Plus what to consider when updating your design

I recently spoke with a school administrator who expressed her frustration about the rapidly changing trends around school website design. “It feels like we have to update our website every year,” she said. Fortunately, an annual website redesign isn’t necessary.

Experts say re-evaluating your website design every three years or so is a good benchmark. While you don’t need to start from scratch every calendar year, it’s important to pay attention to website performance and trends to measure your website’s effectiveness over time.

As you move forward and evaluate your school’s marketing plans, be sure to avoid some of the following website mistakes:

Designing for Information, Not Lead Generation

A school website has to serve many audiences—alumni, current parents, prospective parents, and students. The competing needs of these audiences lead many schools into an information vortex; they then try to communicate in equal parts to every audience. The tendency to over-inform on the school website—especially to current parents—leads to website pages that aren’t designed to drive specific behaviors of prospective parents. This may also take the focus off of school marketing objectives (e.g., increasing the size of the inquiry funnel). Resolve to narrow the focus of your school’s website in 2018 and you’ll see dividends!

Navigation and Sub-Navigation Overload

In a meeting with a dozen schools last year, I talked about the importance of streamlining their website navigation and went through their existing website designs on the spot to highlight issues with navigation and flow. Confusing navigation is one of the most common school website design flaws. Many schools have a main navigation bar, another sub-navigation bar, and then another menu after that! That leads to navigation confusion and interrupts visitor flow around your website. Because of this, the admissions page, which is so critical to your school, falls prey to navigation overload frequently. You don’t need 15 pages of content to describe the admissions process. Make it easy for parents to absorb the process, get more information, and apply without falling into a rabbit hole of lists, parameters, FAQs, descriptions, and caveats. It’s important to keep it simple and streamlined.

A Lack of Video Content

Using video in school marketing should be a top priority for schools this year. A tired homepage can be revitalized by adding a 30 second video. Many schools believe marketing video have potential to be too daunting, too expensive, and too much work. When professional video is concerned, they’re often right. But a short, amateur video filmed on your iPhone X and edited in WeVideo can be just as effective as one costing thousands of dollars. Studies show that conversion rates increase exponentially when video is featured prominently on website landing pages, so don’t be afraid to get out there and start capturing the everyday moments that make your school special.

Website Design That’s Merely Adequate on Mobile Devices

A school website that’s not fully responsive for mobile visitors is a school website that needs a complete overhaul. The easy way to determine whether your site is truly responsive is to conduct a Google Mobile-Friendly Test. If your school’s website isn’t performing well on the test, a new website that is optimized for mobile should be a priority for your school this year.

If you have any questions about these topics or other website-related items, our School Site team is here to help. Feel free to email them at [email protected].

Jaclyn Day, Marketing Manager