Is it time to update your school, association or school district website?
We launched a new service that designs school websites for districts and associations.
Here are some of my favorite school website design tips when talking to schools about creating the best website for their needs.
The right web developer works in multiple industries
Make sure that you’re working with people that not only understand school websites, but websites outside of schools that parents are commonly using. This will allow you to make sure you’re always using the best features and aren’t stuck to only a certain type of technology that might fall behind mainstream. Our websites use an industry standard cloud based site host that helps us be on the cutting edge.
Don’t get bogged down in the tech, focus on how useful the site can be
Make sure that you talk less about technology and more about being helpful on the website. That means the technology should be less confusing and more useful to those that are going to visit the website. When we build websites for schools and brands we make sure that it’s extremely easy for the school to talk about what success looks like with the end person in mind. In your case that might be parents, students or stakeholders. This can also mean that your teachers and leaders are in the room talking about the important parts of a website experience (not only led by the technology person, but led by those that will be directing people to the site).
Make sure it’s parent friendly
Since parents are going to be using your website more than just about anybody else, you need to make sure that parents are comfortable with the website. Set out and ask yourself “what does success look like for parents?” Then make a list of all of the things that you want parents to feel and do on the website and what their outcomes should be. When we work with schools we sit down for at least an hour and brainstorm this part really carefully. This can make your site very successful (and reduce frustration for your parents).
Make sure that the website is mobile friendly
Since parents are always on their phones these days and rarely ever sit down in front of a desktop, we need to make sure that your school website is easy to navigate from a mobile phone. Is your menu easy to find? Do the images load fast? Are you using mobile best practices that make it easy for people to discover your website? Have you tested your site on a mobile device and tablet? The more mobile friendly your site is (called “mobile first”) the more Google will like your site and put you higher up in the search results.
Keep the layout clean
A lot of designs look fancy but they aren’t helpful to a parent or a student if it’s cluttered. When we work with brands and schools, we ensure that they have a clean layout where it’s easy to find the content and easy on the eye. This means you don’t need lots of extra things to fill the space, you just need what helps people get to where they need to go.
Make your school website easy to navigate
Make sure that you have a menu at the top and menu links in the footer that are going to be easy for parents to navigate. Break your navigation up into key sections. Perhaps you have a “parent resources” block, “student resources”, and “events.” Carefully plan out your users so you can create a link structure that is easy to find. Another important thing is to realize the parents are all over the web navigating some of the most advanced websites. Make sure that your website feels natural so that the habits they learn on other websites can be applied to the website for your school.
Make your website search engine friendly. AKA: Google Search Results
We live in a society where 90% of people go to Google to search for a solution to their question. Does your website come up first and is it easy for users to find what they need going to Google first? With a bit of hard work, and a deep amount of understanding about how Google works, your website can come up first in Google results. When we work with schools we make sure that they understand how people are searching for their name and show them what the end user is doing to find their content. Sure, people could just type in your web URL, but what if you want to impress prospective parents that you want to apply to your school? Do you think they’re going to know your web domain? Probably not, and they’re going to go to Google.
100% uptime guarantee
One of the most important things about a website is that it is always available. Your website is your best salesperson and your best asset when it comes to communicating to people in the community about what your school does. It never gets sick and it never needs a vacation. When we work with schools we make sure that their website is hosted in the cloud so that it will never go down. By starting with some of the most advanced hosting technology and making it easy to use, you never have to think about your website and can instead spend time with parents, students, and stakeholders in your community. Also, the best websites load very quickly. This is something that we no longer think about, but we have come to expect. If your school website loads slowly, it makes a huge difference to parents.
Great customer support needs to happen all year long
Building a website is hard enough, you need a great team behind you that’s going to pick up the phone and take the time to make sure that you are happy with how your website works. When we work with schools to develop amazing websites for them, we make sure there are several phone meetings and that we are there for them every step of the way. If you can get on the phone with somebody that works on the website, you’re probably going to be better off serving your parents and your students. Make sure that you have a direct line to a technician that can help you fix any issues you find with your website or answer any questions that you have.
You can learn more about our new website service for schools by visiting our website page.