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8 Easy Ways To Improve Your School’s Website This Summer
Kealan Duffy

Summer is the perfect time to review and improve your school’s website — It’s an opportunity to catch your breath, explore strategies that have worked, and reevaluate what efforts haven’t had as much success. It’s a moment to improve your school marketing strategy and finally get to those website improvements you've been meaning to get to all year long ... Think about your school website as a garden: if left unattended, weeds grow and flowers wilt! Regular maintenance is necessary to cultivate sustainable engagement with your audience. 

So now that the students are gone, grab your lemonade and your laptop —it's time for your summer project. Here are 8 easy ways to improve your school's website design, content, and user experience this summer.

1. Optimize your website’s navigation

Navigating your school website with ease is key to a positive user experience. Try stepping into the shoes of your audience and review the navigational experience from their point of view. Is it easy for prospective students and parents to find an admissions inquiry form? Do current parents have to click through multiple drop-down menu items before finding the school calendar? You want to make sure that the navigation can quickly guide your users to relevant content. 

Ask another colleague or a friend who doesn’t work on the school website. Can they get to where they need to go in two clicks or less? Draw insights from analytics and visitor surveys and if you want to really dive deep, try using a heat mapping tool like HotJar or Crazy Egg to get a better understanding of how your visitors are using your website's primary navigation and important pages.

tonbridge navigation menu

There are a variety of types of website navigation out there on the web. For examples of school websites that have clearly defined navigation paths, take a look at Tonbridge School's hamburger menu which prioritizes the school's most important top-level sections (look for the three horizontal lines placed at the top, right-hand corner of the website). 

south texas ISD navigation

South Texas Independent School District features its streamlined main navigation, neatly tucked in the top right corner of its site. Quick access to district information, school-specific resources, and links to their Admissions and Community sections make navigation easy on both desktop and mobile devices.

 2. Refine content

With any luck, you’ll have been able to share the workload and have had multiple contributors making updates to the content on your school website. If this is the case, it’s important for your brand that there is a consistent tone of voice across your website (other than the pages that embrace the different voices of user-generated content). Looking through your website can be time-consuming so it helps to prioritize the pages that are important to your key target audience. Your highest-traffic pages are a good place to start. When you begin to review your content, review these strategies:

  • Is the content succinct, easy to follow, and relevant?
  • Keep sentences to one or two points
  • Reduce large pieces of text into smaller “chunks” that are easier for readers to process and remember
  • Make sure the language you use is aligned with your school's brand
  • Don't forget to keep key messages, testimonials, and biographies mission-appropriate
  • The titles, years, and testimonials from parents, faculty, and students are accurate
  • Avoid jargon and abbreviations that new visitors won't understand
  • To make it easier for visitors to find what they are looking for on your school website, use the terms your audience will be searching
  • Keep images and other visual elements consistent 
  • Use the same format for buttons, tables, and spacing

Website Redesign Playbook

3. Add compelling video and photography

Shorter attention spans mean that it's more important than ever to use photos and videos to communicate main ideas — and fast. Make sure all of your pages you are directing your audience to have a strong visual impact; rich quality video and images that bring out the school's personality. 

Although your homepage is very important; remember that not all visitors will arrive at your website from your homepage. Your visitors might be coming from a link on social media, a Google search, a paid ad, or an email. If they’ve clicked on a link to a landing page promoting your open house, for example, it’s possible that they may not encounter the homepage at all!

Royal Hospital School screenshot

The Royal Hospital School's website has a strong visual presence which is maintained throughout the site. Each page either has an engaging video, image, or infographic. 

4. Review calls to action

The information on your school website has a purpose to drive a specific goal, whether it’s to gain more students, recruit new faculty, or increase donations to an annual fund. On every page of your website, you should be clear about what you want your audience to do next and provide users with a relevant call-to-action (CTA). 

Some common calls-to-action for prospective families are:

  • Schedule a tour
  • Submit an inquiry
  • Read the blog

Review the following success of your CTAs:

  • Are they helping you achieve your goals?
  • Are they aimed at your target audience?
  • Are they easy to spot and accessible, especially on a mobile device?

