Have you ever thought or been asked to consider redesigning your school website? While this idea may be an exciting one, it can also bring about feelings of dread and uncertainty.
Redesigning your website can offer your school the chance to catch up on the new trends in website design as well as provide the ideal opportunity to adopt an inbound marketing strategy in which your school website is the hub of your programs for customer engagement.
However, a school website redesign project can be a huge and complicated undertaking. There are many aspects to take into consideration, from identifying what needs to be changed to determining which new features and technology to implement. There are also business and sales functionalities to consider, not to mention the creative decisions that need to be made.
Whatever your reasons for considering a school website redesign, a project of this magnitude requires careful planning and foresight.
Challenges in School Website Design
Throughout the years, I’ve encountered schools that have been hesitant to explore the idea of a website redesign. Most recognize the scope of such a project are simply overwhelmed, and are not entirely certain about where to start or how to go about it. Some avoid it simply to cut on costs, especially after they’ve spent a substantial amount in having their website developed in the first place.
Meanwhile, a common notion among schools that think they don’t need it is “why fix it when it isn’t broken?” This holds true for schools generating a sufficient income who feel their website is already fulfilling its purpose without the need for inbound marketing principles. They, therefore, give the idea of a redesign little thought. This sense of denial or complacency leads these schools away from an opportunity to grow further by acquiring more of the right leads at a quicker pace.
Those schools that have been willing to consider a school website redesign have understood the potential offered by a well-designed website. They’ve also understood the need for one as well.
To find out whether your website needs a redesign, here are 3 questions you should answer first:
1. Does Your Website Look Outdated?
A website redesign should not just be about changing the overall look of your website, but also enhancing how it functions. However, looks can also “kill”. In this context, if your website’s design looks outdated, it could kill your visitors’ interest.
You can start evaluating how your website looks by gathering your team and having them review your website, page by page. The objective is to review and see if each page follows your current brand guidelines or style guide.
Website design has certainly come a long way as more web platforms have been developed and introduced through the years. If your website was created a decade or more ago, it is probably high time for an update. It can be challenging to define what “outdated” looks like, but a quick glance online should give you an idea on new, modern designs. Browsing through your competitors’ websites should be a priority.
Once you get yourself updated, it’s best to seek professional advice on defining what elements of your website can be improved based on your preferences and goals.
In terms of fonts, for example, are they too small to read? Did you establish a font hierarchy? This may be easy to dismiss, but its importance lies in having everything fall into a consistent, professional look. Your school’s logo, what fonts were used, as well as button styles and hierarchy, should all adhere to these guidelines. Do note that design also leads visitors to go through their buyers' journey more easily.
Remember to view your website using mobile devices such as phones and tablets. If your website’s layout doesn’t adapt well when accessed through mobile devices, you’ll definitely need to address this, as most people are likely to use them to view your website. Any mis-alignments, unreadable words, or unresponsive buttons can lead to visitors leaving your website and, therefore, your school losing potential customers.
2. Does Your Website’s Backend Present More Problems?
As technology improves, we’re given more tools that are convenient to use. Web platforms have been continuously improved to match the online needs of businesses and schools.
Enter a full suite of software and applications tailor-made according to every industry and to their every purpose. From Content Management Systems (CMS), to Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software, everything’s been created as full solutions to make you run your business as efficiently as possible.
Do you have personnel that are maintaining your website’s backend? Or are you paying professional IT services to do so? If you have not been fulfilling both of these options, then your website probably has not been going through regular software updates.
These could consist of bug fixes, upgrades to new features, and improvements to keep up with industry standards. A poorly maintained website will then have backend components that could be causing more problems rather than functioning as intended.
Here are some questions to help you determine whether you need to upgrade your website’s backend:
- Are you able to log into your website’s control panel? Do you have possession of the credentials to do so? This includes all user accounts, usernames, and passwords.
- Does your website still receive software or platform updates? If so, when was the last one?
- Are there an increasing number of errors when loading your website’s pages?
- Are you paying developers or your hosting company to be able to make even minor changes to your website?
Answering yes to most of the questions above means that you lack total control over the backend component of your website. This also means that it has fallen behind in its updates and is no longer operating efficiently.
However, even if you do have a dedicated team maintaining your website, it is still advisable to assess its overall performance. Any changes in the layout, processes, and overall goal of your school will need major adjustments in your systems.
Another question to ask: do you have enough trained personnel to run or maintain the website? If not, then you'll have to allot some time for them to get acquainted with how everything about the website should be operated and configured. Having to hire third party developers maintain and perform any of your requests is a far costlier alternative.
3. Does Your Website Show Up on Google?
Try searching for your school online using Google. If your school’s website doesn’t appear, then there’s an urgent need to correct it or your school remains invisible.
This can be attributed to what Google is now focusing on: good, relevant content. They’re moving away from just basing search results on keywords and meta-data. What matters to them more is that your website churns this content on a regular basis.
To appear on search result pages, you can either buy Google Ads, or take the organic search route. Unless you have an unlimited budget, it’s best to focus on improving your organic chances and engage in free Search Engine Optimization (SEO) strategies. Here are some considerations:
- Content - Your website failed to rank on the search results pages because of little to no content on your homepage and other pages. Putting up more relevant content will increase the chances of being found in searches. Add more videos, blog posts, citations, etc. Churning out content that is specific for your website visitors’ buyers journey will certainly keep them coming. This eventually aids you in climbing up the ranks.
- Links - Keep linking only to outside links that have high-quality content. For internal links, make sure you're following a clear architecture, with all pages being accounted for, while also avoiding dead links altogether.
- A Fast Site - A fast loading website is composed of optimized images. These can be as small as possible and are easy to cache, and are optimized for mobile.
- Page Title Tags - Each of your web pages should be named according to their specific content. This also includes a very clear and accurate description of the content, avoiding generic title tags.
The bottom line is, without a proper design and web strategy, you’ll end up with a disjointed set of web pages that will not suit your goals.
If your website has a feedback system for your visitors, then you already have a good repository of suggestions. These can range from user experiences with the interface or page navigation, or even on the design elements as well. Value their comments, suggestions or complaints, if your goal is to provide them with a good experience in browsing your website. After all, your website is like their first, unofficial school tour.
This also helps you identify specific elements that your visitors are having problems with. Using Google Analytics, for instance, can help you count how many times a user starts on a journey then bounces back to the homepage. Does your website have a high bounce rate? Also, you should be able to identify which pages receive the most frequent and fastest bounces.
Though some schools hesitate or even downright avoid the topic of conducting a redesign of their website, there are also those schools who jump headfirst into the endeavour. While this may demonstrate their capability or means to go through such a project, a thorough analysis must always be made prior to deciding whether a full redesign is in order.
A lack of planning and preparation can lead to unnecessary costs where a simple tweak of existing features could have been considered a better option. In either case, your teams should assess what you currently have on your website, test to see if they function as intended and if they need to be upgraded to realize their full potential.
Remember, website redesigns can go either way: done properly, you can increase your leads and conversions. But without properly identifying everything that needs to be improved, as well as ignoring the principles of inbound marketing, a redesign may do more harm than good to your school’s goals.
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