Getting a school website re-designed is a big deal. Your site needs to engage both parents and pupils as well as prospective staff. It should be easy to navigate, interactive and informative whilst being visually stimulating.
Your website should showcase the latest relevant school events, news and updates all whilst being Ofsted compliant. Parents need to find their way around effortlessly and easily locate information — whether that’s term dates, homework tasks, or contact details. It also needs to be mobile-friendly — in the third quarter of 2020, mobile devices (excluding tablets) generated 50.81% of global website traffic.
A school website has many requirements, and with a vast array of web design agencies out there, it can be a bit overwhelming — so which is the best one for you?
We’ve provided 8 tips to make choosing the right school web design company easier.
1. Work with a company that designs school websites
An obvious approach, but most web design companies specialise in a niche industry or sector. By working alongside an expert school website design company, you can rest easy with assurance of their relevant education sector expertise.
Your school website needs to be versatile and work on a number of levels; it needs to be easy to use however it also needs the functionality to store important information.
When considering your options, take the time to look through their school website design portfolio. This can give you real insights into previous websites they have designed and developed, indicating what you can expect from your website.
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2. What is important for your school website?
Make a list of ‘must haves’ for your website. For example, if you know you want a parents’ & guardians section or individual blogs, you need to work with a team that can deliver these features. If you want to amend the menu & navigation structure once the site is complete, make sure their design team have this covered.
You need a company that listens to your specific needs, but also recommends additions to improve engagement with users. You should aim for a collaborative approach when designing your new school website. Your initial collaboration will develop a toolkit for a design team, resulting in an action plan being developed. From this a responsive prototype of your website can be deployed for you to review, this should include an initial snapshot of your sites functionality and design in a live preview.
You need ultimate control over your school website project, after all you’re the one who knows how your school operates! So you need to work with a team that designs bespoke school websites, tailoring functionality to your needs.
3. Make sure they offer real customer support
Customer support is key to any design project. Once built, you’ve got this brand new site to be proud of, with new website to manage — you’re obviously going to have questions. Although the design team should train all relevant staff at the point of going live, you need to find a team who can support you after the completion date.
You need an external design team you can rely on and encourage all staff members to contact with any query, no matter how small or seemingly insignificant. You need to work with a company you feel are friendly and approachable because you need guidance and support for months after your new website has been launched.
4. Work with real experts
If the web design company outsources its website development, as the customer, you can lose control over how it’s built. You don’t need a middle person; if that’s the case, you could have gone direct to a freelance website designer yourself and delivered the project more efficiently.
There are a few reasons why you need to work closely with the design team. Firstly, you need them for their knowledge; if they’re based elsewhere, you’re not going to benefit from that. Secondly, you need direct communication. You want to meet everyone involved in the design process. This is a project that’s important to get right for your school; you want the best result possible for your budget. If the work is outsourced, the communication becomes disjointed due to the passing of messages back and forth.
You need to work with friendly design experts from the very beginning of the project to build a rapport, staying up-to-date on the project deliverables.
5. School photography, first impressions mean everything
Professional and high-quality photography is essential for any website, but particularly for a school website. The use of stock images can look disconnected from the real school experience, quality images will spark curiosity and invite prospective parents to explore your site further.
Your website needs to be welcoming and professional, showcasing the personality of your school and its children. Your website acts as shop window and should be a proud showcase of your school community and its achievements. Professional photographs aren’t just handy for transforming your website, they inject life into your school marketing materials, too.
6. Stay up-to-date on Ofsted website requirements
As we’re all aware, there’s an essential list of website requirements outlined by the government for schools.
Requirements include exhibiting Ofsted reports, contact details, curriculum, behaviour policy, equality objectives, and complaints procedure, to name a few. These are requirements that must be met and taken seriously, when receiving initial quotes from web design companies make sure you raise this question with them.
Most web design agencies will not have any Ofsted compliance awareness as education is a niche industry with complexity only appreciated by companies with relevant experience of working with schools.
7. Read their reviews
84% of people trust online reviews just as much as personal recommendations. And it’s not hard to see why. Think back to the last time you purchased something online; flicking through the reviews gives you an overall impression of whether the purchase is going to meet your expectations or not.
So, as you browse through your shortlist of web design companies, read their Google reviews. And don’t just look at the glowing reviews; find the negative ones, too. How did the company respond to criticism? Were they rude, aggressive, genuinely thankful for feedback, or friendly when resolving a complaint?
When you first visit any web design company, they’re going to promise you the world. But doing a little research of your own can help you whittle down the companies with real education expertise to deliver a fantastic school website.
8. Are you local?
Remember, most web design companies can work remotely; they’ll take on school customers around the world, so if you don’t think your perfect website design partner is in the local area, search further afield and don’t compromise for second best.
If you’ve got specific needs or you want to work with teams with real expertise, no one is saying you must keep it local. We’ve all realised from COVID that discussions can happen over Teams, Skype, Zoom or Google Hangouts — your project can be delivered remotely. Most agencies will travel to you for your initial meeting to talk through your needs and their initial ideas. So cast your net further to find the perfect fit for your school.