FinalsiteU, our annual user conference, is a mecca for inspiration and ideas. Sitting down for a cup of coffee can turn into a social media ad strategy; a quick question in a session can evolve into a hands-on tutorial; and networking is a brilliant web of problem solving, sharing pain points, strategizing for the web, and venting over the lack of budget and resources to make it all happen.
The conference evokes a type of energy that can only happen once a year...that you can only feel if you're present. While some ideas are shared in the nook of an aquarium or in-between breaths on a morning run, others are heard loud and clear, and are echoed session to session, from presenter to presenter.
This year's conference covered an array of school marketing and website strategies, and today I'm sharing some of the best school website tips from the conference.
1. Add a sticky navigation to increase inquiries
During one of my presentations, a client mentioned they recently had recently placed a work order to get a sticky navigation with an "Inquire Now" button. While we named sticky navigations one of the top school web trends of 2015, their effectiveness continues to be apparent.
Because a sticky navigation is always in view, without disrupting the user experience, it provides quick-access when your website visitor is ready to take action — which makes an increase in conversions likely.
2. Create a really low commitment, simple form
Julie Kim from Trinity Christian School shared how she recently added an "ask a question" button to the top panel of their homepage. The button links to a short and sweet a five-question form. While they do get some random and irrelevant questions, she shared that it has been a great tool for her admissions team because they are using a low-commitment form to get contact information.
However, it is also a great tool for the website team, as certain individuals ask where to find certain pages or information, giving them an idea of how they can alter the website's architecture to improve the UX.
Learn how your school can start using Finalsite Forms with this free resource.
3. Always use a custom page for a news story
A common thread between numerous sessions at the conference was that you should never have a dead-end page. Every click and page should nurture your website visitor further down their path, easily. One of the most common dead-end pages on school websites — yet most popular — is the news story page.
Most schools use a pop up for news stories out of convenience, or a very simple news page with only one article. However, we want to keep them engaged. A simple change is to bring in some additional news stories, as well as some related calls-to-action to further drive them down the funnel.
Here's an example from St. Anne's-Belfield School:
St. Anne's-Belfield School has actually created separate news pages for athletics and alumni, ensuring the most relevant content is shown alongside the news story.
And another from Stuart Country Day:
Want a step-by-step guide on creating this page? Check out this blog post!
5. Leverage your community for more authentic content
If you want more content and engagement, seek out the members of your community who want a stake in your website content. Journalism classes, videography classes, photography classes, and even a standard english class all hold the potential for writers and content creators to improve your website's content.
6. Re-Use Your Composer Elements
Composer's copy-and-paste feature makes it easy to duplicate infographics, slideshows, and virtually any special treatment you have to an element on your school's website. For example, this means you can repurpose the news element with the special treatment on your homepage and bring it to other interior pages for Giving, Academics, Athletics, and more. It's a quick and easy way to improve the look and functionality of your website at every level!
7. Use Thank You Pages
When someone fills out a form on your website, be sure to send them to a "thank you" page instead of just displaying a message. A thank you page allows you the opportunity to provide additional content and nurture the form submitter down a particular funnel, whether it be for admissions or advancement.
To learn more about creating landing pages on the Finalsite platform, read this blog post.
8. Change out your Call-to-Action buttons
Keeping the same CTA buttons on your homepage and in your header all-year-round doesn't offer a personalized experience, as at different times of year, you need to prioritize different content and strategies.
If you want to A/B test the performance of particular CTA buttons, you can do so by tracking the website traffic of those pages in Google Analytics.
9. Remember who your school's website is for
At the heart of every great website is a sense of self — it knows who it wants to speak to, and when, and how. For most schools, the primary goal of their website is recruitment. Yet, a lot of "other stuff" can end up on the homepage.
With every website update you make, as yourself: does this serve our website's main purpose and goal? If not, where should it go instead? How else can we communicate this?
10. Give your interior pages as much love as your home page
Oh, poor interior pages. They are often so neglected during the redesign process! However, not everyone is entering through your "front door." A matter-of-fact, when someone does a branded search for your school, chances are, they'll end up on one of your interior pages. And the same rule applies here — you have about seven seconds to capture their attention before they decide to stay or go.
This means avoid a page that just has plain text. If your website page only has a couple sentences...chances are, it didn't need an entire page. Here are a few key design elements to use and keep in mind:
- Images for increasing engaging
- Tabs and accordions for organization
- CTAs for continuing the journey
- Quotes for a pinch of authenticity for good measure
Here are a few of the best examples of school website pages shared during the conference:
Pingry's Tuition and Value Page:
Lausanne School's "The Lausanne Way" page:
North Bennett Street School's Bookbinding page:
11. Transform your tuition page from a price tag to a story
Tuition is most often the elephant in the room for schools, especially if there is a hefty price tag. During Tim McDonough's popular "Tuition Pages that Convert" session, he shared some of the most effective strategies for creating a tuition page that send prospects running.
Do you have a tip or strategy you learned at the conference that's impacting your website strategy? We'd love to hear it! Send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
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.