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The Power of Personalizing Your School Website’s User Experience
Connor Gleason

A personalized user experience has become increasingly popular (and expected) recently. Sure, plopping a user’s name into a site is easier than ever with chatbots and AI assistants, but does that accomplish what personalization truly hopes to capture?

Personalization is about the user experience (UX) and engagement with your school's website and how you weave together language, imagery, and content that resonate with a visitor's needs, sentiments, and personal experiences.

That combined experience says a lot about who your school is and what it stands for — essentially, your school's brand. It matters — 66% of consumers said they would quit a brand if their experience wasn't personalized.

Besides, a personalized UX is generally easier and more pleasant because users can navigate more efficiently and find what they want without wading through irrelevant content.

Most importantly, a thoughtful, well-planned, curated experience helps connect your school with each visitor in a more meaningful and relevant way.

The Power of a Personalized User Experience

Essentially, a personalized web experience says, "We understand you, and this space is just for you." Here's why it's so crucial:

  • Meets Specific Needs: Each visitor to your school's website has different needs. Parents might be looking for enrollment information, students for event updates, and teachers for resources. Personalization ensures that each group finds what they need quickly and easily.
  • Increases Engagement: When your website speaks to users' interests and needs, visitors are likelier to engage with your content. For example, a parent might spend more time on a page with parent quotes or a straightforward enrollment process.
  • Builds Stronger Connections: Personalization can make users feel seen and valued right from the start.
  • Supports Marketing Efforts: Personalized content is more effective in marketing, too. If your target audience visits your landing pages and sees information about programs they've seen through a social media ad or a PPC campaign, they're more likely to consider your school.
  • Encourages Return Visits: This builds toward earning a return visit —  if a user knows your website regularly provides relevant content, they’re more likely to return, and that engagement can be crucial in decision-making processes like school admissions.

Persona Worksheets

Improving the Website User Experience with Personalization

The Power of Language

A website's language can be tuned to resonate with its different audiences. For prospective parents, phrases like "Join our school family" or "Discover a place where your child can thrive" can evoke feelings of belonging and trust. For alumni, language that evokes nostalgia, such as "Take a walk down memory lane" or "Reconnect with your roots," can reignite their bond with your school.

Potomac School Alumni page screenshot

The Potomac School kindly reminds alumni, “Once a Potomac Panther, always a Potomac Panther. Our alumni show students the variety of journeys and pathways that their futures may behold.” With a drop-down menu, community members can select their roles and be taken to content just for them.

canford school admissions page

Canford School takes a similar approach with its admissions pages — users can click on their entry year and be served an extensive custom timeline with their enrollment path.

Imagery That Speaks Volumes

Presenting a new student with images of diverse clubs, sports activities, or arts programs can paint a picture of opportunity and inclusion. Meanwhile, parents might be drawn to visuals showcasing engaged classrooms, parent-teacher meetings, or family-oriented school events, subtly showing your school's commitment to collaboration.

durham academy UX screenshot

As users explore Durham Academy’s site, they’re invited to “See Yourself at DA” and select an area of interest to bring up video clips from different areas of those school activities.

Content Crafted with Care

Beyond visual design elements, the core of a personalized website lies in its content. A prospective teacher might be directed to pages with career opportunities or teaching philosophies; incoming freshmen might receive suggestions for orientation programs or new student support groups. Similarly, prospective boarding students might find content showing student clubs and activities they can join.

Keep Reading: What is Content Personalization and Why Does it Matter to Schools?

Why would a 16-year-old be concerned about the experience of a 10-year-old? It’s a fair question, seeing how many schools put all their student-life content on one page. Whitgift created individual pages for its divisions and students’ ages to explain in detail how their approaches differ.

Whitgift UX screenshot

Websites with good user experiences don't limit themselves to content, though; even your navigation can make an experience feel more custom. Take, for example, St. Ignatius College Preparatory's omni menu, which places users within a click of a more personalized experience based on their constituent level.

ISM homepage screenshot

The International School of Bangkok is a great example of a personalized user journey - there are many pathways on the homepage for users to form their experience, like a drop-down menu of questions that, when selected, serve up videos of students and parents answering the prompts.

Keep Reading: Improving the User Experience with Your School’s Data

For even more personalization options, Finalsite's CMS, Composer, offers a Personalization element that gives admins the power to target information on your site directly to the users who will be interested in it the most.

Composer personalization screenshot

For example, information for boarding students from Asia can be added and shown based on a website visitor's language and/or location. 

Key Takeaway

Personalization is a mix of well-chosen words, impactful imagery, and engagement content, all planned with a deep understanding of your audience. Personalization is a sign that every visitor, whether a curious prospective student or a returning grad, has a place in your school community

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Connor Gleason Headshot


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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