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Not Responsive? Your School's Website Struggles in These 3 Critical Areas
Mia Major

To be honest, I don't like scare tactics. So rather than just sharing where your school's website struggles, I first wanted to share the why with a brief history lesson.

When Finalsite launched its first responsive school website in 2012, mobile web strategy was still in its infancy — and yet to be adopted by big web names like Buzzfeed and Amazon. But over the past four years, Responsive Web Design (RWD) has transformed from a cool new trend, to an absolute necessity and expectation.

Responsive Redesign Impacts School Websites

Of course, the shift didn't happen overnight. Smartphones have transformed from clunky, heavy, and expensive to sleek, lightweight, and affordable for every budget. Couple that with increasingly less expensive data plans from mobile providers like Verizon and AT&T (and new, even cheaper competitors like Cricket Wireless), on-the-go Internet browsing has quickly become more accessible to the masses.

With availability comes dependency.

In 2014, mobile Internet browsing surpassed desktop Internet browsing — and this fact became particularly clear. And from that point on, school websites began to feel the impact — with most of them receiving at least 50% of their traffic from mobile devices. As mobile usage grew, so did the popularity of social media.

And then BAM — the average adult is suddenly spending an average of almost 10 hours per day on a mobile device. (Crazy, right?)

With all that in mind, Google, of course, jumped on the RWD bandwagon last April (and again this May), by favoring responsive websites in search, and punishing those who were not.

In summary: the average adult spends more time double-tapping Instagram posts and browsing the Internet for the funny cat videos on mobile devices than they do actually working. Now that's a statistic that needs to be digested!

Regardless of that quick RWD history lesson — I know that finding the budget or shifting allocations from traditional forms of marketing (that have been around for decades) to something that is still relatively "new" can be a difficult pitch; and that finding someone to manage is all can be just as tasking.

But, no more excuses. If your school's website isn't responsive, you're struggling pretty immensely in three critical areas: on mobile devices, in search, and on social media.

1) On Mobile Devices and Tablets

It's safe to say that most of us are all past the tipping point: we don't just use our phones to communicate, they're an essential part of the way we operate, engage and interact — and mobile devices are the most directly affected by your school's non-responsive website.

Responsive websites make it easy to access all important information from anywhere — such as athletic calendars, homework due dates, application and inquiry forms, and even giving forms — making it easy to engage when the user is ready.

Checking Calendar on Responsive Website

Unlike fixed-width sites, responsive websites are designed to provide an optimal user experience for scrolling, reading, navigation — meaning they're inherently designed to offer the same, great experience on all screen sizes.

It's this kind of experience that today's user expects. And while some schools say that they don't need to go responsive because current families are content with the site — who they don't hear from are prospective families.

Consider this situation: A prospective family is browsing on their phone for the best Catholic school nearby. They log onto your school's site, and can't access the information they need easily. So, they head to a competitor's site, which is responsive. They fill out an inquiry form, get information, and never make it back to your site.

This situation is all-too-common, as most schools now see more than 50% of website traffic coming from mobile devices, and nearly 2/3 of adults will leave a site with a poor mobile experience.

It's what you don't know that's dangerous: you have lost them, and don't even know it.

2) In Search

While a couple of years ago only 20% of searches were performed on mobile devices, Google recently announced that there are officially more searches on mobile than desktop.

This means that and increasing amount of prospective and current families are looking to their phones and tablets to conduct:
  • local searches like best catholic schools near me;
  • unbranded searches like boarding schools in new england; and
  • branded, specific searches like trinity prep football schedule.

83% percent of school search queries begin with that second type of search — an unbranded search — meaning prospective families aren't searching for your school's name, they're searching for a term like "private schools in new england."

So, if your school's website isn't responsive, but your competitors' are, you will automatically be ranked below them in search, negatively impacting your website traffic, giving, brand awareness, inquiries, and enrollment.


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3) On Social Media

Did you share links to donate to your Annual Fund on social? Maybe you shared recent news story to boast an award-winning faculty member or championship-winning softball team. Have you dabbled in social media ads?

Responsive Online Giving Form

Regardless of what you're doing on social media, your goal is to create a seamless and positive social-media-to-website experience, and that cannot exist without responsive design. Non-responsive websites have higher bounce rates and exit rates because of their difficult-to-digest nature. So if you're sharing content on social media that you want the world to see, it can't be on a fixed-width site.

Don't think social media plays an impact on site traffic? Here are a few stats to consider:

In short, more visitors are coming to your website from mobile social media from ever before, because it is where they spend a bulk of their time. But, if your school's site isn't responsive, you're not reaping the benefits such as increased qualified site traffic, but rather, the negatives, such as higher bounce rates.


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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Mia Major

As Finalsite's Content Marketing Manager, Mia plans and executes a variety of inbound marketing and digital content strategies. As a former TV and news reporter, freelance cinematographer and certified inbound marketer, Mia specializes in helping schools find new ways to share their stories online through web design, social media, copywriting, photography and videography. She is the author of numerous blogs, and Finalsite's popular eBook, The Website Redesign Playbook.

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