School Web Design
By Gavin Kilgallon on Monday, 30 April 2018
Your school website design will be one of the most important investments that your school will make. It will undoubtedly be one of the first marketing tools the public, students and guardians will see. Your School web design needs to be bespoke, tailored completely to your school’s unique requirements, allowing you to position and distinguish your school online whilst showcasing your USPs.
As a leading London web design agency, we have had a lot of experience working within the educational sector. We have had the privilege to work with schools, universities and numerous educational-related institutions. This blog is aimed at providing schools and educational organisations with some insights into how they can potentially improve their website, enhance the online visitor's user experience (UX) through proper planning.
What do you want from your website? Know your goals!
What are your core website goals? By knowing and understanding what these are, it will provide you with a much clearer understanding of how to structure your website, including the main pages, subsections, layout and functionality that is required. Your core school web design goals might include any of the following:
- Creating general awareness for your school
- Highlighting specific information such as results, external reports etc.
- Showcasing your school’s excellent facilities and grounds
- Call to action triggers such as enrolments or enquiries
- Reducing administration workload for your staff
- Educating visitors
- Move towards online teaching methods
- Integrating third-party educational software
- Collecting online payments
- Integration with existing third-party software
- Creating marketing lists
In addition, look closely at your competitor’s websites as well as some of the most highly regarded schools throughout the country. Analyse their sitemaps, call-to-action triggers, use of imagery, any included third-party software, headings, user journeys to gain insights. This information can then be used to help formulate your website plan.
Once you have a list of your core goals, you can then discuss them with your design agency to define a strategy to help realise them.
Know and understand your site visitors
By understanding who your visitors are and what they are looking for, you can create a tailored user journey and navigational setup to help channel them towards your main website goals. If you already have a website, it would be useful to conduct a detailed survey asking guardians and pupils what information they believe is crucial, information that they currently find useful and any issues they are experiencing with the current setup (if you have analytics software, this could provide useful information too).
Customisation of each school’s individual requirements
Each school and educational institution is unique, and these individualisms need to be reflected in the school website design. Your website needs to enforce your core ethos and persona with branded messaging. The design and layout need to be fresh, inspiring, with a design that showcases your school in the best possible way. Within the new design, your branding and logo need to be seamlessly integrated, further enforcing what your school has to offer.
Regardless if you are a primary, secondary or independent school your website needs to enforce its unique brand through the design, imagery and layout.
Usability and interaction are key
Usability is the key to the success of any website, and this is no different for schools. The user journey needs to be planned, enabling parents, pupils and prospective parents to find what they want and find it quickly with minimal effort. The layout needs to be intuitive, efficiently directing visitors to the area they are interested in such as enrolments, fees, prospectus requests etc.
Key website areas to consider
Below are some of the main sections we believe should be considered when planning your sitemap. Obviously, some will only be relevant to specific schools or academic institutions.
- About us / Our School
- Message from the head of the School
- Values / ethos
- School performance / reports
- Employment opportunities
- Term dates
- Travel routes
- Activities / clubs
- Enrollment / Admission
- Prospectus request
- Open days
- Joining information
- Parents area
- News & Events
School website Analytics
If your current website has analytics installed, then this is a great informational starting point for your new website. By looking at the information outlined below, it will provide useful data about what is currently working and needs to be included, as well as areas that need improving or removing.
- Where is your traffic coming from
- Pages that attract the most traffic (what content does it contain)
- Pages with the most dropouts (is content irrelevant or the layout wrong)
- Pages that convert into enquiries
- Keywords people are using to arrive at your site
- The demographics of your visitors
- Devices people use and associated statistics compared to other devices
- Pay-per-click information
Once you have this information, you can add what is working to your new website and look to improve sections where your current website is underperforming. By having analytics and constantly reviewing its data, you can continuously look to optimise your website, helping to create strategies to achieve goals and create conversions.
Below are some free and paid for analytical software that can be used for data collection.
Make the website work for your school!
Having a website can provide you with the opportunity to free up your employee's time, not only with the administration side but also teaching staff. Below are some ‘jobs’ that can be delegated to the website!
FAQs– Include frequently asked questions about your school, this will reduce phone calls and emails
Documents – Provide site visitors with access to frequently used documents on your website, and make sure to provide formats that are popular such as PDF or Word. This could include school policies, enrolments etc.
Contacts – Add contact information for staff and administration staff, this can be hidden within the parent portal to reduce spam
Calendar – Add all key school event information to an online calendar, this can include general events, sporting fixtures, theatre and plays, school trips, holidays, camps, extracurricular activities etc.
Homework/lesson schedules – By publishing homework activities, students cannot hide what they need to complete and parents will not contact teaching staff to find out what is due
Sporting information - Add all sports-related information, especially for inter-school activities and carnivals.
App design working in tandem with your website
Many school websites now make use of apps, but do you really need one? One of the biggest deciding factors might be costs, if your school can afford to have an app then there are many good reasons to do so. Some of the advantages of an app are shown below.
- They keep pupils and parents updated in real-time
- They are a great platform to make announcements
- They boost interaction and engagement between the school, pupils and parents
- Apps can provide vital school information including news, events, policies, school work, reminders and extracurricular activities
- They can synch with important information such as grades, attendance, records
- They can enhance school learning and teacher communication
- They create a positive impression of the school if they are used effectively, whilst also promoting the school brand and image
- They can reduce staff administration time
- Information is available 24x7
- They can save money for the school on stationery
- Once set up, they are a quick, cheap and effective way to communicate
3rd Party integration
Many schools and educational departments now make use of third-party software applications, such as learning management tools. This involves the integration of third-party software through their API. Using learning management software as an example, this provides a system where your school can implement online lessons, tests and courses that record and track all pupils using it. Pupils need to log in to be able to gain access to their designated work, the only requirement is an internet connection. By using 3rd party software you can often save a lot of money with development costs and use a system with a proven track record. If there are prebuilt solutions, it is definitely worth investigating further.
Parent and pupil portals
Parent and pupil portals provide schools with the opportunity to hide information that you don’t want the public to view via a hidden area. Parent portals are usually accessed via a password-protected area. They often contain information regarding the uniform shop, book lists, term dates, calendar, enrollments, staff contacts, digital library, pupil information such as medical info, class info, payments etc. Creating parent portals can be expensive and this is another area you might consider a pre-built third-party solution.
Using online payments for school fees is becoming an increasingly popular option. It is an excellent way to help collect fees and provides payees with an additional and convenient option to make their payments. The benefits are essentially the same as an e-commerce site, such as instant payment, it is quick and easy, another income source etc.
So, what is the best school accounting software and what features should it include? Below is a list of features that you might find useful.
- Multiple payments
- Automatic invoices and receipts
- Integrate with existing systems
- Budget and forecasting
- Cloud, SaaS, Web deployment
- Training provided and documentation
- Support hours
At ID Studio Web Agency we have some great experience working with schools and educational authorities. Some of our recent clients include Twickenham Prep School, Imperial College London, Listening Books, KiddiKicks… If you have any questions or would like to talk about a new website, contact Michael at Internet Dreams Studio on 020 8948 5808.