School website design: Great websites are vital for education providers April 9, 2020Regularly redesigning your website is important for a successful online presence. Why? Experts recommend a redesign every 2-3 years because things like products, staff, fashions, and best practices all change so rapidly in business and online. We’re going to take you through the process we use, here at Beacon Media + Marketing. We have 20 years of experience in the marketing industry and a proven process for web design. Hopefully, when we’re done, you’ll feel confident trying it out for your private school. Let’s get into our 5-step process for beautiful website design. Step 1: Meet with your private school team The very first thing you should do before you even start on the design, is to understand what you want to create. This includes what you want to say about your school, what your goals are, and how you want to present your private school. We recommend gathering all the key people at your school into one room and asking yourselves questions so that you can understand what you want your website to achieve. We recommend looking at competitors’ websites to determine what aspects of their website you like, and what you don’t. Here are some sample questions we ask our clients when looking for what they want to create: What are the primary and secondary purposes of your website? What do you expect your website to accomplish? What information do you want potential students to find quickly on your website? What are the most important things? Of the website designs that you like the look and feel of, which features do you like most and why? Step 2: Map-out your private school website design Now that you have an idea of what you want your website to look like, and you have some concrete features you’ll need, you can create an outline. At Beacon, we produce two documents for our clients which provide a guide for the website: a site map and a wireframe. A site map is really simple. It is just a fancy name for a flowchart or bullet list of all the pages on your website and the order in which they link to one another. The site map then provides the basis for the wireframe. The wireframe for your private school’s website is a set of images in which you show the elements you want on each page. Despite the technical name, a wireframe is just a rough sketch of what you want your website to look like and where you want the elements to be. Source: SmartDraw A good wireframe includes the location of each image, header, content paragraph, buttons, or form field on each page. There are great tools available such as MockFlow which you can use to create your own professional looking wireframe. Step 3: Write the content for your school’s new website Once you’ve created your wireframe, and determined where you want your written content to go, now you need to start writing. We recommend three best practices for content writing, which will allow you to produce attention-grabbing and engaging content. 1. Keywords The design of your website is important, but if no one actually sees it, it’s all wasted effort. So, how to make sure people see it? The best way to be seen is to rank at the top of people’s search results on Google. This is because most search engine users use Google, and almost nobody ever looks at the second page. Here at Beacon Media + Marketing, we’re experts on SEO optimization. We’re going to let you in on a secret: keywords. This is essential to helping all our clients to rank on Google. Every time you search something online, search engines trawl the internet for matching keywords. Using the right keywords for private schools in your local area will help people find you. Importantly, you should also make sure you use keywords in your headings and sub-headings. 2. Headings Writing your headings is also an important part of the content writing phase for your private school’s website. It’s common for people to skim over text and read only the headings, looking for content they’re interested in. Catchy headings are critical if you want people to slow down and read all the great content you’ve been publishing. As you may have noticed in this blog (hey, we practice what we preach!), it’s really useful to put your keywords in the headings as well. This helps Google to identify what your webpages are about and helps your website to rank on Google. 3. Quality Obviously, users will appreciate good content, but you may be surprised at how much Google likes quality content too. The reason for Google’s insistence on well-written content is that they want to remain the most popular search engine in the world, and they can do this by keeping up their reputation. People will continue reading and pay attention to what you’re saying about your private school when your content is well written, and this helps your website to rank on Google. Google will reduce the ranking of pages with a high bounce rate, i.e. people who click on your website and quickly leave again. As you can tell from reading this post, it’s effective to address the reader in the second person, as “you!” It’s also useful to put yourself in the reader’s shoes so you can write in a way that makes it clear why your private school will be a good fit for their child. In marketing, we always say the best sell is to make it clear how your products add value to someone’s life. It is no different when you’re trying to recruit new students to your private school, show how you can provide a valuable education to prospective students. We recommend that at the end of each web page, you include a “call-to-action.” This is a request for the user to take action on what they have just read, for example: “Call (123) 456-7890 now for a free inquiry!” Step 4: Develop your private school website The final step in designing a new website for your private school is development. This is the culmination of all your hard work, where the site map, wireframe, and content are all tied together. The first step in developing your website is deciding which software to use to build it. At Beacon, we use WordPress for all of our education provider clients. WordPress has packages at multiple tiers that you can choose from, so you can purchase a cheap package when you start, and add functionality as necessary. (You can read why we recommend it here.) You should choose a package that best fits your needs, taking into consideration your site map, wireframe, content, and the list of concrete features and specifications that you came up with during your initial meeting. WordPress has really intuitive software so you should easily be able to build your site once you’ve chosen your package and created your account. When building your website, be sure to stick to your brand guidelines! A well-managed, and cohesive brand is vital for a good-looking website. You can learn more about branding here. Step 5: Go live! When you’ve finished developing your website, it’s time to set it live. But first, you need to make sure you’re ready. We have a checklist we go through with all our private school clients, here are some examples from that list: Page-by-page, go through the entire website clicking all links to make sure they send users to the correct locations. If you have a contact form, submit a “test” entry to make sure it sends to the correct email address. Enter the URL for your website in all the popular browsers including Chrome, Firefox, and Safari to make sure it looks good. Visit your website on mobile to make sure it is properly mobile optimized. With WordPress, you can point the domain name from your old website to your brand new one. At that point, your private school’s new website is ready for visitors! Is your private school ready for a new website? We hope that you’ve found this glimpse into our work helpful, but if you feel like you want to hire us to take care of the whole process for you, you can book a free consultation. Alternatively, you can read more of our blogs, in which we discuss all aspects of digital marketing, here.