Your school's website is more than just a place for facts and figures. It's a place to share stories and connect with families. Our emotions often guide us through that website experience, and that's why a good story can make all the difference.
While we'd all prefer our prospective families to enter through the homepage, in reality, your users are sneaking into your website through side doors, escape hatches, and that random page you had no intention of showing anyone...
Your admissions pages, tuition pages, faculty directory, and employment pages serve as major introductions to your site and, therefore, your school's story.
So here's a tricky part: How do you tell a continuous, powerful story on a website where people can land on any page?
With a little creativity and a modern school website design, you can make sure your school's story is front and center so you can capture the interest of your audience, no matter where they are on your site.
Consider your user's journey across your website
Your homepage is just the starting point. Like entering a movie theater halfway through the film, some might land on your site through the admissions or finance page from a search engine. So, your key messages should create individual stories that connect to the bigger picture, enhancing the user experience all over your school website.
Different pages on your site, like the tuition, staff directory, admissions page, or blog, can each tell a part of your school's story. Using different types of media like videos, infographics, interactive tours, and photo galleries can make your story more engaging and fun to follow.
For inspiration, look at Kent Place School — a great example of school storytelling. They introduce their stories, reflecting the idea of "Empower Girls, Advance the World" throughout their site. Their commitment to empowering girls is consistently clear and creates a compelling and unified narrative.
Kent Place School also uses different media to engage different senses and user preferences to tell its stories across the site. Photos, videos, text, and design — regardless of where visitors start their journey, the school's mission and brand elements consistently shine through, helping them understand the school better.
Remember, successful storytelling is more than just sharing information. It's about creating an emotional connection that speaks to your audience's values and dreams. To keep this connection strong, you need to consider the user journey from every possible entry point. That's why having a solid content strategy is key. It ensures your school's story is woven into every single page, boosting user engagement and their time on the page.
What’s the message, and why?
Telling a great story hinges on aligning your approach with your goals and audience. These two elements should always guide your strategy. As a school, you should focus on what matters to you and your audience because that will be the driving force.
The decision for prospective families to join a school or district is driven more by emotions than facts and objective insights. Authenticity is key — it's not just about what visitors think about your website, it's about how they feel when they navigate it.
Kansas City Public School tells a story of a school community that cares. Yes, that idea is presented clearly on its homepage, but it’s also carried throughout its district site, especially in its Families section. From resources for students in transition, to info about its graduation incentive program and resources for alumni, KCPS tells a story of supporting students and families through their entire relationship with the district.
What is the message or moral that you want to convey through your story?
Try to understand your target audience and the type of stories that would attract them, but always remember to follow a clear structure with a beginning, a middle, and an end to keep visitors engaged.
Key pages to continue telling your school's story
Let's dive deeper into how specific pages and elements on your school's website can attract prospective families, support your school's brand, and further share your narrative:
Event Calendars: These aren't just a list of dates. They show the life and vibrancy of your school, giving prospective families a peek into your school's culture and traditions.
Dana Hall’s Arts calendar is a great addition to its Arts Page. Rather than just bury these important events within a larger all-school calendar, families and users browsing the arts page will see a dedicated calendar for the performing arts events.
By providing context and stories behind each event, you can give prospective families a glimpse into the richness of your school's culture and traditions. For example, a "Science Fair" isn't just an event; it's a story of creativity, innovation, science, and collaboration among students.
Your News Section: Share stories about student and staff achievements. Instead of just posting press releases, consider sharing stories that highlight the achievements of your students and staff or that demonstrate your school's unique values. This could include features on alumni successes, updates on ongoing projects, or highlights from recent school events.
Offering much more than “just” news, Saint Mary’s Hall’s news and events section captures the spirit of its community. Social media mashups, student publications, and video archives all present the “sights and sounds” around campus and tell the story of what it means to be connected.
Employment/ Career Pages: Rather than just share a list of current openings, St. Paul’s School’s employment page shares professional development opportunities, answers what it’s like living and working in the Baltimore area, and the perks of being a member of their school community — that says so much more about what it actually means to join their staff.
Faculty Directory: These are more than just resumes. They introduce the people behind the school's success, helping prospective families connect on a personal level. Every member of your faculty has a story. A directory is a chance to introduce their passion, dedication, and qualifications.
Sharing personal anecdotes or their teaching philosophy can help prospective families connect with staff on a personal level, just like Branson has done with its directory. Answers to questions like, what's your classroom/team mantra, sum up your teaching philosophy, and what was your favorite activity in high school, all add a personal, but mission-focused touch.
Virtual Tours: A virtual tour can be a powerful storytelling tool. It's not just about showing the physical facilities; it's about immersing prospective families in your school's environment.
Bavarian International School’s virtual visit takes visitors further than just a walking tour; they include narratives about the significance of different spaces, what takes place there, and how it contributes to the overall educational experience.
Social Media Integration: This isn't just about trending hashtags. Social media is a dynamic platform for storytelling. Integrating your social media feed into your website’s inner pages can provide a constant stream of fresh stories and be an avenue for sharing user-generated content, which often feels more authentic and relatable to prospective families.
Clayton Valley Charter High School’s Associated Student Body (ASB) shares the latest content by pulling the group’s Instagram posts right into the Student Life pages with Finalsite Feeds.
Remember, every page on your school website is a chance to share a different part of your school's story. By stretching your school's story beyond the homepage, you're inviting your audience to become part of your community.
The trick is to present information in a strategic way, creating an engaging narrative that resonates with prospective families, no matter where they land on your site. Get creative with your school website design, and start sharing your story today!
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.