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8 Website Trends for Schools in 2020 (With Statistics)
Mia Major

What website trends matter most to schools and districts in 2020? We’ve done our research, dotted our i’s and crossed out t’s and came up with the following eight data-backed trends.

1. 52.2% of website traffic comes from mobile.


Mobile browsing has been on the rise since the first iPhone hit the market in 2007 — and it’s no surprise that across the board, most schools and districts see more mobile traffic than desktop. With more cell phone carriers offering unlimited plans and improved speeds with 5G, mobile browsing is easy and convenient. And in lower-income areas, it's the only option.

What does this mean for your website?

Well of course, it needs to be mobile-first. Whenever we throw the term “mobile-first” out in conversation, the question we get back is “well my website is responsive, isn’t that the same thing?” Well, no, not really. A responsive site simply re-stacks content areas to fit the device. A mobile-first website takes into consideration how the mobile browsing experience is different than desktop, and makes slight (or major) alterations to ensure the experience is flawless on all devices. 


Some examples of this include:

  • Simplifying the navigation experience
  • Replacing videos with photos
  • Making buttons larger so they are easy to be clicked by thumbs of all sizes (yes, this is a serious consideration.)

Curious about how much of your website traffic comes from mobile? It’s a simple Google Analytics Report. Located under the “Acquisition” tab, select “Search Console” and then “Devices”. Here, you’ll be able to see your website’s data by device. We recommend viewing traffic for at least one year’s time for an accurate gauge of your website’s traffic.

screenshot of google analytics dashboard

2. The average website bounce rate is 30-40%.

Your website’s bounce rate is the percent of visitors who come to a single page on your website and leave. You don’t want the majority of website visitors coming to a single page and leaving, as it’s often an indication that your website:

  • Is confusing, slow to load, or not mobile-friendly
  • Didn’t serve up the content they expected
  • Isn’t accessible

What does this mean for your website?

Take a look at your website’s bounce rate. You’ll want to take a look at the overall bounce rate and individual website pages. For example, districts will want to look at the district homepage, individual school pages, as well as other key pages, such as calendars or portals. If the bounce rate of these pages is above the 30-40% range, it might be an indication that your website visitors are displeased with the user experience for one reason or another. 

To find your bounce rate statistics in Google Analytics, toggle the “Behavior” tab on the left. You can use the “Overview” tab to get a look at your website’s overall bounce rate. 

screenshot of google analytics dashboard showing bounce rate

To dive into the performance of specific pages, select “Site Content” and then “All Pages.” From here, you can search for specific pages you’re most interested in learning about. 

3. 97.8% of homepages failed WCAG 2.0 tests.


You read that statistic right: Nearly 100% of all websites tested via the WebAim accessibility checker had accessibility errors on the homepage. According to their research, these errors include:

  • Low Contrast: 85.3%
  • Missing alternative text: 68%
  • Empty links: 58.1%
  • Missing form labels: 52.8%
  • Missing document language: 33.1%
  • Empty buttons: 25%

What does this mean for your website?

Most schools — even when they think are doing their best to create accessible content — are falling short. If you work at a school district or public university, these WCAG 2.0 requirements are a federal requirement. For non-publicly funded schools, accessibility isn’t required (yet). 

If your school hasn’t begun an accessibility initiative yet — now is the time to start. Accessibility isn’t just a legal requirement, it’s the right thing to do. Globally, on average, schools can be missing about ten percent of their population by not having an accessible website.

4. Forty-seven percent of website visitors expect your website to load in less than two seconds.


Talk about impatience! Today’s website visitor only gives your website a couple of seconds before they abandon it. (If you’re seeing high bounce rates, this may be a culprit).

What does this mean for your website?

There are quite a few culprits of slow load times, including:

  • Unoptimized images
  • An abundance of PDFs
  • Javascript issues or “unclean” code
  • Too much Flash content
  • Poor hosting

Unfortunately that list of culprits is diverse, and there isn’t a one-size fits all solution. Even when you opt to switch website providers to fix javascript, code, flash or hosting errors, unoptimized images and an abundance of PDFs can still linger, especially when opting for a content migration service.

There are plenty of free website speed tests out there to check out your site’s performance, including this reliable one from Pingdom.

Is design a culprit? In short: it can be. Those javascript issues, unclean code and Flash content mentioned above can surely play a role. But, that doesn’t mean you need to skip having a beautiful design altogether. Take Laguna Beach Unified School District in California, for example. According to Pingdom, this stunning custom site loads in 1.1 seconds. 

