- General Best Practices
You’ve probably heard of Marie Kondo.
The “decluttering queen” is all the rage these days—with a trademarked tidying method, two bestselling books, and a Netflix show gearing up for a second season.
I started reading her book last month, and the more I researched the KonMari Method™, the more I thought, this could totally help schools with the website redesign process!
(I know, my digital marketing mind never stops.)
So what is the KonMari Method™ and what does it have to do with school websites?
It’s fairly straightforward— to “Kon Mari” your home is to remove all the physical items that don’t bring you joy. For the purposes of website organization, we’ll simply replace the word “home” with “website” and the words “physical items” with “content.” Voila! A tactical simplifying system that will help you focus and drive conversions.
Don’t start decluttering until you’ve defined your website’s strategic purpose.
We often think of decluttering as subtracting—getting rid of the things we don’t want. Marie Kondo challenges her listeners to change this mindset. Instead of thinking about what you don’t want, focus on what you do want! In other words, “visualize your destination.”
Effective school marketers use their websites to fulfill a tangible and strategic purpose. Each element, page, and design decision revolves around that purpose. The more you can identify what that purpose is before you start, the easier it will be to choose what should go and what should stay.
To determine your purpose, ask yourself these questions:
- Who is my main audience? While different areas of your website will have different primary audiences, for most schools, the website is the core digital marketing tool. So in many cases, your website visitors are largely prospective parents. They may have landed on a page after clicking on a search engine result or digital ad, found you on social media or organic search, or came there directly. If your website isn’t admissions-focused, that means you’re likely focusing on current parents. Perhaps you mainly draw in current parents who are in search of the lunch menu. Whomever your audience is, it’s crucial that you’ve identified who you want to engage before you begin creating engaging content.
- What do I want my visitors to know after they’ve visited my website? In general, a website should teach visitors about your school. But try to be more specific with your purpose. Do you want visitors to gain an understanding of your school’s mission? Community? Outcomes? This will influence the photos, language, and overall tone of your website’s design.
- What will I consider a “successful” website visit? For some school marketers, success is driven by the admissions funnel. If your purpose is to increase inquiries and applicants, a successful website conversion may look like an open house sign up. If your main purpose is to engage parents, perhaps a successful website visit would be a newsletter sign-up or a parent indicating they would like to be a PTO volunteer. In other cases, a successful website visit might just mean the website visitor easily found the content they came in search for, no conversion necessary.
Free Webinar Download: The Anatomy of a Perfect Admissions Funnel
If the content fits the goal, keep it. If it doesn’t, get rid of it (or change it).
When Shanghai American School (SAS) began its website redesign process, the school chose to focus specifically on prospective students, rather than trying to be “all things to all people.”
The resulting website (especially the homepage!) is an engaging and detailed portrayal of the school. Moving pieces weave together upon scroll— almost as if the visitor is taking part in a tour of the campus.
For non-prospective families, relevant buttons on the homepage are found in the secondary navigation: current students and parents can access “MySAS” and alumni can view the “Alumni” section.
These respective landing pages still are easy to access and provide the necessary information for constituents, but they don’t take up valuable real estate on the homepage.
Rather, all of the content on the homepage “sparks joy” for prospective students. It’s effective, engaging, and clutter-free. On the other hand, the targeted pages for students and alumni also spark joy, because they are free of the marketing clutter.
Pro tip: Use your homepage and main landing pages for your main target audience (in this case, prospective families) and create community portals for your other audiences that they can easily find!
Use a methodical tidying approach.
Some of Marie Kondo’s best tips for organizing clothes are just as true for organizing web pages. Here are a few:
Finish discarding before you start organizing.
Remove unnecessary pages. Condense your page count and you’ll thank yourself later— its less stressful to keep track of fewer pages. Look to Wayzata Public Schools for inspiration. The district trimmed its website down by 16,000 pages!
Trim away unnecessary text.
In other words, design for scanning and mobile visitors. No one wants to read long paragraphs of text, and the harder it is for a visitor to navigate through a page, the harder it is for them to convert. St. Bernard Academy’s mission statement page does a great job of balancing text with infographics and visuals:
Prospective families are much more likely to look through this than read a long paragraph of school values. The design is uncluttered and each section is easy to skim.
Tidy by category, not by location.
This is a staple of the KonMari Method. Instead of organizing room by room, Marie says you must organize all of one category at a time. Her reasoning: “most people don’t bother to store similar items in the same place.”
Think about it. It would be exhausting to go through all the sweaters in your bedroom, finally get them organized, only to discover you have a collection of sweaters in the attic that also need to be sorted. Talk about a waste of time!
Cut the needless work from your website efforts, too. Instead of going page by page, assess the content this way:
- Student testimonials. Out of all the quotes you’ve collected, which ones stand out? Which ones truly address your value proposition? Get rid of the ones that don’t “spark joy.”
- Photos. Only keep the absolute best photos. Get rid of any photos that are grainy, blurry, out-of-focus, outdated, irrelevant or even simply, well, boring. It’s better to have a few “wow!” photos on your hero slider than to clutter it with unmemorable “meh” images.
- Student Work, Class Trips, Events. Ask around for examples of student work to highlight. Find out what the most exciting class trips are and get your hands on some photos from it. Choose to highlight the events that you think will excite your audience the most. Pro-Tip: look for the aspects of your school that highlight authenticity— it’s a key motivator for millennials and prospective families.
A great time to do this is during a website redesign. Because you’ll already be reviewing and migrating content during this process, it is an excellent time to cut down on content. However, you don’t have to wait until it's time to redesign to tidy up! If you’d like to KonMari your website, come up with a “tidying” schedule that will work best for you. Just be sure to stick to it! (Otherwise, you’ll be tidying forever.)
Once you have your best content, publish it everywhere.
One of the best things about the COPE (Create Once, Publish Everywhere) functionality is that you don’t need to rethink content for each section of your website.
With Finalsite Posts, simply create a Collection of content— for example, testimonials. Then, add the collection wherever you see fit on various website pages. Or, use tags and categories in Boards to filter certain posts on one page and other posts on another. Whenever you edit the content in Posts, it will automatically update everywhere it exists on the site — making it quick and easy to spark joy.
Key Takeaway: Devote time to tidying.
If there’s one thing that Marie Kondo says that contradicts the other organizing tips I’ve read, it’s this:
“Tidy a little a day and you’ll be tidying forever.”
What happened to the concept of quickly organizing? Marie Kondo stresses that tidying up is a lifestyle change—if you want sustainable tidiness, you must make the initial tidying-up a full-on event, not a quick, band-aid fix.
The same is true for school websites. While there are plenty of DIY hacks to spruce up your pages one day at a time, you can’t truly breathe new life and purpose into a website if the design foundations aren’t there. No amount of fifteen-minute increments will achieve the same kind of innovation that comes from a design team fully devoted to website renovation. Take the plunge with Finalsite and say goodbye to cluttered school website design forever.
As Finalsite's Marketing Associate, Leah promotes new school site launches and educates people on all things digital marketing. She’s passionate about global communication, handwritten notes, and sole travel. When she’s not exploring new places, she’s either blogging, doodling, or dreaming about it!
- Web Design
- Website Redesign