I recently got engaged, which has put me in the most exciting, and frustrating time of my life. I think I've looked at at least 100 wedding venues online, just by doing some simple searches for "barn wedding in massachusetts." And from this, I've learned two main things:
- There are a lot more barns in Massachusetts that host weddings than I ever imagined
- If their website is unattractive or confusing, I won't even look at the details
And of course, because I work at company that does web design for schools and universities around the world, I got to thinking...this is the exact same process a prospective student goes through when they're looking for a school to attend. It starts with a generic, un-branded keyword search, and either ends with an inquiry, or a quick hit on the back-button to find something better.
For schools, 80% of those searches actually result in the latter. Pretty scary — right? You got them on your website, and then couldn't get them to convert. And believe it or not, your design actually has the biggest impact on this.
At Finalsite, we care a lot about design, information architecture, navigation structure, and mobile-first thinking. So, I did some research and put together a list of the top five reasons why good web design is critical to a school's success in 2017.
The Website Redesign Playbook
#1 | Good design is like a nice suit for an interview.
It creates a great first impression when it matters most.
We've all heard the old adage: "You never get a second chance to make a first impression." While an old saying – and one often quoted – the truth of it is still relevant even in today's rapidly changing digital marketing world. According to a recent study, people now have an attention span shorter than that of a goldfish – which means you have eight seconds or less to communicate to your audience your unique story.
This is where your school's website design comes into play. Because 65% of the population consists of visual learners, good design to capture your audiences' attention, prompting them to stay and explore your website. On the flipside, bad web design prompts them to leave.
#2 | Design (good and bad) creates a lasting impression.
First impressions matter, but lasting impressions matter more. When a prospective student visits your website for the first time, the design and user experience — good or bad — will stick with them. Those who have a good experience are likely to return, while those who perceive your website as poorly designed, will most likely not return.
However, don't fall into the trap of following a design style just because it's what's trending. Dare to set your school apart from your competitors with a design as unique as your story — that communicates a story worth re-telling.
Trinity Preparatory School effortlessly breaks the mold with large, brilliant photos, statistics, and a strong, clean grid to call attention to the text that tells their story. Complete with the statement "All this, and a beautiful campus to call home," their story is clear, memorable, and worth retelling.
Looking for more homepage inspiration? Here are our five favorite examples of straight up good marketing.
#3 | Great design inspires action.
So you have a nice color palette, fonts that compliment each other, and professional photography to boot. Great.
Though there are many ways to get eyes on your content, pretty design means nothing if it doesn't inspire action.
Purnell School in Pottersville, NJ utilizes an innovative Best-in-Class design that practically begs site visitors to scroll, click, and explore. (You can read more about it here!) Cinematic elements, interactive charts, parallax scrolling, and the infinite scrolling #MyPurnell series of photos is just the beginning. Check out their The Purnell Difference page, which is oh-so perfectly capped-off with three simple calls-to-action addressing different stages of commitment: Apply Now, Request Information, and Schedule a Visit.
#4 | Your design is a reflection of who you are.
Design isn't just a representation of your school — it is your brand. Brand is more than just a nice logo or even a cutting-edge design. It's an identity; one that needs to set you apart while communicating your school's value.
Germantown Friends School in Philadelphia, PA took the time to craft their brand before redesigning – and it shows. With the bright, somewhat unconventional color palette, subtle animations gently prodding site visitors to take action, whimsical fonts, and surprising interactive elements, their website creates a joyful experience for site visitors and reflects their core message which is centered on the joy of education.
And best of all, these fun elements extend beyond their website throughout all their marketing materials to strengthen and unify their brand in a competitive market.
#5 | Good design facilitates a positive user experience.
Your time is a precious commodity – and the same goes for your constituents and site visitors. Know your target audience and make the content that matters most to them easy to find.
Because, let's be honest, who wants to dig through a cluttered, unresponsive site for information if you're not even engaged in the first place?
Lakeside School in Seattle, WA expertly combines good design and user experience with an interactive design element that not only highlights pieces of what makes their school special, but also brings up further related content – all without leaving their homepage.
Good marketing and good design go hand-in-hand, and means getting the right content to the right people at the right time. Lakeside School's homepage provides users with a single place to find all the information that matters most in a clean, easy to navigate, and engaging design.
Finalsite + Design
Finalsite brings together the most innovative and creative minds in the education industry to bring your school's brand to life online. With more than seventy design awards under our belt and experience working with over two thousand schools and educational institutions, we have the expertise needed to take your school marketing and communications to the next level.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Melissa is graphic designer and writer who loves the challenge of pixel-perfect visual communication. As Product Marketing Specialist at Finalsite, Melissa uses her design and writing skills to create a variety of marketing materials on Finalsite's products and services, as well as writing and designing content for blogs, e-books, and whitepapers. She discovered a passion for teaching as a part-time martial arts instructor, and continues this passion by sharing new concepts and ideas through her work with Finalsite.