Maintaining your website is like owning a home. It can be expensive and time consuming at times, but some maintenance is absolutely necessary to make sure everything is working correctly and the people are getting the most out of it.
The web is a fast-moving entity, and is constantly evolving. This changes how websites are built and designed, which can make your site antiquated and in need of a facelift — or even a complete redesign to:
- Effectivity reach your targeted audience
- Represent your school's brand and image
- Keep up with user expectations and needs
Deciding whether your site needs a complete overhaul or a just a few cosmetic updates can be tricky. However, there are a few key indicators that can help you and your team make the decision a complete redesign or small re-vamp.
Take the time to look through and use your site as a current or prospective family would. Then, ask yourself the following questions from an end user as well as an administrator perspective:
The Website Redesign Playbook
1. Does our site feel a bit dated?
If your current site design is over two years old, you might want to look at a possible full redesign, or at least a reworking of key areas of your site. 94% of first impressions are design related, meaning aesthetics play a major role in what people think of your school.
Let's take a look at this example from Montclair Kimberley Academy.
Their website homepage prior to their redesign, focused on the "above-the-fold" concept — keeping all calls-to-action and content front-and-center, no scrolling required. Looking at the design afterwards, it's clear to see that the school uses panel design to share their story, implementing large, full-width photos and design, calls to action, an infographic, and a simplified navigation. Throughout MKA'S new site there are dozens of other modern design enhancements that "wow" site visitors and reflect the school's prestigious brand.
Take a look at some of our recently launched websites for a point of comparison. If your site has a dated look, it's likely to lower their impression of your school, and they may abandon your site.
2. Is your website mobile friendly?
It may seem like you hear this over and over again, but in today's mobile world, it's critical for your site to be mobile friendly. Mobile devices overtook desktop computers for Internet viewing in 2014, and it's expected to grow by another 25% or more this year according to industry trends.
If your school's website is not mobile friendly, you could be losing out on communicating your message to the largest percentage of your targeted customer, due to how your site looks and works on a mobile device. Not to mention, a non-responsive website also hurts your performance in search.
3. Can families find your site and the information they are looking for?
Paying close attention to your sites analytics is one of the most important aspects of maintaining your site. Take a look at the following metrics to see how your pages are performing:
- Bounce rates: Shows where users are leaving your site without visiting another page. High bounce rates are often due to non-responsive design, broken links, load speeds or poor design.
- Average visit duration: This shows how long users are staying on your site. Long visits show engaged visitors, while short visits show low engagement.
- Top entrance and exit pages: These are the pages where users most commonly enter and exit your site. Top entrance pages with high bounce rates are often proof that something needs to be updated — especially if it is the homepage.
4. Did you recently change your branding or messaging?
If you have recently updated your branding and core messaging, it's time for a redesign. Your website is one of the your most important communication tools, and making sure you have a consistent message and visual identity with prospective families is important.
5. Is it easy to update your website?
Keeping your site's content fresh and updated is critical to keep users engaged. Occasionally, if a school's CMS is cumbersome to use, or there is a sole individual responsible, content gets updated much less frequently.
When you choose a Content Management Systems (CMS), it is important to choose one that makes it simple for website administrators to make updates easily to their sites without knowing how to code a site. This means using a CMS that features WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) interface.
This enables users of all skill levels to contribute content. Similarly, it's important to have a CMS that puts safeguards in place to ensure content isn't posted that doesn't identify with your core brand and messaging.
Do these questions resonate with you?
Even if just two of these questions have you feeling uneasy about your school's website, it might be time for a redesign of your site. Your site is an investment in the success of your organization, and having a strong online presence is a requirement — not to mention, one of the main tools you will have to meet the goals of our organization and have happy customers.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
As Finalsite's Creative Director, David manages the award winning team of web designers. With 20 years of experience in the creative industry, David believes that clean and smart design are critical in creating a successful user experience.