Congratulations on a successful school year, web admins! Your dedication and hard work have positively impacted your community. While your teachers and students head off to enjoy their summers, believe it or not, now is the time to pause and reflect on the last 365 days of website data from the previous school year.
With an academic year's worth of data at your fingertips, you now can uncover the valuable insights that will help optimize your district website and deliver a data-informed experience that will wow your families and users.
Data and its role in web management
Understanding user experience begins with digging into raw data to uncover meaningful patterns and insights. In the context of school website maintenance, this approach can empower web managers like yourself to make informed decisions — you just need the right tools to collect the data.
Leveraging communication tools and user engagement strategies for schools
Data tools such as Google Analytics, Google Search Console, and Finalsite Advanced Search offer invaluable insights into your website’s performance and user behavior. By tapping into these tools, your school can access comprehensive data on website traffic, user demographics, popular pages, and engagement metrics.
Google Analytics is the most popular tool for web analytics worldwide because it offers website administrators detailed insights into multiple aspects of their sites, including the number of visitors, locations, devices used, and channels leading users to your site.
Moreover, Google Analytics tracks user engagement and sessions, or events, by measuring the time spent on each page and actions taken, such as clicks and form submissions.
Google Search Console
Google’s Search Console tool can be enabled within Google Analytics and can help your school understand which keywords and phrases are bringing traffic to your website and which pages are ranking well in search results. It also provides helpful information for specific search queries.
By analyzing this data, your school can identify ways to improve its website's visibility in search engine results pages and enhance its overall SEO strategy. When it's time for an update or edit, Finalsite Composer users can easily adjust their SEO within the Page Settings section of any page.
Finalsite Advanced Search
This tool includes an analytics feature that offers valuable data, including the number of searches conducted on your site, the most popular search queries, the search queries that yielded relevant results, and the countries from which the searches originated.
In this example, visitors searched for the district's summer reading and math packages, which suggests that the site's content could be easier to find and that visitors are jumping straight to direct searches.
This creates an opportunity to change the design and structure of your school's website based on real-time feedback.
By using Finalsite’s search rules settings, admins can use this information to create synonyms to prioritize and promote pages if a specific term is frequently searched.
Feedback from your users is a valuable source of quantitative and qualitative information for understanding their needs and preferences. Gathering feedback through surveys, reviews, and suggestions at the end of a school year allows your school or district to gain insights directly from your audience and collect actionable recommendations for improving your website and addressing any pain points.
You can promote surveys and collect user feedback in multiple ways, like enabling a Finalsite Page Pop that asks for user comments.
With Finalsite Forms, you can create a short form, embed it directly on your school or district’s site, and then share the results with other administrators, just like Colombia Falls Public Schools has done.
Updating and optimizing your district’s top pages
As the new school year approaches, updating and adding new elements to your school website is essential to ensure it remains relevant and valuable to your users. Reorganize the pages based on traffic so visitors can quickly access the most sought-after information. Here are some key areas to focus on when preparing for the new school year.
- Careers Page: This page holds significant value for job seekers and individuals seeking career opportunities within school systems. It should be prioritized at the top to ensure easy access and visibility.
- Lunch Menu: A dedicated page providing an updated school lunch menu. Schools often use Finalsite's robust Calendar Manager module to display their lunch menus using the native module, Google Calendars, or another iCal source.
- School Calendar: Update the school calendar with important dates, events, and holidays for the upcoming year. This page should be readily accessible to parents, students, and staff to stay informed about school activities.
- About Us: Provide information about the school district, including its mission, history, leadership, and unique achievements. This page offers valuable insights into the school's identity and can be placed near the top for visitors seeking an overview.
- Academic Programs: Update information about educational programs and courses. Highlight any new offerings or changes to existing programs to attract prospective students and inform current ones.
- Departments/Services: Highlight various district departments and services such as transportation, food services, counseling, athletics, special education, and technology.
- Enrollments/Registration: Offer resources and information for parents and guardians on enrolling their child, including forms and contact details.
- Homepage: This serves as the main entry point, offering an overview of the district and essential news and guiding users to critical sections of the website.
- Family Resources: Provides curated resources for parents, including PTA details, volunteer opportunities, guidelines for involvement, and links to relevant forms or documents.
- Schools: Highlights individual schools within the district, providing location details, contact information, staff information, and specific programs or offerings.
- Staff Directories: Review and update staff directories to reflect any changes in personnel, including new hires or staff members who have left. Ensure that contact information and roles are accurate for accessible communication.
Enhancing accessibility and DEI
It's essential to make the school website accessible to all users, regardless of their abilities. Consider the following enhancements:
- Alt-texts for images: Descriptive alt-texts for pictures on your website help visually impaired users understand the content and context of your images. With Finalsite’s Resource Manager, you can filter down to which resources do not include alt-text information.
- Visual spot-check of images: Regularly review the photos on your admissions and careers pages to ensure they accurately reflect your school system's demographics. This includes representing individuals from different backgrounds, races, genders, and abilities.
- Finalsite's built-in accessibility tools include alt text support, an accessibility checker, and the ability to search and remove images without alt text. AudioEye conducts comprehensive accessibility testing, provides expert guidance and resolutions, and conducts manual site audits. Together, these solutions ensure a highly accessible experience.
Embracing data analysis is an essential part of your role as a school web admin, and as the academic year winds down, you now have access to the metrics (and time!) needed to make informed decisions. As students and families leave your school for their summer, head back into your site and start to improve the user experience that will make next year and tomorrow that much better.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Before joining Finalsite, Joshua Sauer, APR, spent six years working as a #SchoolPR professional for a large public school district in Oklahoma and one year as a freelance webmaster. Joshua is heavily involved at the national level in school PR and is the former president of the Oklahoma School Public Relations Association (OKSPRA). In 2017, he founded the popular #ROAD2NSPRA Twitter campaign, which has raised over $5,000 for the NSPRA Foundation. Joshua is an Accredited Public Relations (APR) practitioner with more than 11 years of marketing and PR work experience. He earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism and communications from the University of Oklahoma and a master’s degree in public administration from the University of Central Oklahoma.