Hey! Aaron here from Full Circle Design. We help companies design, build, and develop their online presence and optimize user experience. We also give you some great tips and advice here in our blog to help you get the most out of your website or app. This blog post will help you understand what is needed to design the perfect website for your school.
A school website should be fun, engaging and guide the user on how you help their children learn and develop. Sounds easy right? Let’s see what goes into creating the perfect school website.
Discover Your Users
When designing any website, try to define what is needed for your website. This doesn’t mean how many different pages you may want, think about who will be viewing your website. Do you think a 4- or 5-year-old will be checking you out on google to see what fun things they can do at playtime? Nope…well, maybe, but probably not. The user of your websites will be the parents. Parents looking to see if your school would be a good match for their little ‘angels’ or want to check out what fun stuff their children are getting up during school hours. Defining the needs of your user will help identify what should go into your website.
Once you have a key user in mind, we can look at what they will be looking for when clicking into your website. Parents will want to see some information on your school, they want to learn what values you hold and learn about the teachers in your school. They may also look for your curriculum, your policies and maybe even see what healthy food you serve their children. Getting into the mind of the user helps to create a great user journey that can decide what you should feature on your website.
Identify Your Goals
Once you have a key user and user journey, we can look at identifying your goals and objectives for the website. Yes, we want a site that will work for the users, but you should also think about what you want them to do when they arrive at your site. The first section of your website is where the user will land once they click on your website. This section should provide a clear mission statement for your school along with a call to action (CTA) that will guide them in the direction you intend. Your mission statement should be something that encompasses the ethos of your school, what value you can bring to the children and how you help them learn and grow. This doesn’t have to be long, keep it simple and to the point. Next, include a CTA. This is the button that you want the user to click on. Think about your purpose for the website, if you are looking to increase numbers at your school then maybe direct the user to a sign-up form. If you want the user to check out your recent school trip, then your CTA can direct them to your school news section. Once you have a goal in mind, it will be easy to determine the purpose for your website.
Now you have a clear guide on what you and your user may want to see on your website, we can look at your website content. Website content is the information and imagery you display on your website. This content helps frame the user experience and should guide the user in through your website.
This should include sections like an about section, your curriculum, and the type of school you are running (full term, seasonal, day care etc.) along with imagery of your school, where you are and your contact information. The goal for your website content is to inform and engage the user while thoughtlessly directing them to your desired destination (probably the only time you can tell the parents what to do). A pro tip here is to keep text short and to the point, users only scan text anyway, and include images of your school when possible. Trust is also a big thing, think about including testimonials from parents of children currently enrolled in your school. You could reach out to some of the (nice) parents and ask them could they write a short testimonial for your school.
School News & Events
Do you run events or after school programs in your school? Including a news section in your website really helps to promote your school online and keeps parents up to date on what's going on. Remember giving the children forms to be signed for your upcoming field trip only for them to throw it into their bag and instantly forget about it? Then have the audacious parents ringing up complaining about not knowing about the trip! Well including a news section in your website can cut out that BS. This section is basically a blog on your site that is easy to manage and add new article that can be featured on your website. They also really help with SEO that will rank your website higher on search engines like Google.
To learn more about SEO check out our
SEO checklist here.
Clear Information For School Policies & Guidelines
This is pretty important as we all know, policies and guidelines must be included in everything we do. Clearly outlining your schools’ policies and guidelines on your site provides the user (parents) with all relevant information before their children join your school. You can include your policies and guidelines directly onto your website on specific pages or your website or you can allow users the option to download these as a pdf document via email.
Other policies you must include in your site are website private policies and statements.
Clear Navigation & Links
Adding clear navigation to your website plays a crucial part in the user experience. In the header of your website, you should include links to primary sections of your website. Think about where your users may want to navigate to when on your homepage. The user may want to see more about your school, see images of your school or get in touch with you. These are all links that could be included in your website header. Next, include the same in the footer (bottom) of your website. This really helps the user to navigate through your website with ease and increases the retention of users navigating to your contact page.
Look to include links to and from your social media pages. If you already have a good following on your social media pages this really helps to promote your website. When uploading news on events or trips, post about them on your social media with links to the full article on your website. Including links from your website to your social media will also help new users view your social images and see what fun events you’ve held in the past that will create a further sense of trust. Including clear navigation and social links is a great way to increase search engine ranking to help new users find you when they search for your school.
Just as in the case for accessibility for your school, your website must be accessible too. A website has a legal obligation to meet the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines and has to pass certain tests to obtain a pass rate. Your website should be accessible to all readers including those hard of site. Think about contrast when designing your website, the lower the contrast the harder it is to make out certain content like text and buttons. Include easy to read text with correct punctuation that can be read using read aloud functions for visually impaired users.
A pro tip here is to keep it simple. Use high contrast colours when designing a site, if your background is white then use dark text colours. We also recommend checking out the guidelines for WCAG here.
The final and most important part when designing your school website to increase potential users is website responsiveness. To have a responsive website means that your website works on all devices, from laptops to mobile phones and everything in between. Think about your users, most of them will be using a mobile device when searching for you online. Not having a responsive website cuts your potential traffic by more than 50%. Having a responsive website means no matter what device your user is viewing your website; your content is readable and usable. Having a responsive website works great when sharing your site through social media or email. Say you just posted about your field trip to Fota Island next month and you want to share it with parents. Adding a link to a social post to your responsive website means that everyone with that link can view the field trip information so poor little Timmy isn’t left behind on the day.
Of course, there is more we could go in to when creating your perfect school website but following our guide above will set you off in the right direction to make sure your website is performing as you intend it too. It is important to stay organized, write out your users’ journey and decide what is the goal for your website. Doing all these will help you to create your perfect school website.
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