In recent years, district and school websites have shifted from mainly offering information about current events, programs, and services to serving as strategic communications tools used to attract new students. There is much at stake for districts and schools striving to increase student enrollment given that enrollment numbers dictate annual budgets.
The era of school choice has put families in the driver’s seat. Most are in the know about school achievement and highly motivated to pursue quality education. So much so, that they are willing to base real estate decisions on the opportunity to attend top ranked schools.
Parents and students routinely take to the internet to research school options. To successfully attract prospective families and retain current students, districts and schools should consider these five “musts” that every website should include.
Target Your Audience
Knowing your audience is critical to successfully gearing the content of your website toward users with different backgrounds and varying needs. Your main objective should be to offer a personalized experience that allows visitors to easily locate the information they need. A successful district and school website should include separate sections with specific communication or messaging for students, parents, the community, and staff.
Define Your Brand
What kind of impression do you wish to create for the public to help them learn about your organization? What story do you wish to tell about the value of your district or school using photos, video, social media, and content? Your brand identity is how you are perceived as a result of the story you tell. Creating a brand identity is central to all of your marketing efforts since it enables your district or school to personally connect with the public. This personal connection serves as the basis for the development of an ongoing relationship that allows you to uniquely market your services in ways that will meet the needs of users.
A visually appealing website design will draw in users. That said, if a website is aesthetically pleasing, but doesn’t meet the needs of the user, is it successful? An easy-to-navigate and frequently updated website is a must if a website is to be user friendly. All users should be able to find what they are looking for with minimal effort by relying on clear navigational menus. To make high interest content readily available, various sections should be included related to topics such as:
- Enrollment information
- Academic calendars
- Classroom information
- School policy
- Staff directories
- Upcoming events and activities
Accessibility for Everyone
Districts and schools are charged with creating inclusive educational environments that offer equal opportunity to all students. Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), districts and schools are required by law to ensure that their websites are accessible to people with disabilities. Since little guidance is provided to district and school officials to support ADA compliance, accessibility issues related to technology are routinely overlooked. Making ADA compliance a top priority is critical to avoiding a potential lawsuit. Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 offer the technical standard for website content accessibility. While overhauling a district or school website is a formidable task, steps should be taken that adhere to WCAG guidelines to improve accessibility until full compliance can be achieved.
To learn more about ADA Compliance, download our whitepaper.
Students, parents, the community, and staff want the opportunity to access important information anywhere and anytime. Making your district or school website mobile friendly is essential for effective communication. In the US, 94% of people with smartphones search for local information on their phones. Districts and schools can capitalize on online traffic by creating a strong online presence, but only if their sites provide a quality experience from a mobile device. Users should be able to bring up a district or school website and navigate content without having to constantly zoom in and out and move around the page layout. The goal is to provide web visitors with a readable format that allows them to quickly locate the information they want.
What Can You Do?
Would you like to strengthen your district or school website’s potential to attract prospective families and retain current students? To learn more about how 360 Civic can help you improve the design and content of your district or school website, contact us today!