Redesigning your school's website is no easy feat. First, it involves getting a budget for the website you need. Then, there's a good amount of planning, creative collaboration, and a lot of hands-on effort to improve content and strategy for marketing, admissions and development. And lastly, there's the actual launch — which for some means the hard work is over...and for others, it means the work is just beginning as they strive to improve the website and its content daily.
Because redesigning your school's website is a lot of work, there usually ends up being a bit of push and pull on when, why, or how to actually execute it. And thus, myths appear: hearsay about design processes, timelines, design best practices, and complexity. But, they're called myths for a reason.
So, think of me as your personal myth-buster, as I put to rest the most common website redesign myths we see floating around in the education space.
1. A website redesign is too expensive for what it's worth.
"Expensive" is a subjective term. In all candidness, a new website can take up a huge chunk of your marketing budget. But, it's also your most important marketing tool. Unlike billboards, brochures, print ads and radio ads — which can end up costing much more than an annual website hosting fee — a website is a living, breathing asset that offers the biggest, proven ROI.
For example, most schools should budget about 1-2x tuition per year for a website. And while that may sound like a lot, schools who redesign with Finalsite see a huge jump in website and inquiry traffic — just ask St. Andrew's School, who increased website traffic by 52% and inquiry traffic by 33% just by redesigning.
So, if you make the most of your redesign process, you can technically have your entire website project paid for by simply converting that new traffic into enrolled students.
Further reading: How much should my website redesign cost?
2. We just did a website redesign a few years ago, so we don't need one now.
Websites don't receive the same promised replacement as your school's buildings or technologies...but they should. Your website is the home of your parent communications, inquiry and application forms, and online giving forms, so its vitality is evident. Yet, most schools wait five years or more to redesign — and that's too long.
We recommend that schools do a complete redesign of their website about every three years. However, you should consider a redesign sooner if:
- You've recently re-branded your school and your website needs to match your new logo and other print materials
- Your website is hosted in-house or on open source, and your webmaster left
- There's a major update that needs to happen you didn't plan for on the last redesign — such as meeting AA accessibility standards
- Updating or managing your website content is difficult
- Website traffic and conversions (AKA inquiries, enrollment, donations) are down
Free eBook: The Website Redesign Playbook
3. My site is going to be a cookie-cutter school website.
When schools head into the redesign process, the majority of them come with a list of school websites they love and say, "I want our website to look just like this one." And even though that design doesn't perfectly fit their brand or audience, there's something about it they really want, and then just like that...two websites end up looking eerily similar.
But, that doesn't make them cookie cutter. As a matter-of-fact, what's the common thread between our nine recent award-winning websites? They took risks and let our designers think outside the box to come up with something unique to them.
4. Learning a new software is going to be difficult.
Everything has a learning curve — but the consensus on Finalsite's CMS Composer is that it is extremely easy to use. Rather than explain why, we asked our schools what they think about Composer's ease-of-use:
- "Composer is really intuitive, and it goes a step further by having already built-out capabilities that hadn't even occurred to me. I kept thinking 'wouldn't it be nice if Composer could do this,' and then I would find out it can! You can just tell the software was really thoughtfully developed, built based on years of experience and requests, layers and layers of requests, and tailored to a website editor's needs and experience." - Alyce Callison, Germantown Friends School
- "The Finalsite Platform has helped make the website manageable for our technology department without the need for a full time technical position." - Jon Lambert, Granby Public Schools
- "Finalsite offers schools some excellent tools to create content. Using Composer is a joy and the new eNotify makes life much easier." - Kyle Bueschlen, Western Academy of Beijing
If you're looking to switch your CMS, be sure to do a lot of user research prior. Rather than just scheduling a demo, dive into forums and discussion boards where users discuss the products, its benefits and its hurdles. This way, you get an inside look at the pros and cons of the product from the perspective of a user, rather than the seller.
5. A new website is going to confuse website visitors.
When you're redesigning your website, you're getting the opportunity to correct the issues on your current website — such as poor navigation or content structure — that your users already find confusing. So, rather than confusing your users, a new website will improve their experience by fixing the items they previously found difficult to use.
Upon launch, create a video that points out how current families can access important content. Bonus points if you make it fun:
6. We need to launch on August 1st.
If you're looking for a good way to confuse your website visitors, an August 1st launch might be the way to go. Launching a new website at the beginning of a school year might seem like the opportunity to make an impact, when rather, it might result in a lot more phone calls to your admin offices.
Plan to launch your website when website traffic isn't at its peak — such as October and November, when you can still meet the needs of your admissions office. Do a soft launch to provide frequent visitors the opportunity to provide feedback, and then promote the new website via email and social media.
Your website redesign isn't going to be as stressful or expensive as you think — so there's no better time than the present to begin the process!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
As Finalsite's Content Marketing Manager, Mia plans and executes a variety of inbound marketing and digital content strategies. As a former TV 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, and Finalsite's popular eBook, The Website Redesign Playbook.