CTAs are crucial bridges to your admission and enrollment goals, so make sure they stand out or risk losing your visitors! Don’t forget to periodically test your CTAs for yourself: does the phone number in service? Is the inquiry form easy to fill in?

Leysin American School CTAs

Take a look at the homepage CTAs on Leysin American School in Switzerland's website, they cater to prospective families at various stages of the admissions funnel from inquiry to application. 

5. Share new stories

Storytelling helps to break down complex ideas and make messages more memorable. Testimonials and case studies are ideal for sharing experiences from your school community. Use social media feeds to include authentic, user-generated content within your school website. Is there a story being told using vast amounts of copy that would be more memorable and easier to digest as an infographic? Use the summer months to refresh your library of testimonials and collect new, engaging stories from recent alumni, parents, and key donors.

Keep Reading: Say That Again-7 Ways to Repurpose 1 School Quote

chadwick storytelling

The Chadwick School’s website does a splendid job of telling the stories from its multiple divisions. From its homepage, the expand into detail about the students, their different passions, and their unique school journeys. They tie their stories into various aspects of athletics, community, and academic programs, which offers new families a glimpse into student life.  

6. Maintain topical & dynamic content

Maintaining topical content means updating content that changes regularly on your website, such as news stories, blogs, social media feeds, and calendar information.

During the summer months, you can still create engaging content. Take a look at this great example from Peddie School. They shared their light-hearted side by publishing an article about staff pets, and it's a great way for visitors to see a different side of the school’s personality.

peddie school campus dogs

If you have an events calendar feed on your homepage, consider showing alternative content over the summer. Use this opportunity to get a headstart on some of the highlights of the fall events schedule, like open houses, community fall fairs, and back-to-school nights.

Keep Reading: How to Keep Your School Campus "Alive" in the Summer

Review and update your social media and take a look at which channels are getting the highest engagement. Start planning your social strategy now with the help of our social media calendar, and you’ll always have something creative to share! Make your busy fall schedule more manageable by prepping your content over the summer while the campus is quiet. 

7. Improve website accessibility

Website accessibility is about ensuring your website can be used by as many people as possible. Improving your site’s accessibility can help:

  • Engage the full potential of your audience 
  • Provide a more usable, inclusive experience for assistive technologies like screen readers
  • Meet compliance with WCAG 2.0 and E.U regulations
trinity pawling homepage

Trinity-Pawling School is a great example of a beautifully designed website that doesn’t sacrifice its accessibility standards. It has a motion video on its homepage with a pause button to stop if it’s causing any problems to visitors’ vision or if they find it distracting. The text is large, readable, and has a gradient behind the images. 

In addition, if you’re unable to use a mouse, you can use the tab key to navigate the site and access the CTAs. Web content accessibility guidelines are an increasing area of interest in the UK and worldwide, so making your site’s content available to everyone should be a priority.

8. Launch a microsite or hub to support an initiative

If you’ve recently updated your digital marketing strategy or have new initiatives on the horizon, you can develop new pages within your current web page design to strengthen its promotion. The summer months allow for a break in the regular academic schedule to develop a microsite or special pages to support a capital campaign, anniversary celebration, or even a referendum or strategic plan.

Screenshot of Blair Academy Strategic Plan

Blair Academy launched a microsite for its All-In strategic campaign, creating pages to celebrate and support its new chapter. Highlighting its faculty, forward-thinking programs, and campus, its microsite help serves as the hub for all the relevant news and updates about the campaign. Consider what upcoming initiatives your school or district has planned, and use this time to get start planning.

Key Takeaways

Take time to identify your biggest challenges and to understand the needs of your target audience, then draw on some of the above ideas for improvements. Some of them might be small; changing a few pages or refining content. There may be more significant changes to undertake or new projects to move forward with, such as designing a promotional page or introducing a microsite for the new academic year. Either way, there are many things you can do now to create a fresh new impact for the school year. 

Meet With a Website Expert | Finalsite

Kealan Duffy

As UK Production Manager at Finalsite, Kealan oversees the designers and developers in our UK office to deliver innovative and engaging websites to clients across the globe. He has a strong passion for audience-driven web design and has been working closely with schools since 2009 to understand their needs and lead the creative direction of their projects.

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