Before prospective parents even set foot on school grounds, your website provides the opportunity to make a first impression — for better or worse — about what your school has to offer.
Your school’s website is often the first, and most accessible, place for prospective parents to browse information about who your school is and what you can provide for them and their children.
As a critical tool for the first steps in the enrolment process, a school website must be crafted in such a way as to clearly and effectively communicate your school’s key messages, as well as highlight the unique benefits offered to the children of prospective parents.
SMJ asked imageseven’s own in-house Digital Lead, Jose Caceres, and Amy Waddell, a Senior Digital Designer at Digistorm, for their perspectives on what makes a good school website.
imageseven: Updating your website or creating one from scratch may seem like a daunting task. It may even have you staring at your screen for hours on end wondering where to begin and what your website needs. Here are four things to consider as you get started.
The last thing a prospective parent wants is to feel overwhelmed. How often do you scan through endless pages of text, only to pull out a line or two that you were looking for or found useful?
It is vital that you create a clear content path for prospective parents to navigate with ease. If you’re questioning whether a parent will click, scroll or read far enough down the page to find out how or why to enrol their child at your school, it’s likely this information has not been made accessible enough for them to discover and digest it in just a few clicks.
It is no secret that in an evolving technological world, our attention spans have shortened dramatically; there is an ever-increasing urgency for information to be delivered instantly.
2. Call to action
Now that you’ve captured the attention of a prospective parent, what’s next? Do you want them to ring the school? Book a tour? Take a virtual tour?
The idea here is for you to clearly define the end goal and the overarching purpose of the website. Once you know what this goal is, you can create the desired action you are guiding the parent to follow through with.
Essentially, it doesn’t matter so much where the call to action is, but you need to make sure it’s obvious.
Make it large, make it bright, make it visible!
3. Follow your style guide
Your website should be viewed as an asset within your school’s communication collateral. Like all communications regarding the school, it should carry a consistent look and clear tone to engage prospective parents.
4. Design direction
There are many different approaches to the visual direction of your website, some of which are better suited to your school than others.
For a more traditional school website, a brochure-based design gives direct and to the point information. If you take into consideration the points above, you can develop a pretty enticing school website.
Alternatively, a website crafted from a more emotive place, one that tells the story of a student’s journey, can create a far more memorable experience.
Digistorm: When choosing the direction of your design, it is important to keep two things in mind: functionality and your target audience. Both of these will be driven by your overall website goal. You need to know your target audience, what they’ll be looking for and how their expectations will differ. These expectations will ultimately drive your website’s layout, content and structure.
To identify what functionality you need, you need to clearly define your ultimate goal and determine what your target audience expects to find on your website. For example, is your goal to attract new families, or are you at capacity and trying to create an online hub for your current community?
If your school has a heavy enrolment focus, you can stand out by clearly presenting your unique selling points (USPs). Using visual design, you are able to showcase what makes your school unique, making it easier for visitors to take the next steps in the admissions process. It’s here where online forms can go a long way towards making prospective families’ lives easier, drastically simplifying the enrolment process (and improving your conversion rate).
One of Digistorm’s clients, Berlin Brandenburg International School, effectively displays their USPs through iconography, in order to give visitors a quick idea of what they do best. Along with an aspirational video and lead text, visitors instantly understand what the school has to offer.
However, some schools aren’t just focused on enrolments, and need to speak to both prospective and current families. This means their website has multiple audiences.
Haileybury’s website does a great job of catering to these multiple audiences. Using storytelling and emotive design, it draws new families into the brand, making them want to be a part of that story. Additionally, the website acts as an online hub for the school’s community, where families can easily access news, important information and the school’s parent portal.
Every school has a brand and a story. Keeping your website’s goal and target audience top of mind will help you determine the best way to tell your school’s unique story.
- Define the goal and target audience for your website.
- Create a clear content path.
- Stick to your style guide.
- Be engaging and tell your brand story.