The cost of your new school website can vary depending on what you're hoping to achieve. It's important to remember that your school website is your most valuable marketing tool. Also, it's the most effective way of reaching your school community and it's also the best way to attract new students. It would be understandable if you're thinking we're going to tell you school website costs are justifiably huge because they're so important! Rest assured, we're not.
You might hear advice that your new school website cost should be around the value of 1-2 times the 'value' of an individual student, per year. That can translate into anything from £4k - £10k as an annual budget for your website. The numbers go up significantly if you move into the independent sector.
If you're anything like me, I can't bear the thought of that much money being spent by schools on marketing and box-checking. I'm a parent, I'd much rather that money was spent on the care and education of my children.
That's why we don't think your school website should cost the earth. In this post we'll talk through the options available to schools. We'll also explain why we think it's important to partner with a specialist in school website design.
The cost of building my own school website
Lots of schools still build their own websites using open source software like Wordpress. Don't get us wrong, we love Wordpress but we don't think it's the best tool for managing your school website.
If you know what you're doing, you could set up your own school website with some cheap hosting for around £50 a year. That's certainly cheap as chips! But what are the problems it causes? Sadly, there are quite a few. Here are the top ones we hear about all the time ...
If you're using something like Wordpress, you'll be responsible for keeping the installation and all plugins up to date. If you don't your website will very quickly become vulnerable to attack.
A huge, complicated system
We hear from schools all the time about how complicated the likes of Wordpress are to use. Particularly for schools who want to get more and more of their team involved in managing the school website.
You'll never have a product that has been built specifically with you in mind. Off-the-shelf products are built for mass market use. That means that you'll be finding ways to make the product work for you. Something it wasn't specifically built to do.
The cost of hiring a website agency
If you hire an agency that is brilliant at website design to build your new school website, the amount of money you pay will vary enormously. It might be someone a school governor knows. It might even be a school governor. If that's the case, your website might be completely free. At the other end of the extreme you could end up paying tens of thousands of pounds to an agency who has little or no experience of building school websites.
That's not a problem if you're just looking to marketing your school. But school websites are about much more than that. They're about engagement and compliance. You'll still have the same issues of keeping a product like Wordpress up to date (or paying through the nose for the agency to do it for you), plus a load of other issues.
The cost of partnering with a school website company
We believe the very best solution is to partner with a specialist school website company. The implications of this should be that you're not spending fortunes; a great school website company understands that budgets are tight and that there are more important things to spend school budgets on.
But this should be balanced with choosing a partner that is actively engaged with the community they support and invests heavily in their service. Here's how to make a great decision for your school.
How to choose the right school website company
Capturing your school ethos
The design of your new school website is so important. It has to capture what you're school is all about. Choose a company that offers a range of options, from template based design to a fully bespoke school website. The range of options is entirely valid, not every school needs to spend the money it takes to go truly fully bespoke.
Purpose built, easy to use software
The very best school website partners have spent years investing in their very own school website software. It will be jam packed with features that are built to make your life easier, and it should be incredibly easy to use. A history is sustained innovation in their software is critical to your success.
Hosting, Training & Support
It should be a given that your school website hosting should be top notch. Expect expert-led training and easy to access, ongoing support. If you get even the slightest sniff that you're going to be left to it once your website is completed, walk away.
Experience & History
Look for a partner that has been around for a little while and can actively demonstrate their understanding of the industry. It should be clear very early on in the conversation whether a potential partner has the understanding of the pressures and demands, the joys and the struggles of working in a school.
Lastly, and a little bit out there, look for signs that the company you're thinking about partnering are about more than profit. Every business exists to make money, it's naive to think otherwise. But where does that money go? Is it reinvested in better software for you? Are they working with partners to give something back? Make every effort to get to know the people you'll be working with. If it's just a little bit that's fine, but expect them to do the same. Your relationship with them will be much stronger as a result.