Designing a new school website? With access to a world full of information on the internet today, parents usually get an introduction to their child’s future through the school’s website, and the first impression makes all the difference. With all the work that goes behind the success of a school, make sure that your school website design supports your distinctive reputation. Whether your school is private, parochial, or charter, you must maintain a good online presence to recruit students.
Here are some great tips on designing a school website to recruit students.
Love at First Sight (Through Pictures)
The photos of your school, students, faculty, or other images on your school website will be the first point of contact that visitors see. The pictures will need to captivate your visitors within the first few seconds, so it’s essential that the images are professionally photographed and edited to show the school in the best light. Whichever pictures are chosen should express the ambiance your school welcomes to all that attend: warm, welcoming, diverse, and academia-focused.
Include Great Infographics
For communicating other aspects about the school, infographics and statistics can be a powerful yet precise way to show how effective and empowering the school is for its students. Here are some helpful statistics that can be expressed either in text or as infographics, such as pie charts, bar graphs, or other visually appealing graphics:
- Students that take advanced placement courses
- Alumni that graduate and go on to college or University
- Student-to-teacher ratio
- Budget spending
- Diversity rate
- Average testing scores (i.e., SAT or ACT)
- Faculty qualifications
Rather than explaining how well the school performs with its students, let the numbers tell the story.
Utilize SEO Best Practices
One of the most essential best practices for having an effective school website is to create website copy that is search engine optimized (SEO). This means understanding which keywords and practices are best to integrate into the website copy so that your school website ranks higher in search engine results. After all, the first step to impressing prospective students and parents with your school website is being found online. When was the last time you searched through page 3 of Google?
Helpful free tools, like Google Adwords and Ubersuggest, can help research the best keywords to use. The Yoast plugin that is available for WordPress websites assists with on-page SEO.
Select a Consistent Website Theme
The website’s theme should be cohesive throughout the entire school website design. The theme includes the color scheme, logo, font, and basic layout elements. For the font, more classic themes will typically be serif fonts, whereas more contemporary designs utilize san serif fonts. The colors should be simple to choose, as they typically match the school colors. The layout can be traditional, fitted to one screen and navigated through the menu. For a more modern take, there is the option of a continuous or infinite scrolling layout, where scrolling up and down the home page can lead the website visitor to toggle between web pages.
Provide a Mobile-Friendly Interface
In the technologically-evolving world, this one should be obvious. More and more people access websites through their mobile devices. Not all websites are made equally, and those not mobile-optimized miss out on an opportunity to interest new visitors. As a top-tier school website, the website should be optimized to browse and interact both through a desktop and a mobile device.
Offer Convenient Tools
School websites should provide easy functions for parents and students alike. This may include scheduling, tuition billing, event RSVPs, and other helpful tools. Here are some examples that will impress school website visitors:
- Scheduling Functions: Allow for scheduling options for tours, school visits, PTA meetings and more. Since you are working on student recruitment, make it especially easy to schedule an appointment with your admissions officer to tour the school.
- Homework/Curriculum Access: Giving parents access to the homework and/or curriculum will help parents work with their child throughout their coursework, as well as offering transparency for upcoming projects and homework deadlines.
- Billing Functions: Allow parents to refill lunch cards, pay for tuition, school trips, sports fees or other items that require payment. This also makes it easy for school administrators.
- Logistical Information: Offering up-to-date information on bus routes, sports practices, weather cancellations or delays and other school activities that require sharing logistical details.
- Event Calendars: Display special events – such as sporting events, academic competitions and more – on your school’s events calendar. Calendar functions are also helpful for noting half-days, school closings, fundraisers and other school-wide events.
Establish and Maintain ADA Compliance
ADA compliance requires that school websites be user-friendly for those with disabilities, such as hearing or vision impairments and color blindness. Some website features to keep in mind to be compliant with ADA guidelines:
- Avoid varying text colors to indicate differences for those with color blindness
- Provide alt-text copy to describe the images used throughout the website
- Videos should include closed captioning and transcripts
- All downloads and documents should be able to be read by a screen reader
Part of being an ideal school is designing a school website that welcomes all, regardless of disabilities.
Publish Up-to-Date Content
Keeping your website content fresh is important. One great way to do this is by publishing regular blogs on school activities. A blog is one of the social media tools that can be used to interact and build relationships with parents and students. Keep blogs updated and delivered consistently, whether updated weekly or bi-weekly.
Ideas for engaging blog content could include the following:
- Successful Study Techniques
- Upcoming School Events
- Community Partnerships and Business Sponsorships
- School Trips
- College Preparation Tips
- Parent-Child Relationship Building Ideas
- School Fundraising Events and Tips for Participants
Offering relevant blogs to parents can be a great way to keep parents engaged with the school.