I realized recently that my children don’t remember a time before the internet. They use their trusty cell phones, laptops, or tablets for communication, entertainment, and to learn new information.
They are completely unaware of “old school” resources like encyclopedias, the yellow pages, and glove compartment maps.
Those items, which previous generations thought were so handy, now find their place in museums, antique stores, and Grandma’s attic.
These days, having an online presence is a necessity. Your private school’s website and its social media accounts will produce many opportunities for brand awareness and new enrollments. Your team needs to spend considerable time into making sure they maximize their purposes.
When you plan a marketing campaign to use your online assets, you should always formulate a good strategy. This will mainly consist of 2 steps: getting prospective parents to visit your website and making sure you give them opportunities to convert while they are there.
How you want visitors to move around your website requires strategy, and moreover, a good design.
There are several factors that contribute to how you should build your school website design:
- How will your visitors find your site (search engine optimization)
- How long visitors will use your site (site stickiness)
- How visitors navigate around your site (user experience)
- How likely visitors are to return (repeat visitors)
- How often visitors sign up or purchase (conversion rate)
Having a good design will ensure that your visitors will spend time on your site, clicking on buttons, and reading your content. With a good experience, they will willingly return to it every once in awhile, especially for answers to questions and to dig deeper if they are trying to decide if they want to proceed with your services.
The main goal is to convert your visitors into your leads, when at last, after repeated visits, they decide to contact you through your website’s numerous channels.
Your school’s website is what greets your online visitors, and as you know, “first impressions last”. Aside from taking in all the aesthetics and seeing a well-laid out website, visitors will also gauge how well-thought out your website is through their initial experience.
“…you want your first impression to be the best it can be. Beginning with your website, consumers are passing judgement and making decisions about whether or not they will even visit your store, restaurant or office. They're likely to dismiss you entirely, as well, should they believe your website doesn't reflect the kind of experience your business - or a business like yours - should offer.”
She further explains that even if you have a bad website, it’s better than not having one at all. But even so, a bad website may actually be worse, as it can make your business look bad.
A school’s website design and its overall aesthetics can lure, or turn-off prospective parents (particularly Millennials). A visitor, after spending a few minutes navigating around your website, will be able to decide whether they want to do business with you; in this case, if they want to visit the school and submit an application for enrollment.
A study, entitled Trust and Mistrust of Online Health Sites, attests to this fact. Conducted by Elizabeth Sillence and her team, they asked 15 people to look online for websites that were relevant to their respective health concerns.
Over 94% of the participants gave their first impressions and did not trust the health-related websites, due mainly to design issues.
They noted these website elements as “red flags”:
- Confusing, inappropriate website names
- Cluttered, busy layout
- Problems navigating and lack of aids in doing so
- Overall web design was boring, including the colors used
- The use of pop-up advertisements
- Slow to very slow page load times
- Use of small fonts
- Too much text
- A corporate “look and feel”
- Poor search functions
Obviously, visitors who did not proceed in navigating around the websites also did not convert to being leads. Only 6% cited content as their trigger.
That’s right, the visitor’s user experience was more important than the written content and images found on the websites.
Your overall strategy to encourage visitors to contact you through your website, is dictated by how well your website is designed. If they peruse your school website and do not end up calling you or leaving their contact information through your contact forms, then there’s something wrong.
With this premise, and with the red flags listed above, here are 3 tips for designing a prospect focused website that will lead to more conversions and applicants for your private school.
1.Prospects Want A Responsive Web Design
Before your visitors can even reach your content, they need to easily navigate through your website. With the proliferation of mobile devices, website design and navigation is no longer limited in having to use just a mouse on a desktop or a trackpad on a laptop.
Your content should be viewable on any device, in a readable layout. This goes for buttons and navigation, as well. Screen sizes also are no longer limited to desktop and portable computers, and all content – text, images, and even videos, should be viewable, readable, scalable and interactive on different brands and models of tablets, mobile phones, etc.
If a visitor on your school website has to pinch and expand the written content and images, it’s time to consider a website redesign.
Responsive Web Design (RWD) should be considered before development of your website. Today’s priority is “mobile first” for layout and design as well as search engine optimization.
A visitor’s positive experience in successfully navigating through your website is one of the elements that can assure you that they will spend time browsing and reading your content, and will guarantee that they will keep coming back.
An easy test is to make sure that your site visitors can navigate well enough to get where they want to go within 2 or 3 clicks or taps.
2.Give Prospects Ways To Convert
Since we’ve defined that your end goal is to have prospective parents become leads while visiting your website, give them many opportunities to give you their contact information. This can be done in exchange for a premium contact offer, to register for an Open House, or to contact you using your Contact Us page.
This behavior can be in having them navigate through your website to look for information that is pertinent to them. They can click through your school blogs and videos, go from page-to-page, but aside from this, you must also have Call To Action buttons visible for visitors, at all times.
Show prospects your school phone number.
Do you want your visitors to call you? Have your phone number posted on the header, on each page of the website.
Do you want them to fill-out a form? Have the un-intrusive forms in every page, away from the main content, with minimal fields to fill-out. Just remember not to make your forms too intrusive by being too large or being pushy in your messaging.
Show prospects other ways to keep in touch.
You can have all your contact information on a single page, on the header, or the footer. This should contain your logo, your school’s address (a Google Maps location link is very helpful), phone numbers, and social media accounts’ links. However, you can also add other forms or functionalities:
- Sign-up for the blog or newsletter by asking for their contact information.
- Sign-up to download a free e-book
- Same Contact Form, but with fields for asking what their concerns or suggestions are.
- Social icons to recommend the school to their friends
3.Be Willing To Change Your Website
Let’s face it, it’s likely your school website design strategy won’t work 100% on the first try. Your website will have to undergo several revisions until you get to see what works with users and what doesn’t. This design concept is known as Growth Driven Design (GDD).
Several elements will have to be repeatedly tested, as well. With your internal team, you can work on making revisions and testing them on a test server, or even live in public to get more accurate data and feedback. It’s important to know what works, what doesn’t, and make adjustments to improve user experience.
Here’s a list of some of the elements that will typically undergo revisions when you tweak your design strategy:
- Site Map
- Page Layout
- Call-To-Action processes and behavior
- Colors used on pages and CTA buttons
- Fonts and their sizes
Given enough time, budget, and analysis, improving upon several versions of your website will certainly translate into more effective conversions, and thus, more success.
Hopefully, these 3 tips can guide and benefit you in formulating a design strategy for your school website, as well as avoiding the various red flags from the study mentioned above.
Always keep in mind what your end goals are, alongside keeping your main focus on conversions. With further testing, and being aware of the latest technology in web design, you can produce a compelling and competitive school website that will attract prospects and lead to increased enrollment.