Choosing the most appropriate school website software company to work with can be hard work. Quite a few companies offer school website services. Some are true specialists because they only work within the education sector. Others aren't; they offer a specific solution to schools but work with lots of other types of organisations too. More still are agencies, SMEs and guys working from their living rooms offering off the shelf web design services.
How do you tell the difference? How do you choose the right partner for your school, nursery, college?
In this article, we'll look at the critical questions that crop up time and time again. They're specific questions we're answered many times because we serve over 1000 schools through our range of services.
Is good, responsive school website design a given?
It's often the first thing we're asked when we chat to schools; will our site work on phones and tablets? It's a hugely relevant question! Our most up to date stats tell us that in the region of 60% of all website traffic is via a phone or a tablet. It's incredibly important. (So important that Ben wrote a post recently about responsive school website design).
There's no question that there are literally thousands of companies around the UK that could build your school or college a great looking website. They'll also most likely design it to work on phones because most decent agencies get that is a basic requirement.
Why should I choose school website software that is built to purpose?
We have so many conversations with schools all over the country about this. We hear from schools that are using local authority provision. They report that updating content is laborious and time-consuming. They tell us that getting other people involved in managing the content is nigh on impossible, so they just don't bother. Others tell us they're using something like a Wordpress installation (here's why we don't recommend that option for schools) and they report that it's just incredibly hard to find your way around.
A product that has been built from the ground up, solely with schools and colleges in mind is the answer.
A great school website software company will be able to show you a wide range of features that are built to make your life just a little bit easier. One of the most popular at the moment is our Document Groups feature. It makes it incredibly easy to keep your policies up to date, set expiry dates and get notified when a policy needs reviewing. It also means you can add one document in several places around your site, update the file once when it changes, knowing that it will be updated everywhere it appears on your site. The purpose of that? To make school website compliance easier, and it works!
That's just one example of how a school website specialist should be able to help you like nobody else can.
How do I choose school website software that is easy to use?
The very best way to choose a school website specialist with the right software and service for your school is to see it in action. Request a full walkthrough of the service and, if possible, arrange to meet with the company in person. If the company that you're talking to can physically demonstrate to you that their software is easy to use, chances are you'll be able to use it well. Or just ask them to give you a go!
How do I choose a school website software company that don't abandon me?
It's absolutely right to ask around. Don't just accept the sanitised testimonials that a company puts in front of you. Any of us can do that so ask around so that you're obtaining some honest feedback. We'd suggest that you're looking for a company that can demonstrate how they'll support you on an ongoing basis.
Our answer to that will be the following:
We'll keep you up to date with all the latest features available in your school website software. We'll tell you when it's realised, send best practice articles and tutorials. Then we'll make ourselves available to you should you need any help.
We'll keep the requirements checklist in our unique Ofsted Ready Website Tool up to date all year round and notify you of any changes.
One of our senior management team will personally review your website twice a year and send over some recommendations.
We'll make sure that we respond to any questions or issues promptly and in a way that suits your needs.
Your chosen school website software provider should be somebody you can trust and who will demonstrate that they're great to work with. Choosing the right school website software is just as much about people as it is about the technology. That's certainly not to say that nice people are the way to go, no matter how naff the product. Nothing short of excellence is acceptable, but finding people you'll enjoy partnering with for the long term is a big step towards continued success.