These days, your school website is crucial to your school’s success. If it doesn’t engage visitors, accurately portray your unique identity and strengths, and complement your school’s mission, the students and families you’re most eager to enroll will likely move on—probably without having ever set foot on campus. Access to school information is becoming increasingly important. Therefore your school website should not only cater to those choosing a new school, but it should also serve as a resource for current students and families.
While it takes some time and work to create an exceptional school website, you can very quickly rise above the rest of the pack by avoiding some common school website mistakes. These are things we see schools doing all the time! If you can steer clear of these five common pitfalls, you’ll be well ahead of the game.
Mistake #1: The “DIY” School Website
Many independent schools pride themselves—and rightly so—on their can-do attitude. Unless someone on your staff is an experienced web designer, however, your school website is not a project you should attempt to tackle in-house. Why? Because do-it-yourself websites invariably tend to look DIY—and this is not the public image you want to portray.
Mistake #2: Design Overload
Schools can be tremendously fun places run by enthusiastic, creative people. In an effort to convey this spirit online, however, some school websites go overboard with wacky fonts, emoticons, and colors. The very best school websites are streamlined, professional, and easy to read. This means choosing one or two main colors and fonts throughout. Your school’s personality will still shine through, we promise!
Mistake #3: One and Done
Even as recently as 5 or 10 years ago, a static “brochure website” was both very common and completely sufficient for many schools. Once it was up and running, very few ongoing changes were needed.
Those days are over. Nowadays, hyper-connected parents expect their school’s website to provide a constantly updated array of news, photos, and content. If you don’t deliver, you look stale and out-of-touch (exactly what you don’t want to convey!).
Mistake #4: Typos, Typos Everywhere!
While it’s never good to have a website up that’s loaded with typos, misspellings, and grammatical mistakes, it’s particularly bad when the perpetrator is a school website. Parents have high standards for the people who educate their students on such things! Even if you think everything looks A-OK, get a few outside sets of eyes on your website copy to proofread it before the site goes up.
Mistake #5: Not Optimized for Mobile
It’s not just students who are constantly plugged in and on-the-go these days. Their parents are too. This means that your website must be optimized for mobile devices.
Every single page of your website should automatically adapt its layout to the size of the screen that it’s being loaded on—whether it’s a laptop, a desktop, a tablet, a smartphone, or anything in between (like those larger phones that are now being called “phablets”).
Not sure if your school website is fully responsive? This is an easy one to check: Just borrow a few different devices—from your colleagues, your students, the friendly guy you see every morning at the coffee shop, whoever—and browse on over. You may be shocked at what you see (or don’t see).
Matt Harrell is President and Co-Founder of MemberHub, school software and communications experts. Matt tweets with @MattHarrell. For more common school website mistakes, download MemberHub’s free website mistakes eBook here.