More than ever, your school website is the single most important communication tool your school has.
From engaging prospective and current parents to showcasing the school to prospective staff and the wider community, it’s vital that your school website is working as hard as possible for you.
And that’s without considering the statutory information you publish online and the degree of scrutiny which Ofsted will give your school website whilst considering an inspection, or as part of the pre-inspection process.
At Greenhouse School Websites we’ve helped over 2,000 schools with their website. Here are some of our key things to consider when it comes to your school website design.
First impressions count
Often, the first opportunity your school will have to make that all important first impression is through your school website. Research has shown that people form their first impression in a split second – 50 milliseconds in fact!
What can you possibly achieve in this time? It goes without saying, your website needs to load quickly. The first view needs to scan easily on the eye and not be visually shocking. An attractive colour palette, attractive fonts, uncluttered layout and interesting photos will all help.
Second impressions count too
So you’ve made a great first impression – fantastic! What next? Visitors are interested; they want to know more about your school.
If you feature photos, you can often let your images help tell your story. You may have a prominent strapline which encapsulates your ethos or vision. A short welcome from the headteacher with a headshot can help set the tone in an inviting way.
Overall, as the public face of the school, consider if your website reflects the personality of your school. Looking at other local schools, how would you compare?
It’s useful to ask yourself who is looking at the website and think about what they are looking for. Make those user journeys painless and you will be thanked.
For example, one of the most visited pages on many school websites is the term dates section. Imagine a busy parent trying to arrange childcare or planning holidays – they want to find that page easily, so make sure it’s reachable within one click.
In our experience, the best navigation systems offer three levels of navigation – main menu tabs, dropdowns and popouts from the dropdowns. Three levels permits easy navigation around hundreds of pages. Any more levels of navigation can be cumbersome to use.
Some websites forsake the traditional menu for a hamburger format. This is great on mobile, but should be used with caution on larger screens. After all, why hide your menu tabs if you have the space to show them?
Be kind to mobile users
Our data shows that mobile devices account for around 45% of all visits to school websites. Your content should work equally well on all devices. Watch out for tables - they tend not to scale well on small screens.
Ideally, large resources (like large photos or video) should be restricted on mobile devices, where bandwidth could be a problem.
Consider optimising images before uploading them. Tinyjpg.com is a fantastic free service for compressing images. You will often find that a 500kb image can be compressed to 100kb without losing noticeable quality.
Those saved bytes will help your page load smoothly, which will help your visitors and give a ranking boost – search engines reward quick sites.
The dreaded ‘C’ word! You have to ensure that your website contains all the necessary statutory policies and statements. If you’re not sure what’s required, please request our Ofsted checklist.
Most schools have lots of interesting activities going on. Sharing these with parents and the wider community is a great way of raising your school’s profile. Publishing regular news items to your website and sharing them to social media ensures the widest reach.
You can configure your Facebook page to autopost to your Instagram account, or use a free service like Hootsuite to post to multiple platforms at once.
Make sure you have the relevant permissions before posting any personal data.
It’s never finished
Launching your website is great, but that’s not the end. Consider it an organic entity, constantly evolving.
As well as regular maintenance, it’s a good idea to schedule a thorough cleanup before the start of each academic year, archiving previous class content and newsletters.
Your site is looking great and loading quickly, ready to entice prospective parents and inform Ofsted inspectors.
But what happens if the worst happens and your site goes down? Is it a domain name issue; a secure certificate problem; a hardware fault on the server? Do you have offsite backups?
Headteachers have enough to worry about without the intricacies of website hosting – ensure you have someone you can rely on to help should the worst happen.
Find out more by visiting Greenhouse School Websites.