There's a difference between a good website, and a good website design. Any school can hire a great company to build an awesome website (that's what we're here for), but it takes a team of creative and strategic marketers to bring that design to life.
Trust me: you can invest all the money you want into a good design, but if you don't have the right content or ideas to fill it, it won't work the way it is supposed to.
Whether it is through video, text, or something totally innovative, here are five examples of independent school marketing at its finest to get you inspired about the potential of your own school website.
1) The Odyssey School's Portal Login Page
A best practice (and total time-saver) of good marketing is to hit your target audience with content and messaging where they already are. It's why so many schools are taking to social media like Instagram and Twitter to get their message across; why responsive web design is so effective; and why email still isn't dead.
Taking this theory into account, The Odyssey School recently did something we had never seen before: they turned their Portal login page into a social media mash up. (Check it out!)
Typically, Portal login pages are pretty boring. Just a login screen in front of some kind of background. And sure, it works.
But for most schools, the login page is the #1 most visited page on the site — and The Odyssey School knew they couldn't waste prime real estate like that.
When a parent or student goes to login to their private Portal, they are constantly reminded of two things: first, that The Odyssey School is active on social (and of course, to follow them); and second, of their brand.
Social media is a simple and effective way to give a personality to a school, and by presenting a mash-up of the school's recent activity, community members are reminded of all the amazing mini-stories happening on campus every single day.
Think of it as a constant reminder of the ROI of the school, every single time someone logs in. It is absolutely brilliant.
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2) Thayer Academy's Homepage Header Video
Turn your speakers on and your volume up, then head on over to Thayer Academy's new Best in Class website before reading on.
Okay now that you're back, let me ask you: did you watch the entire thing?
If you're like me (or the rest of us at Finalsite) you probably couldn't stop watching. The video's dramatic music choice is perfectly complimented by video clips that match the upbeat or mellow pace of the song. And you are completely drawn in.
Now, I won't declare having sound on an embedded video a "best practice," because there are so many ways it can go wrong — from a poor music selection and slower load times, to simply a poorly produced video. And for many, the instinct is to hit the volume button.
But for Thayer — with the strategic placement of clips, accompanied by that powerful song — everything goes oh-so-right.
The video shows every little thing that happens at the school, from doing homework alone in the library, to getting geared up for a game alongside teammates, and most importantly that everyone has a place, and that everyone can (and will) succeed at Thayer — without saying a single word.
Now that, is what we call good marketing.
3) Holton-Arms School's Navigation
Navigation places a pivotal role in the success of your school's website, as it can single-handedly make or break a good website experience.
That's why we love this simple, yet effective, navigation from Holton-Arms School, which prompts website visitors to identify themselves as an Artist, Athlete or Scholar.
Good marketing means getting the right content to the right people at the right time, and Holton-Arms navigation puts that inbound marketing theory to good use! By asking prospective students to identify themselves as one of three personas, they can easily access more information about what most interests them.
4) Purnell School's "Simply Remarkable" Location Panel
It's pretty easy to talk about your school when it is located near an ocean, nestled in the mountains of California, or centrally located in a big city. It's not easy to boast about your school's location when it is in (no offense) Central New Jersey — especially if you're a boarding school.
However, Purnell School manages to make Pottersville, NJ, seem like the most idyllic location by positioning it as close to major cities and locations like Philly, Boston, and even the beach. The location is marketed as perfect for those weekend road trips with family and friends, but far enough away from the distracting and overwhelming hustle and bustle of a major city.
5) Trinity Preparatory School's Storytelling Homepage
Combining your school's story with design is no easy feat. While the popularity of scrolling and panel design has made it easier to put more content on pages, it's all about putting the right content in a logical order so that is actually tells a story.
Trinity Preparatory School's homepage is the perfect example of digital storytelling and marketing at its finest. Complete with large, brilliant photos, statistics, and descriptive text, each panel serves as a page in Trinity Prep's story.
They introduce who they are, what it means to go to Trinity Prep, share their special programs, and completed with the statement "All this, and a beautiful campus to call home," serving as the punctuation to an extremely well-thought-out story.
The homepage also features three calls to action: inquire, apply, and give. These three calls to action appeal to three very different individuals, serving almost as an epilogue to the school's story.