Auditing Your Website: 4 Key Areas to Evaluate Annually
Melanie Barry & Morgan Delack

It’s a common New Year’s resolution to reorganize your home. While this seems like a daunting task, the end result is worth it. It’s a satisfying feeling when everything in your house has a purpose with very little feeling out of place or no longer needed.

The same “clean-out and reorganize” concept should apply to your school or district’s website, too. If you are like most schools or districts, hundreds of documents and pages are added to your website each year. Auditing your website annually not only helps you clear the clutter, but also keeps your focus on ensuring the site’s design, content, user experience, and search performance are on track to meet your goals.

The word “audit” can be scary, but keeping on top of this task annually will keep you from feeling overwhelmed.

Why an annual website review matters

If you’re questioning why you need to review your website annually, consider these statistics:  The average website visitor has an attention span of 8 seconds, and 75 percent of people are evaluating your school or district’s credibility based upon your website alone. Making sure your site is checking all the boxes is important to keep near the top of your to-do list. 

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What should a website audit dig into?

Each year, Finalsite audits hundreds of school websites (free of charge!) to help schools and districts stay on track. We are experts in auditing your site and want you to be one, too. There are four key areas of your website to evaluate in order to for the largest impact:

1. User Experience

2. Website Design & Navigation

3. Content

4. Search Performance 

User Experience

When creating your website and organizing your content, your first priority should be appealing to your primary users. Put yourself in the shoes of your parents, students, and staff. Does the website experience both inform and delight these audiences?

In your website audit, you should evaluate: 

  • How many clicks does it take before landing on popular pages?
  • Is your site translatable for multilingual users? 
  • How does your website look and navigate on a mobile device? 
  • Are your interior pages laid out as well as your homepage, or is there much to be desired? 

Take a look at St. Francis Episcopal School’s website as an example of a great user experience. Most of the information parents are seeking can be found within two clicks in the main navigation section. An intuitive menu makes it simple to find what you are looking for.

St. Francis Episcopal School Website

When it comes to multilingual content, Solomon Schechter Academy has a unique and effective approach. When visitors arrive on the site, they’re asked to pick which language they’d like to view content in before proceeding further.

Solomon Schechter Academy Website

It’s clear that Susquehanna Township School District had mobile viewers in mind when designing their website. When viewing it on a small screen, the functionality and user experience is on par with the desktop view.

Susquehanna Township School District Website

User experience is at the core of your website design. If you find your site is missing the mark with your current audiences, it’s time to consider a refresh.

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Website Design

Our team of experts knows design (we have more than 140 school website design awards to our name!) Great design goes further than just the homepage. When evaluating your overall site design, consider interior pages as well. 

In your website audit, you should evaluate: 

  • How old is your design? (if it’s more than three years old, it’s time to consider a redesign)
  • How does your site perform on a mobile device? 
  • Is the design navigation both easy to look at and easy to navigate? 
  • How many ADA accessibility errors do you find?

Let’s take a look at a few examples of schools and districts with exceptional website design that checks all the boxes.

Cape Henry Collegiate is a great website to start with if you’re looking for inspiration or ideas on what good design can look like. They’ve done everything right from a mobile-first design to intuitive navigation. This is a site to reference when auditing your school’s website.

Cape Henry Collegiate School Website

Another excellent example is Ocean Springs School District. Their sleek design is built with the main user in mind, ensuring navigation prioritizes key information like bell schedules, calendars, and contact information.

Ocean Springs School District Website

Avon Grove School District’s website not only looks beautiful, but it’s also fully ADA compliant (like all Finalsite websites!). Avon Grove uses Audio Eye to ensure they remain in compliance with every new piece of content added.

Avon Grove School District Website

If your goal is to stand out with your web design, take a look at Istituto Marangoni Miami’s new website. Nothing about it is cookie-cutter in nature, and they’ve taken bold steps with design to reinforce their brand.

Istituto Marangoni Miami Website

The way your website is designed is about more than just looks alone. When auditing your site, consider how your design incorporates aesthetics, navigation, ADA guidelines and the mobile experience. 

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Website Content 

The content you post on your school website makes the pages come to life and brings connection to your community, staff, and students. Each year, you should review your news and calendars, written content, visual elements, social media connections, calls to action, and any communications or back-to-school hubs you’ve created.

In your website audit, you should evaluate: 

  • Is your content updated regularly? 
  • Are you using high-quality images and videos? 
  • If you are a Finalsite client, are you making good use of our modules like the social media connector, posts, and COPE functionality. 

For a good example of well-maintained web content, take a look at  Stafford Municipal School District. The district’s communications team makes a point to update the news section of every school site frequently, ensuring the most current information is posted.

Stafford Municipal School District Website

Updating your website content also means ensuring high-quality images and videos are not only used everywhere but updated at regular intervals. Stafford’s website is also a great example of how to effectively use photography and video. The quality of the images selected makes each page look polished and professional. 

Stafford Municipal School District Website

Overall, ensuring content like news articles, photos and social media integrations are up to date is an important component of auditing your website each year.

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Search Performance

The last section to consider when reviewing your school or district website is how well you are doing in search performance and what your online reputation is like. Your website is a huge driver of all things search engine optimization (SEO), so if your school isn’t appearing on the first page of Google results, there’s work to be done.

In your website audit, you should evaluate:  

  • Do you have custom metadata written for each page, optimizing the content that appears in search engine results?
  • Have you claimed your school or district in online business listings? 
  • Do you have positive online reviews?

Let’s take a look at McCallie School, located in Chattanooga, TN. If I search for “affordable private high schools near Chattanooga” on Google, McCallie School’s Financial Aid page lands a spot on page 1 of the results.

Why is this? Because they have optimized their on-page SEO and meta content! The content you see in search results, or your meta content, is vital in being found on organic searches. Here, McCallie checks a few of the keyword boxes from our search: school, Chattanooga, and affordable.

Search performance is a big deal for schools, but can also be a source of confusion. If this section has you stumped, Finalsite Advantage can help. Give our team of experts in school reputation and branding a call to help give your school the boost it needs in this area. 

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Key Takeaway: Let’s Get Started!

In most areas of business and education, audits are performed by a third-party entity. Why? Because sometimes you need an objective person who’s not involved in your day-to-day to take an unbiased look at things. The same notion applies to auditing your website. Let Finalsite do the heavy lifting by offering your district a free website report card on an annual basis. We’ll take a (free) detailed look at your content, layout, navigation, and accessibility to make your website the best it can be for your school community.

Ready to get started? We are too! Request your free report card and you’ll see it in your inbox within 1-3 business days...no strings attached!


Request Your Free Website Report Card


Melanie Barry Headshot

ABOUT THE AUTHORS
As a business development representative at Finalsite, Melanie works to build the knowledge base of Finalsite and who we are to potential clients. With over 15 years of experience in business development, Melanie brings a wealth of expertise in digital strategy to school districts. She is based in Atlanta and is mom to a five year-old boy and three rescue dogs.

 

 

Morgan Delack Headshot

Morgan Delack is Finalsite's Director of Communications, leading the marketing team's public school content, branding initiatives and professional development events. Morgan's background is a mixture of public school communications and television journalism, having worked in both industries for several years. She was named among NSPRA's 35 under 35 and has earned two Emmy Awards for her work in broadcasting. Morgan lives in the Chicago area with her husband and two kids.

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