Is your school’s website showing its age? Is the navigation confusing? Is the site difficult to open on phones or tablets? Are you looking for ways to improve your school website? It’s easy to fall behind the times when it comes to web design. The good news, however, is that it’s easier than ever to refresh and update your school’s website.
The web design world moves so fast that what works today could be out of fashion in only a few years. The evolution of content management software has made it possible for a school to make dramatic changes to its site in only a matter of days. Here are a few best practices that are easy to implement and can improve your school website and the website experience for school administrators, teachers, students, and guests.
6 tips to improve your school website:
1) Consider it your school's front door.
Not only is your school website the hub for all your official school content, but it's arguably the most important branding tool in your school communications toolbox. The first stop for families, staff, students and others in your school community when searching, your school website better make a good impression.
Yes, it says a lot about you. It reflects your image. So make sure you spend some time on designing your great school website. It's easy to get locked into dated design that frankly reflects poorly on your school. Make sure you keep your brand fresh, for the website is the best place to depict your school brand.
Many schools tie their mobile app to their website, so not only the content but the branding should be seamless and integrated. The navigation and content also adjust so every visitor can have an enjoyable experience, regardless of whether they’re using a computer, phone, or tablet.
2) Use a CMS that's easy to update.
A content management system with a simple dashboard that allows you to change or update your website without having website design or coding knowledge is essential. Elements like images, links, and navigation, should be easily managed with just a few clicks of a mouse. Many content management systems make it easy for any authorized staff member to create, edit, and schedule web pages.
3) Encourage sharing and following.
A social media presence can drive traffic to your school’s site and improve your school’s search engine ranking. You can encourage visitors to share your site’s content on social media by making it easy for them. Every piece of content should have buttons that allow the visitor to quickly and easily share your content on Facebook, Twitter, and the other major social networks. You should also have a very clear link for your visitors to like, pin, or follow you on those social networks. The easiest way to build a social media presence is to make the sharing and following process easy for your students, teachers, and guests. Check out Getting Smart's post on Ways to Implement Safe Social Media for Schools for some current practices, including TreeRing's "social yearbook."
4) Make it accessible for all.
And by accessible we're referring to more than just ADA-compliance. Yes, your website needs to be fully accessible to people with disabilities, and that's required and enforced by the federal government. Be careful with those pesky files and documents that can find their way onto a website via attachments and links. PDF files are notorious for not passing ADA muster, so make sure you have a way to manage your website accessibility.
Your website also should be accessible in the broader sense of the word to everyone in your community. Your multi-cultural audience also has requirements, so be sure to include them with not only the translations but in the content mix.
5) Keep it simple.
Web design has evolved as we’ve learned more about how website visitors behave online. The emphasis has clearly shifted to simplicity. Visitors to your school’s website want to see clean design, easy navigation, and large, appealing images. They should be able to quickly see where to go for specific information. Don’t bombard visitors with cluttered links, an overload of text, or animation or other unnecessary effects. A good rule is to think about whether an element or piece of content truly adds value to a visitor’s experience. If it doesn’t, you probably don’t need it.
6) Put your school’s calendar on the front page.
Not only put it on your front page, but keep it updated. Most content management systems allow you to seamlessly integrate your school’s events calendar onto your website. Putting it on the homepage for everyone to see serves two purposes. First, it makes it easy for your teachers, students, and parents to keep track of school activities. However, it also allows prospective parents to get an inside look at the extracurriculars and school events available to students.
Your school’s website is often the first introduction prospective students have to your school. It’s the most widely seen representation of your school’s mission, values, and benefits to students. Don’t let an out-of-date or poorly functioning website ruin a prospective student’s perception of your school. By implementing just a few of these actions, you’ll see vast improvement in your site’s appearance and functionality.
About the author
Marketing director and content strategist for SchoolNow, Jay’s a former school public relations specialist who’s helped businesses, schools and colleges use the power of communications to improve their image, generate support, and optimize relationships. Reach him at email@example.com.