How to have the Best School Website

We have been very privileged to work with some truly amazing schools and are often asked: “how can we have the best school website”?

Every school wants to stand out from the crowd and have the best school website. By doing so they fall into the trap of using the same old phrases to describe themselves. I will give you some examples:

  • “We are a home from home.”
  • “We are an extended family.”
  • “We have outstanding results.”
  • “We give a rounded education.”
  • “Happiness of our pupils is No. 1.”
  • “We are a Leading School.”
  • “Amazing Academic Record.”

All these types of message will be lost in the crowd, as I have not met a school yet that would not claim the majority of these points. I am not saying that most schools do not fulfill these criteria, I’m just saying that this is not enough to stand out from the crowd.

I often tell a story of a school that I worked with who at the start had an awful website and weak marketing message. At the start of working with them, we undertook an audience and outcomes exercise to better understand their audiences. During the interview stage, I had both a parent and a teacher say they came to the school because they saw a video of a child being dragged in a canoe in the snow having the best time. This image cut through everything they saw while doing their research of schools online. The image stuck in their minds and gave them a true reflection of the school. It had to be a true reflection of the school because they could see it happening, believe it and buy into it. This school was going to be fun and it is!

We have recently created an amazing school website for Downside School.

One of the many images we took whilst at the school was a boy, playing the bagpipes in front of the stunning Downside Abbey. He was not in the usual pristine school uniform but was wearing a bright t-shirt and shorts and ray ban shades. Only one month later while talking to someone about Downside School he said: “ah that’s the school with the lad playing the bagpipes”.

This image had enabled Downside to stand out from the crowd for this audience, it is truly unique and very memorable. More importantly, it was not staged (it really wasn’t!), it happened at the school and if you visit the school this is the type of thing that you would see. Truly an amazing school.

 

So here are some of my pointers on how to have the best school website:

Be truly who you are and not just what you think people want to see.

If you deceive your audiences into thinking you are what you are truly not; then when they walk through the doors of the school (if you get them that far) they will be confused, disappointed and look elsewhere. If your academic record is not great, don’t insinuate that it is. If you are a religious school, embrace it and focus your marketing on people who want to be a part of that religion. Focus on who you are, your values, uniqueness and be open and honest.

You are unique, every school is. Actually, show why you are unique, don’t just say “we are unique”.

If you have a unique ritual at supper time where you all sing a song and dance around or have funny names for dorms then show it. You are unique but you can forget what is unique when you live it every day.

Let personalities shine. People attract to people.

Hero the team! People want to be involved, have a story to tell and these characters need to shine through on a school website. It is not just about the head of the school. It’s the catering team, the grounds people, the teachers etc. All are individual, have interests, passions, and hates! This will all help bring personality to the website and if they want to add content to the website, great! It all helps to create the best school website.

Good user experience.

Test the site. Give others not involved with the design and build of the site tasks to do on the website and see how easy it is for them to do it. This might be to find out term dates, ages for the school, cost of the school or even the name of the school pet! If they can’t-do it, then you have failed! Keep it simple and don’t just throw loads of content on a page and expect people to sift through it because they won’t. User experience is key to developing the best school website.

Quality Video and Photography.

You have to back up what you say and actually, show it. Quality images to an agreed brand style across the website can make or break a website. Get quality photography and video from a photographer who understands what you are trying to achieve. We would love to do it for you!

So just a few pointers which I hope helps you achieve the best school website possible. Truly unique, just for you!

Want to see some of the work that Rooster has done with school websites? Take a look at our work.

Posted by Chris Tyler-Smith on 14 Apr 2016