Built hundreds of website and helped countless schools realise their potential online. Ian should be called upon for straight-talking advice and to make a difference to the way you present your school through every outlet.
Making your website work for every different school website audience can be really tricky. The problem is that you're torn in a few different directions. Parents need one thing, Ofsted need another. Prospective parents need attracting to your school. Parents need engaging.
The great news is that there is lots of overlap - the things you need to do to keep prospective parents happy are largely the same as current parents' needs.
In this post we'll explore the needs of your audience and how to meet them to an exceptionally high level through your website.
There are 5 main audience groups who use your school website;
Now we've established the types of people who use your school website routinely, what are they actually looking for? The needs are different but there is lots of cross over!
Just to be clear, if you're running a sixth form website, you'll need to attract both students and parents. If you're running a primary school website it's all about the parents. But you know that!
There's lots of information that you need to put in front of these folks; admission information, contact detail, course information. You can achieve this by having a clearly marked section for new starters. You might create a section called "Join our School".
But, there is one thing that is a must. So much so, that sixth forms are now stripping out all the content that is relevant to current parents and students and using the main college website as a pure marketing tool.
The one thing? Painting the richest possible picture of life in your school or college. That is the single most important thing you should be doing with your website. You can do that through news, events, blog posts; anything that tells the stories of life in school really well.
The aim is to attract new students to your school through content that is engaging and relevant to your audience. Here's a great post about Developing your School Website Strategy.
The funny thing is that this is mostly about holidays. For many schools, your Term Dates page is viewed as many as four times as much as any other page! Make sure your term dates page is easy to find and clearly laid out. Never include a pdf download for term dates as the only way to view the content. It drives users mad.
Of course there's other content that's relevant to current parents; policies, contact details, events and more. However, the content that is most relevant, other than term dates, is the same as for prospective parents. It's the content that tells them what is going on in the life of your school. Tell your stories well and regularly for maximum engagement.
Students are a little different. In a primary school you'll most likely find that students don't really use the website, unless you're doing something creative like getting your students blogging through your website.
As students get older they tend to use the school or college website to navigate to other content. Most likely they're looking for links to Moodle, homework resources etc. You'll need to make it easy enough for them to find this content but not make it front and centre.
Of course this is a critical part of any school website. We have to make sure your school is on top of the latest school website requirements. The tools available from Schudio make that a really simple thing to manage. But what are inspectors actually looking for?
The specific requirements are different depending on whether you're a primary school, sixth form, academy, MAT etc. Also, there are different emphases placed on different parts of the requirements based on what is happening in the sector at any one time.
On top of that, there are a range of requirements that currently aren't official requirements but will help inspectors get the best possible first impression.
There are too many things to cover here so head straight over to our dedicated School Website Requirements Advice section for all the latest information. It is worth noting here that inspectors are also looking for a rich picture of what life in your school is really like and celebrating life in school through your website is critical for inspectors too.
Just a little nod here. It's worth having a section on your website to advertise job vacancies (something there's a dedicated section for on any Schudio School Website). But of course your school needs to demonstrate it's a place someone would want to work.
How do you achieve that? You guessed it! Celebrate life in school, tell the stories of all the great things going on in school.
So we've explored who your website is for and what they're all looking for. How do you make sure that your website is set up so everyone is catered for?
This all comes down to structure. Your school website must be structured in a way that makes it clear where everything lives. To master your school website, here's some essential reading to get you to the next level.
How to Structure your School Website - Part 1
How to Structure your School Website - Part 2
How to Choose a School Website Template
That third article moves on from structure to choosing a design that will work based on your structure.
Because it's so important to paint a rich picture of all of your school website audiences, the technology is incredibly important. It also has to be easy to use!
The first thing to mention is that to be able to meet the needs of your audience you need total control of your school website's menu structure. The last thing you need is to have to go to your school website company to make any changes. Make sure your chosen partner gives you total control.
Your static content is the stuff that doesn't change all that often. It's your term dates, Headteacher's welcome, curriculum information etc etc. Once your 'static' content is in place, you'll just need to keep on top of it. The majority of your school website time should be spent on creating content that is engaging. That's news, events, maybe blogs.
Your school website software should give you outstanding features to create amazing content and it should be so easy to do.
Tags are a great way to link content together. You'll be creating, for example, news content that is engaging for your audiences. Taking your content to the next level means linking content so your website users can really delve into your website for the richest possible experience.
Think about creating class, curriculum or course pages that display news content that relates to the page. So, if you're managing a page for your Reception class it's really important to include the following;
If you'd like to learn in a little more depth, this white paper entitled "Knowing your School Website Audience" will provide a rich resource to really get to grips with your website audience.
Another way to go deeper is to access the wide range of training available. You'll find a range of training opportunities in our dedicated training section. Some of completely free and others you can purchase tickets for online.
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