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6 School Website Redesign Myths — Busted!
Connor Gleason

Redesigning your school's website is no easy feat. First, it involves getting a budget for the website you need. Then, there's a good amount of planning, creative collaboration, and a lot of hands-on effort to improve content and strategy for marketing, admissions, and development.

Then there's the actual launch — which for some means the hard work is over...and for others, it means the work is just beginning as they strive to improve the website and its content daily.

Because redesigning your school's website is a big decision, there usually ends up being a bit of push and pull on when, why, or how to actually execute it. And thus, myths appear: hearsay about design processes, timelines, design best practices, and complexity. But, they're called "myths" for a reason.

Here are some of the most common website redesign myths we see floating around in the education space.

Elgin Academy inquiry form mockup

Myth 1: A website redesign is too expensive for what it's worth

"Expensive" is a subjective term. In all candidness, the investment of a new website can take up a huge chunk of your marketing budget — but it's also your most important marketing tool. Unlike billboards, brochures, and print ads, a website is a living, breathing asset that offers the biggest, proven ROI.

For example, most schools should invest about 1-2x tuition per year for a website. And while that may sound like a lot, schools that redesign with Finalsite see a jump in website and inquiry traffic. The winning combination of a powerful website and an award-winning enrollment management system can be the difference. After an extensive marketing campaign, Elgin Academy is now seeing a 40 percent boost in inquiries, new student enrollment is up 20 percent, and tours and shadow visits continue to increase each month.

Furthermore, opting for open-source solutions, like Drupal or WordPress websites, can leave your school vulnerable to costly malware, ransomware, and other cyberattacks. One report placed the average ransomware payment to hackers being $239,733, and sometimes, the recovery costs can exceed the ransom being demanded. Administrators can also face additional costs to restore computers, recover data and strengthen their systems against future attacks. After refusing to pay $100,000 after a $300,000 ransom, Buffalo Public Schools spent an estimated $10 million on recovery costs.

So, if you make the most of your redesign process, you can technically have your school's website cost paid for by simply converting that new traffic into enrolled students.

Keep Reading: How Much Should My Website Redesign Cost?

EMAIL ME MY FREE WEBSITE REPORT CARDMyth 2: We just did a website redesign a few years ago, so we don't need one now

Your website is the home of your parent communications, inquiry and application forms, and online giving forms, so its vitality is evident. Yet, most schools wait five years or more to redesign — and that's too long.

Every school website design timeline is different, but we recommend schools do a complete redesign of their website about every three years. However, you should consider a redesign sooner if:

  • You've recently re-branded your school and your website needs to match your new logo and other print materials
  • Your website is hosted in-house or on open source, and your webmaster left
  • There's a major update that needs to happen you didn't plan for on the last redesign — such as meeting accessibility standards or needing a mobile-friendly design
  • Updating or managing your website content is difficult
  • Website traffic and conversions (AKA inquiries, enrollment, donations) are down

Myth 3: My school website is going to be "cookie-cutter"

When schools head into the redesign process, the majority of them come with a list of school websites they love and say, "I want our website to look just like this one." And even though that design doesn't perfectly fit their brand or audience, there's something about it they really want, and then just like that...two websites end up looking eerily similar.

But, that doesn't make them cookie-cutter. As a matter of fact, what's the common thread between our award-winning websites? They took risks and let our designers think outside the box to come up with something unique to them.

a student in art class

In Illinois, Barrington 220's decision to migrate Composer created new opportunities for the district and an award-winning school website. "When we want to update the website or create a new page, we have so many more options for how we can present it in a more professional way than we did before," said Barrington's Communication Director Samantha Ptashkin. Read more about their redesign and deployment experience with Finalsite.

Screenshot of Pittsburg Community Schools graduation

Myth 4: Learning new software is going to be difficult

Everything has a learning curve — but the consensus on Finalsite's CMS Composer is that it is extremely easy to use. After making the switch to Composer, Elisha Seals, Public Information Director at Pittsburg Community Schools, noticed the change in the CMS. "It felt very intuitive to me," Seals said. "Every time I would go to do something, it would work! Before, I felt like I was working for our vendor, and I feel like Finalsite is working for me, and I think that that has been such a huge shift. From the beginning, there was quite a difference between how Finalsite approached the process, and that really stood out to me."

Read more about Pittsburg Community Schools' redesign with Finalsite.

Pro Tip: If you're looking to switch your CMS, be sure to do a lot of user research prior. Rather than just scheduling a demo, dive into forums and discussion boards where users discuss the products, benefits, and hurdles. This way, you get an inside look at the pros and cons of the product from the perspective of a user, rather than the seller.

Composer Navattic Demo

Myth 5: A new website is going to confuse website visitors

When you're redesigning your website, you're getting the opportunity to correct the issues on your current website — such as poor navigation or content structure — that your users already find confusing. So, rather than confusing your school community, a new website will improve their experience by fixing the items they previously found difficult to use.

student in the science lab

“With the new platform, we wanted an easier backend editing experience, one that would empower users to make edits themselves,” said Danette Childs, communications coordinator at South St. Paul Public Schools.

“I was a little afraid of the change and that everyone was going to say, ‘I want the old thing back,’ but hasn't been that way at all,” Childs admits. “People love how it looks and say it's more modern and easier to navigate.”

Myth 6: We need to launch this summer

Launching a new website at the beginning of a school year might seem like the opportunity to make a splash, but without some planning in advance, it might result in a lot more phone calls to your admin offices.

Plan to launch your website when website traffic isn't at its peak — such as in October and November when you can still meet the needs of your admissions office. Do a soft launch to provide frequent visitors the opportunity to provide feedback, and then promote the new website via email, newsletters, and social media.

Key takeaway

Your website redesign isn't going to be as stressful or expensive as you think — so there's no better time than the present to begin the process!

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Connor has spent the last decade within the field of marketing and communications, working with independent schools and colleges throughout New England. As Finalsite’s Senior Content Marketing Manager, Connor plans and executes marketing strategies and digital content across the web. A former photojournalist, he has a passion for digital media, storytelling, coffee, and creating content that connects.

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