In many cases, poor hosting can be the cause — especially for international schools. Ask your website provider if their hosting is a CDN. A CDN (content delivery network or content distribution network) is a globally distributed network of proxy servers deployed in multiple data centers. A CDN speeds up load times by putting your website’s content on a server location closest to them. (At Finalsite, we use Google Cloud hosting technology to ensure your website is as fast and secure as possible.)

5. 93% of all online experiences begin in search.

Best tacos near me. Best public schools near atlanta. Best running sneakers. Best vacation rentals in the outer banks.…

Search engines (Google for the most part) is where almost everyone begins their search for the next “best” investment of time or money: your school or district included. 

pie chart showing google search engine market share

What does this mean for your website?

Make sure it is optimized for search to rank for those keywords you care about, because it will help your website rank well in those searches your prospective families (and faculty!) are conducting. 

bloomfield hills google search example screenshot

We recommend editing your website’s title tags and meta descriptions to include important keywords, as well as ensuring those same keywords are on your homepage. These are often written as a definitive statement such as “An [type of school] in [city, state] serving [ages].” For The Tower School in Massachusetts, that looks like this:

the tower school website header

If you search for their school in Google, you'll notice those same keywords used in the header also are used in their title tag and meta-description. 

Google SERP for "Tower School"

If you’re unsure where to begin, talk with your current website provider to see what SEO capabilities your current platform offers. Ensuring your school’s website ranks well in Google is key to recruiting new faculty, keeping current families in the loop, and letting families who are moving to the area that you exist and you are the best choice for their child!

click here to download a free SEO worksheet perfect for beginners!

6. 88% of online consumers are less likely to return to a site after a bad experience.


Short attention spans and high expectations are typically to blame for the unforgiving nature of today’s Internet user. To today’s user, a “bad experience” could be due to slow load times, a poor mobile experience, or simply not being able to find the content they were looking for. 

What does this mean for your website?

If your website isn’t receiving as much traffic as it used to, or you’re hearing complaints, it is probably time for a redesign.

I recently met with the director of technology from Rowan-Salisbury School System in North Carolina. The district serves 19,500 students across 35 schools. With that many families, you’d think they’d receive a lot of website traffic. Well, no. Their previous website didn’t offer a great user experience and it led to an average of only 35 visits to their calendar on a monthly basis. Thirty-five! 

After the redesign, the district averages 4,504 visits a month to their Calendar: an 11,000% increase.

7. WordPress accounted for 90 percent of all hacked CMS sites in 2018.

It might be 2020, but this jaw-dropping statistic from 2018 has us wondering why any school or district would trust the precious data of parents, students and faculty with a platform as vulnerable as Wordpress. Just recently, another 200,000 websites were compromised due to a Wordpress plugin. 

What does this mean for your website?

If it’s being hosted on Wordpress, be weary of what data you share. Students’ names, faculty emails, the location of upcoming events: they are all vulnerable. While Wordpress (and other open source options) are often a compelling alternative for schools, we think that you can’t put a price on safety. 

However, you can put a price on recovering from a data breach. According to research, the average cost of a data breach in 2020 will exceed $150 million.

8. Judgments on website credibility are 75% based on a website’s overall aesthetics.


First impressions matter...a lot — and this stat proves it. Whether you like it or not, your website’s design plays a huge role in the way your school or district is perceived.

What does this mean for your website?

An outdated website can lead to frustrated parents, disappointed stakeholders, and un-engaged prospective families. If your website is more than three years old, it is probably time for a redesign — and depending on your website provider, you may be able to get away with some modifications and upgrades to hold you over. If your website is more than five years old, it is definitely time for a redesign.

At the very least, we recommend at least taking a step back to analyze your current website to see what you could be doing better. At Finalsite, we offer a free website report card and free 15-minute consultation to provide schools like yours with an opportunity to analyze aesthetics and performance completely free.

click here to get your free website report card!

Key Takeaway

From data security to mobile-friendliness, building and maintaining a website is a cross-department initiative that requires input and assistance from communications and technology. It is important that you work together to create an online experience that promises safety, offers a simple user experience, and meets the lofty expectations of today’s consumer.

Schedule a Free 15-Minute Website Consult!


Mia Major

As Finalsite's director of demand generation, Mia plans and executes a variety of inbound marketing and digital content strategies. As a former TV and news reporter, freelance cinematographer and certified inbound marketer, Mia specializes in helping schools find new ways to share their stories online through web design, social media, copywriting, photography and videography. She is the author of numerous blogs, eBooks, and reports, including Finalsite's Inbound Marketing Benchmark Report.

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