More often than not, the first thing parents come across when researching potential schools for their child is a school’s website. It is important for a website to make a good first impression that lasts, as those first few clicks of a mouse will have a huge impact on a parent’s perception of a school and their decision as to whether to send their child there. While making a great first impression on parents was a key objective for us, we also wanted to ensure we were using our website to its full potential.
Outline your objectives
Being clear on what you want from your website, right from the beginning, is important. You might want to consider your school’s identity and how your website will reflect this, what it is you want to communicate and how you will engage different audiences.
I wanted a website that was simple to navigate and that would enable us to up-date content easily and quickly, but also one that would appeal to pupils and engage parents, carers and the wider community.
One size does not fit all
Assuming that any website provider will realise your vision is a mistake. Many providers will use a one-size-fits-all template. However, this often won’t reinforce a school’s brand or values.
Others will create such complicated websites that you almost need an IT degree to navigate them! Again, schools need to ask what we really need from our school website – what do we need it to do and how will we use it?
If your website misses the mark when it comes to engaging users because it is either too generic or too technical, then it is not very effective. Because the education sector is unique, it is important to have a website provider that understands schools and their communication needs, so consider a website provider who is an education specialist.
Why not take engagement a step further and ask your students to design some of the pages and be involved in adding things like pictures to the gallery of their latest work? That way they will feel involved in the process and will be keen to show their parents.
In fact, asking staff, students, parents and local “friends of the school” what they would find useful to have on your website can provide invaluable and free market research.
Ask them what they like about the website, which pages they visit most, what they don’t like, and give them the opportunity to share their ideas.
Involving our community has been a really positive step for us. It has helped us to develop closer links with our neighbours. Members of the community now actively send us information to post on our site; it is become a bit of a community forum which is great. For example, recently local nurses were hosting an event in another school, so we included information about that on our site. We are happy to include any information that might be of interest to the wider community.
In addition, we have just started working with a local organisation that runs lots of community events after school and have also included their activity notices and links on our Community Page. From one location, parents can see what’s happening in school and the wider community – it has become a really useful one-stop-shop for parents.
The number of site visitors we have had to the site over the past few months is unprecedented and it continues to soar. Our website has become an information hub for the local community and our staff are engaged, and parents, carers, and pupils are excited about it. We really couldn’t be in a better position and hopefully this upward spiral is only a sign of things to come.