5 objectives for a great school website
Why having a great school website is non-negotiable
Your school’s website is the window into what your school is really like; it is the first thing people see when they look up your school, so it forms their initial impression. And as we all know, initial impressions really count.
This means it is a vital part of your marketing package to attract new pupils, staff, and keep parents and stakeholders up to speed. As such, if your school website is missing information, poorly designed, and hard to read, you are likely to be missing out on opportunities.
After all, an effective school website needs to tell prospective parents and employees exactly why they should want to join your school. To do this, it doesn’t just need to look nice, but it needs to say the right things and also comply with regulations from Ofsted and the Department of Education.
Overall then, a school’s website needs to communicate a lot, while also advertising why your school is a desirable place to learn and work.
So, what should a school website include to do all that? Find out right here.
What makes a good school website?
- Clear and accessible design and navigation
94% of first impressions on a school website are design related. This means the way your website looks is the first thing visitors notice and informs any future action they take.
Naturally, this also includes how visitors navigate around your website and how easy it is for them to find the information they need. Executing this well requires a detailed understanding of what your website visitors are looking for and how much time they are willing to spend trying to find it.
For example, the information on your homepage should be the most important information, upfront, requiring minimal effort to find. Other information should then be ordered in terms of importance and easily accessible via a well optimised navigation menu.
- Attractive appearance
From the layout to the colours you use, images, and fonts, every single detail included on your school’s website needs to be thought through. This often requires the help of a designer to create something that feels welcoming, professional, and also accurately reflects your school. After all, every school needs to have a website, but that doesn’t mean every school website should look the same. Your school is unique, and your website should be too.
- Engaging content and visuals
Of course, your school’s website needs to contain basic information such as introductory messages, contact details, curriculum information, news, achievements, Ofsted reports, and important dates. But today’s website visitors are looking for as much information as they can get in as short a time frame as possible.
So, to ensure visitors stay on your website and keep looking around it’s important that this content is displayed in an engaging way that grabs their attention and allows them to scan for what they need quickly. This requires breaking up longer paragraphs into bullet points, adding subheadings, lists, tables, and visuals where appropriate.
Then, once you’ve got all of that necessary information out of the way, it’s important to use content to tell your school’s story, for example through blogs, an ‘About’ page, and a downloadable prospectus. But this requires you to hone your copy with a tone of voice that lets readers know who you are and what you’re about before they even visit your school in person.
- A mobile optimised version
These days most visitors - including teachers, parents, pupils, and prospective pupils and staff – are highly likely to visit the school website on their mobile phone rather than a computer. This means it’s vital that your website is optimised to be viewed and navigated on a mobile device.
To do this, you often need to simplify your website content to make it fit and look good on a smaller screen. This doesn’t mean having less content, it simply means restructuring it in a way that is intuitive for mobile, making text bigger, and ensuring all your CTAs are responsive.
Of course, for more detailed advice on optimising your website for mobile, it’s a good idea to speak to specialist web designers.
- Compliance with Ofsted and DfE
There are certain Ofsted and Department for Education (DfE) requirements that schools and trusts must follow on their school website. However, the guidance on what this involves was updated on 15 September 2022, at the start of the new school year, meaning schools have a new set of guidance to follow.
Ofsted and DfE requirements include:
- Test, exam, and assessment results
- Pupil premium and recovery premium information
- School opening hours
- School uniform information
- Contact details
- Admissions arrangements
- Ofsted reports
- Curriculum information
- Behaviour policy
You can find more detailed information on what’s required for compliance here and here. But it’s important to note that a specialist school website provider should already know and understand Ofsted and DfE requirements.
What are some common mistakes that schools make on their websites?
- Not understanding Ofsted and DfE requirements
Ofsted and DfE guidance can change, so it’s important to remain up to date. For example, the latest changes stated that schools are now required to include a prospectus and their curriculum on their websites, as they are no longer required to publish these pieces of information elsewhere. So, it’s important to understand the latest guidance and the impact it will have not just on your school’s website but also on various marketing materials.
- Providing too much information
There’s no reason your school website can’t house all the information you want and need it to, but it needs to be incorporated in a way that’s easy to read and access. This means creating separate dedicated pages that are split by subheadings and providing a navigation bar that’s easy to use.
- Not keeping on top of website maintenance
Nothing is more frustrating than clicking a link that leads to 404 error page. However, it’s all too easy for schools to think, once their website is up and running, that they no longer need to keep on top of things. But nothing could be less true.
After all, what if your contact page is down and out? What if information you need to provide to remain Ofsted and DfE compliant is no longer visible? Generally, broken pages are simple fixes, the problems start when schools aren’t aware that pages are broken in the first place.
- Inadequate contact information
A lot of people visiting your school’s website are going to want to know who to contact about a particular issue and how to contact them. There is nothing more frustrating or time consuming than not being able to find that information and having to email the wrong person to ask them to pass you on to the right person.
It’s in yours and their interests to make it easy to find accurate contact information quickly and you can do that by providing a searchable contact directory with every relevant member of your staff included under the right department and title.
- Not using SEO
Many schools fail to understand the importance of including SEO in their website. Search engine optimisation (SEO) is what enables people to find your school website in the first place. You might think “well, we include our website address on all our correspondence”, so of course people should be able to access it.
But what about people who aren’t already in contact with your school and, perhaps, don’t even know it exists? You need to be able to reach prospective pupils and parents who are about to move or have just moved to the area. The way you do that is by optimising with SEO so that when they google schools in the area, yours comes up first.
How can we help you make the best first impression?
Our websites for schools provide simple tools so you can:
- Make simultaneous updates across your website, app, and social media.
- Rest easy knowing your website is fully DfE and Ofsted compliant.
- Make key information easily accessible.
- Provide insight into everyday school life.
Whether it’s a website for your primary school, secondary school, multi-academy trust, or independent school, we’ve got you covered.
Click here to find out how ReachMoreParents can provide you with a website as unique as your school.