The 7/11 theory has nothing to do with Slurpees. Rather, some suggest that folks make 11 decisions about a person in the first seven seconds. First impressions matter and the same idea applies to websites.
When it comes to increasing enrollment, creating a better user experience, sharing your school's story, and creating an amazing first impression, redesigning your school website is a worthy investment, influenced by a wide range of factors.
But you should never have to skimp when it comes to finding a budget for your school's website — There isn't a bigger resource in your toolbox to support your long-term school marketing and enrollment goals.
We all know money doesn't grow on trees and although we can't give you a bigger budget, we can provide you with the tips to get you the website you and your school or district deserve. Here's what you'll need to do to help get the budget for a redesign.
Conduct a competitive analysis
Research your competition. Who designed and developed the website for the school down the street? Having a thorough understanding of how their websites perform will give you some firepower for proving your school's website needs an update. For example, consider asking:
- How responsive and mobile-friendly is their site?
- What other communication tools are they using to connect with their families and engage prospective students?
- How accessible is the content and what's the user experience like?
- How do they rank in search engine results?
- Are they using an open-source solution? If so, what kind of security issues does that create?
- What enrollment experience are they creating for families?
Additionally, what's the online presence like for schools in your area? Are they showing up first in organic searches? Why? It's (a) harder for searchers to find you because your website isn't optimized and not mobile-friendly, or (b) you don't offer as engaging of an experience as others.
So, what's the point? Thirty percent of Google mobile searches are related to location, and last year alone, “near me” mobile searches increased by 136 percent.
When someone conducts a local search for "private schools" from their smartphone and your school's website does come up, it needs to be able to offer the experience families expect, or they'll leave quickly.
Propose your budget
More often than not, there are redesign options for every timeframe and budget, and knowing how your investment impacts your school’s bottom line is an important first step when considering a website redesign.
The key to success is confidence. Before stepping into your meeting to propose the cost of a website design, be sure you've crossed your t's and dotted your i's.
You should have an itemized list of website redesign costs for everything you'd like to include in your new website, from hiring a photographer to creating a virtual tour and a "wow-worthy" admissions video for your marketing campaign. It depends on the size of your budget, but ballparking how much everything costs can ensure there aren't surprises for anyone if and when approved.
Also, consider what you're losing by not engaging new families or retaining your current families because of a poor online experience or communication strategy.
Be prepared to answer questions
If your board members and business managers eat, sleep, and dream dollar signs, they're going to ask "Do we really need this?", "Isn't there some way you can do this cheaper?" or "Isn't there a free solution?" Yes, possibly, and no.
Calculating the ROI of your school website can be tricky, but there are practical ways for schools to define the return on their investment, including:
- An increase in inquiries and applicants
- Saving time through email workflows, integrations, mass notifications, and C.O.P.E.
- Improving retention through parent satisfaction
Supporting those major ROI factors are also reasons for partnering with the best website provider, including:
Award-winning support is irreplaceable
Having a website deployment and support team answering your late-night emails, responding to your requests, and walking you through the deployment process cannot be defined by dollars spent. A great team helping you every step of the way will ensure sure you launch successfully.
A school-oriented CMS is essential
Sure, there are plenty of open-source solutions out there that let you manage content online. They come with risks and it's Pandora's box when it comes to cybersecurity issues. But having a content management system that's completely focused on the needs of schools with modules to manage news, constituents, calendar dates, mass notifications, a mobile app, and more, simplifies the life of faculty, parents, constituents, and your IT and web administrators. Yes, even the business office's day-to-day gets easier.
You need a website design company that knows what they're doing
Tossing website content into a pre-made template might work for some, but it's no replacement for a custom design that forwards your school's unique mission and brand. Your school's website should be in the hands of award-winning designers who know schools.
Make hard choices
Kriss Hayward from The King's Academy in California once said, "if I had to sacrifice part of my advertising budget to get this, I would do it. Really, if I had to make a trade-off within my budget I would do it. Our website is our main, and most important, marketing tool."
So true! If your decision makers aren't willing to bend, make some temporary trade-offs within your budget and school marketing plan. Skip some print ads and focus on (less expensive) social media advertising instead. If improving your school's website design increases student enrollment by even one or two students, it could pay for itself.
From user experience to online presence, there are tons of reasons to prioritize a website redesign, and just as many supporting stats to make an argument that your redesign is worth the investment. First impressions create lasting impressions, and with so much at stake, finding the budget to advance your school or district's goals is an important first step in creating an amazing experience for families.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
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.