Our team of website experts works with schools in over 100 countries, helping them effectively and efficiently communicate with their community. There's always a good reason to redesign, but many reasons to say "no."
No time. No budget. No need for outside help, or even: senior leadership or the board thinks the website is just "fine."
As the most important marketing and admissions tool, your school website is critical for recruiting new families and new faculty. For example, 99% of the international schools we work with use their websites are the main recruitment tool and, for many, the primary source of information for prospective families who cannot even visit the school before enrolling.
This is not news to most school marketing professionals, but many still struggle to get approval for a new website. We work with thousands of schools and know some of the key talking points that matter. Therefore, we thought we'd share a few compelling reasons to help you get the website you need for your school to meet your goals.
1."We don't have the budget."
Schools can easily justify the cost of a school website redesign by recruiting just one or two more new students. We looked at 250 international schools of varying sizes, and on average, they spend less than $20 per student on the website — which includes hosting and data security as well as modules such as forms, online newsletters, calendars, parent portals, campus maps, and more.
Another budget item to consider is faculty recruitment. With the projected forecasts from ISC Research, there will be a need for an additional 200,000 full-time teachers at international schools in the coming years. Your website is critical for helping to educate and recruit faculty who fit with the culture of your school.
"The reputation of an international school is very much based on the quality of its teachers, and as the market expands, so competition for the best teachers increases," shared the team at ISC Research. Teachers form their first impressions of a school by its website, which can make or break their decision to apply for a job. Creating a good first impression is vital. A school website is not only the window to the world of student admissions but also the window to the world of staff recruitment."
The importance of your website for student and faculty recruitment stems beyond international schools, too. A national teacher shortage in the United States coupled with a pandemic means schools and districts alike are relying on their website to communicate information about community, benefits, and lifestyle. Highline Public Schools, a large district in Washington State, has created a "Jobs Hub" to showcase both life as a Highline employee and share job openings.
2. "It's not a priority."
With upwards of 90+% of revenue coming from enrollment, let us ask the obvious: How can it not be a priority? Think of all the times you Google something and immediately leave a website because it does not meet your expectations or needs. Furthermore, if you are in a competitive market where the other schools have more compelling websites, the lost opportunities should give your leadership reason to reconsider.
We understand that not all schools have the personnel to tackle a Best-in-Class website. But there are options! Finalsite's themes are pre-built custom designs that make it easy and affordable to have a responsive website that looks and works great! Themes are great for schools focusing more on implementing a new website with solid content and better organization than building a custom design.
Another option is to make use of our unique service: Finalsite Advantage. This is a perfect solution for schools seeking expert help planning and implementing a website redesign. Advantage adds an education marketing expert to your project team who is able to provide tailored, ongoing strategic advice and personal support to help plan a digital marketing strategy, develop your site, and keep things on track.
Your personal consultant works with you to develop a broader strategic marketing plan, to ensure you get the most out of your new site and achieve your wider marketing and admissions goals.
3. "Our website is just fine."
We don't think any leadership team would say, "Our school is just fine", so why would that be okay for a website? While it is recommended that you redesign your website every three years (with plenty of upkeep along the way), even newly redesigned sites don't meet the mark.
In many cases, it's about educating your team since there are certain standards to be effective. Some homepages may look "okay" at first glance, but once you do a deeper dive, you quickly see things could be improved.
Our free website reviews uncover large issues such as navigation and search engine shortfalls but they also detail ways to improve the buyer's journey through calls-to-action, landing pages, and strategic placement of various content elements.
The bar for what constitutes a "good" school website has been raised, and there are signs that it's \. Allowing a non-expert — such as someone deeply rooted in academics, finance, or a randomly selected committee — to evaluate and make decisions about the website is akin to asking your athletics director to evaluate your school's accounting practices.
The most successful schools we work with rely on our designers' and developers' expertise to ensure their schools provide the best user experience, search engine optimization, inbound marketing, digital communications, and much more.
4. "Our school is fully enrolled."
Since the pandemic, schools and districts have pivoted to online admissions, and many of those changes have become permanent.
Katie Rigney-Zimmermann, Admissions and Marketing Director at Saigon South International School, attributes Finalsite tools for saving their admissions season: “We have gained a level of sophistication and professionalism through branded and beautiful emails, the efficiency of email workflows, and most of all, our ability to sell the value of our school by showing all the great things we offer and not just telling prospective families.”
Being at full capacity today is not a safeguard for future success. With the changes in the global economy and international schools opening at record speed, schools need to be ahead of the game and prepare for a sudden change in enrollment.
5."Our local provider is great."
Local may make sense for produce, but not for websites! As a top school website company, we've heard horror stories from many schools about in-house systems or free website builders. We also know that the local providers are often great to work with, but they don't understand the depth and scope of a true digital communication platform for schools.
The intricacies of a mobile-friendly and responsive design, to showcasing school news, calendars, and portals and then integrating with a student information system, are generally above and beyond what an in-house programmer or local provider can do.
Moreover, the rapidly evolving nature of tech and online trends requires pros who are constantly in the loop. This means that while local providers may be fine in providing personalized service, they might not have the bandwidth or expertise to keep up with the latest in web technologies, security measures, and user experience best practices. It's essential to partner with a provider that has a deep understanding of both the technological aspects and the experience of working in the edtech field for more than two decades.
We understand that proving your return on your investment can be hard to measure, but clients continuously share the impact their website redesigns have had on their schools. Increasing inquiries and enrollment, improving parent satisfaction and retention, streamlining teacher recruitment, reducing print costs: the list goes on! Marketing has a strategic side, and school leaders can no longer afford to be passive!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
As part of Finalsite's marketing team, Debbie has worked with international schools for the past 10 years while living in both Asia and Europe. She helps schools understand how they can maximize their web presence while partnering with Finalsite. As a parent of three children who graduated from IB World Schools, she has keen insights into the marketing and communication needs of international schools.