About to kick off your school's website redesign? Get ready...there are hundreds of choices, from color palettes to fonts, CTAs, and user journeys, but it's essential to recognize that a new school website is a chance to reimagine and capture the heart and mission of your school's experience.
As you juggle all of these choices, several big moments and milestones can shape your website's identity and make or break your redesign experience.
Here are seven of the most critical school website redesign steps to get you on the right track.
1. Assemble Your Team
Every successful project begins with a strong team, so it's crucial to have the right folks on board before diving in. This doesn't just mean tech-savvy IT individuals, but also those who understand your school’s mission, goals, and audience — department heads, administration, colleagues from the admissions office — define the key stakeholders for your project and understand who makes the final decisions.
This important first step ensures that your project has a diversity of thought and institutional knowledge — that'll make the website much more representative of your school's identity.
- Define Key Stakeholders: Know who’s calling the shots. It could be the principal, a school board member, or someone from the IT department. Having clarity here ensures the project stays on course.
- Roles & Understanding: Make sure everyone knows their part. Are they providing content? Designing graphics? Testing the site? Moreover, ensure everyone knows why this redesign is essential.
2. Make Time for Research
Knowledge is power, and before every redesign, it’s helpful to take a step back and look at opportunities to improve and connect with your families. This step ensures that your new design isn’t just pleasing to the eye but also addresses your school community's real issues and needs.
- SWOT Analysis: Take a good look at your school and then your website. What are their strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats?
- Competitive Analysis: Peek at what other schools are doing. Understand what works and what doesn’t and how you can use that as a competitive advantage.
- User Focus Groups: Create groups of students, parents, and teachers. Listen to their feedback about how they use the site; it can be a goldmine. They can offer invaluable feedback both before and after the redesign. Remember, it's their experience you're enhancing.
- Look at the Analytics: Dive into your Google Analytics account numbers. Which pages get the most visits? How do users find these pages? Look at your traffic sources and consider how users access your site.
3. Establish SMART Goals
A redesign needs clear goals — it’s important to understand where you are and, more importantly, where you want to go. Setting specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound (SMART) goals ensures that the project has direction and purpose and that you have tangible metrics for success by the end.
- Feedback: Compare what you want with what others are suggesting. There's often a middle ground that serves everyone.
- Rethinking Design: Shift your mindset from designing a product (your website) to designing an experience.
- Landing Page Optimization: Want more folks signing up for school tours or volunteering opportunities? Streamline those pages and get the conversion you want.
- Define Success: Know what success looks like. Is it more website visits? More sign-ups? Be clear about it and know when you want to achieve these goals.
4. Develop Empathy
A user-friendly, user-centric approach is the cornerstone of modern web design. This step is all about knowing your website visitors. By understanding their emotions, needs, and behaviors, the redesign can cater to real people, not just personas.
- User-Centric Design: Remember, you're designing for students, parents, teachers, and the community.
- Empathy Maps: A good way to do this is to create an empathy map, which helps you and your team critically think about the needs of the user and synthesize common ideas.
Empathy maps define what a user thinks, feels, says, and does. Let these answers inform your design and user experience:
- Who are the 2-3 most important users for your initiative? Is it prospective students, faculty and staff, or parents and students?
- Where are the points where we can come in to really make a difference for them?
- What are the 2-3 key usage scenarios for these users that clearly show the pain points and opportunities?
- How do users actually get this task done?
5. Map Out User Journeys
This step ensures that users find what they're looking for effortlessly, enhancing their overall experience and leaving them with a positive impression of the school. Think about your navigation — not just your literal navigation menus, but how users get to and from different pages.
- User Journeys for Each Persona: Picture the journey of a student, a parent, or a teacher on your site. Where do they click? What do they search for?
- Restructured Navigation: Based on these journeys, make it easier for them to find what they need. Enhance their experience with animations, clear "call to action" buttons, and intuitive navigation.
- Targeted Landing Pages: Think of crafting special pages for specific groups like new students or alumni.
6. Design the Best Experience
Your designer is not just crafting a website but a new representation of your school. This phase breathes life into your research and all the previous steps to turn them into an engaging, intuitive design that resonates with your users.
- Collaboration with Designers: Engage with your design team. Their expertise will be crucial in transforming your vision into a beautiful, mobile-friendly, and responsive design.
- Resource Investments: A memorable website is also about presentation. Invest in high-quality photos, videos, and graphics representing and amplifying your school’s spirit and mission.
- Enhanced User Journeys: Consider the user's journey through the site.
- Feedback Loops: As designs take shape, involve your key stakeholders. Let them preview the designs and provide feedback. Their insights can help fine-tune the final output.
- Consistency: Ensure that your design elements like color, typography, and layout remain consistent throughout the site, offering a unified brand experience for visitors.
7. Launch: Observe, Reflect, and Adjust
Launching your website is only the beginning. Think of your website as a living document that evolves with your school's needs, user feedback, advancements, and changes in tech and design.
- Data Analysis: Regularly monitor your website's performance. Track metrics like user engagement and page views to understand how users are interacting with your site.
- Feedback: Continuously collect feedback. Use online surveys, feedback forms, or even face-to-face discussions with key stakeholders to understand what works and what can be improved.
- Ongoing Learning: Stay updated with the latest design trends, technological advancements, and best practices to ensure your website remains current and effective.
- Support & Maintenance: Regular check-ups are essential. Address bugs, update content, and ensure all features function as intended. Set aside dedicated time to evaluate and update your site’s structure, design, and content based on collected feedback and data.
- Iterative Approach: Remember that the website redesign process is cyclic, not linear. Your website should adapt and change as user needs change and your school grows and evolves.
With careful planning, collaboration, and a focus on user experience, your website can be an exciting change (and upgrade) for your school community. So, roll up your sleeves and get started on creating that amazing online experience!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
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.