Is your school’s website showing its age? Is the navigation confusing? Is the site difficult to open on phones or tablets? Are you looking for ways to improve your school website? It’s easy to fall behind the times when it comes to web design. The good news, however, is that it’s easier than ever to refresh and update your school’s website.
The web design world moves so fast that what works today could be out of fashion in only a few years. The evolution of content management software has made it possible for a school to make dramatic changes to its site in only a matter of days. Here are a few best practices that are easy to implement and can improve your school website and the website experience for school administrators, teachers, students, and guests.
1) Make it responsive.
A responsive website is one that can automatically adjust to fit any device. Technically called responsive design, responsiveness has become more important with the rise of mobile devices. The number of people using mobile devices to access the internet is growing rapidly. Depending on the source doing the surveying, mobile web access is on the rise. According to a study from StatCounter, 15.2 percent of all North American internet traffic in 2013 came from a mobile device. That’s up from 9.4 percent in 2012. Walker Sands, a digital PR agency, has the number closer to 28% according to its quarterly mobile traffic report.
Those numbers will only increase. You can make your website responsive to mobile devices by using a theme or design that has responsiveness built in. For example, Campus Suite’s easy-touch technology automatically senses what type of device a visitor is using and then adjusts the website to fit that device’s screen. The navigation and content also adjust so every visitor can have an enjoyable experience, regardless of whether they’re using a computer, phone, or tablet.
2) Use a CMS to easily update content.
Content management systems (CMS) have revolutionized the website industry. A content management system has an interactive dashboard that allows you to change or update your website even if you don’t have website design or coding knowledge. Elements like images, links, navigation, and even the site’s overall theme can be managed with just a few clicks of a mouse. Many content management systems also allow teachers and other school employees to have limited access to the administrative side so they can keep their blogs and other pages regularly updated.
3) Encourage sharing and following.
A social media presence can drive traffic to your school’s site and improve your school’s search engine ranking. You can encourage visitors to share your site’s content on social media by making it easy for them. Every piece of content should have buttons that allow the visitor to quickly and easily share your content on Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, and the other major social networks. You should also have a very clear link for your visitors to like, pin, or follow you on those social networks. The easiest way to build a social media presence is to make the sharing and following process easy for your students, teachers, and guests. Check out Getting Smart’s post on Ways to Implement Safe Social Media for Schools for some current practices, including TreeRing’s “social yearbook.”
4) Integrate document sharing.
Tools like Dropbox or Google Drive make it easier to share documents and improve your school website. These shared drives allow your students and teachers to exchange homework assignments, study guides, and any other important documents all from the convenience of their computer or tablet. They’re especially helpful during snow days or extended student absences. Alabama public schools have started using shared folders and have reported a noticeable increase in student engagement.
5) Keep it simple.
Web design has evolved as we’ve learned more about how website visitors behave online. The emphasis has clearly shifted to simplicity. Visitors to your school’s website want to see clean design, easy navigation, and large, appealing images. They should be able to quickly see where to go for specific information. Don’t bombard visitors with cluttered links, an overload of text, or animation or other unnecessary effects. A good rule is to think about whether an element or piece of content truly adds value to a visitor’s experience. If it doesn’t, you probably don’t need it.
6) Put your school’s calendar on the front page.
Not only put it on your front page, but keep it updated. Most content management systems allow you to seamlessly integrate your school’s events calendar onto your website. Putting it on the homepage for everyone to see serves two purposes. First, it makes it easy for your teachers, students, and parents to keep track of school activity. However, it also allows prospective parents to get an inside look at the extracurriculars and school events available to your students. Campus Suite’s Canyon theme is a great example of how to integrate a calendar into a website’s design.
Your school’s website is often the first introduction prospective students have to your school. It’s the most widely seen representation of your school’s mission, values, and benefits to students. Don’t let an out-of-date or poorly functioning website ruin a prospective student’s perception of your school. By implementing just a few of these actions, you’ll see vast improvement in your site’s appearance and functionality.