can make or break the first impression of your school website. Use your own, high-resolution images and do not rely too heavily on stock photos. If you don’t have the budget to invest in a professional shoot, recruit students, parent volunteers, teachers (or anyone with a high-quality camera) to take pictures throughout the year. Make sure they tell the story of your school. You don’t need a perfectly manicured campus to get the perfect shot. Often, engaging classroom images can be more compelling than great landscaping.
9. Clear contact information
Don’t make it hard for prospective families to contact you. Have an email address, phone number, and address in the footer so it displays on all pages. Add a full contact page with all of the ways you can be contacted and use a form to ask specific questions and eliminate initial back and forth with your front office. Embed a map on your contact page so visitors can easily navigate to your location. Include special directions if it’s difficult to find your school from GPS navigation (“turn right after the gas station”).
10. Quality assurance
Building a website is never done. Websites need careful attention and frequent updates to verify the information you are providing to users is accurate and honest. Check links, update images often, view pages on multiple devices,build accessible content, and create the content your users are searching for.