May 25 '17
Today we’re tackling the topic of websites for your college (or equally your school or university). Taken as a whole it’s a huge topic to discuss, there are so many elements to consider, from colours, branding, design, images, the content and the navigation. If you need a new website you’ll need a good design and marketing team (a’hem, Elephant Creative!), but if you’re just looking to review your site and make some tweaks to improve it, then we’ve got 10 things for you to consider – quick-fixes if you will, many of which you can do very quickly. It’s 5 things you do need on your site and 5 things you don’t.
- Keep your social media prominent
Social media is one of the main ways that students, parents and prospective students keep up with what colleges are doing, so it’s a must if you want to stay in their sights. Many colleges have Twitter, Facebook and Instagram accounts now (maybe even Snapchat if you’re doing well), but if you don’t make it obvious then you’re going to lose out on valuable viewers. Put links to your social media on your homepage, or even consider a live feed from one of the accounts.
- Champion your students’ achievements
It might seem obvious, but prospective students and their parents are going to want to know how well you’re doing. If you’ve got a positive Ofstead rating then it’s great to show that off, but people also like to see specific facts and figures – like pass rates and how many students get A*s to Cs. Grades aren’t the only thing that matters though, and it’s great to see pages that show off all the extra-curricular opportunities you might have on offer. You don’t want to flood your homepage with too much information, but it’s good to have a quick run-down of impressive stats on hand with a link to more details.
- Separate student and parent pages
Some college websites have links to parent-focused pages, which is a great way to keep your content audience-specific and engaging. Students and parents are going to want different things from a website, and parents are more likely to want to know about specific statistics or members of staff. It’s also good to have a separate link to an internal login – like Moodle – for students to use so that you keep your main website sleek and easy to use. Your homepage should be a window to your college and engaging for prospective students and the community too – so removing all the day-to-day ‘student focused stuff’ into a separate area is a good idea.
- Make sure your calendar is up to date
It’s amazing how many college websites don’t have an accurate list of events on their homepages. Many rely on different methods of advertising – like posters in the local area or letters home – and forget to have a space where you can get all the information in one go. This should include information like term-dates, student events, theatre productions or exhibitions and any open-days – this makes your college look full of opportunity.
- Keep your homepage visual
Words are one thing, and we’re most certainly a fan of them, but images and video are quite another – they are engaging, they set the tone and they should be the first thing people see on your website. Most people aren’t going to want to read large amounts of information on the homepage – that’s what the links to specific pages are for – so keep your homepage bright and engaging. Long ‘welcome from the head-teacher’ type content is best kept away from the first point of contact.
- Fill your website with downloadable newsletters
This is still a habit of many college websites (and particularly schools), and we’re afraid to say that it does nothing for you. When people are researching a college they want quick facts and relevant information, not an archive of information that’s almost entirely irrelevant to them. They’ve already been sent to who needs to read them, so don’t waste space by keeping them on your website.
- Leave broken links or inaccuracies
Some websites aren’t updated regularly enough, and still contain links to courses or events that don’t exist anymore. This doesn’t look good, because it makes the whole website feel out-of-date and can cast doubt on the accuracy of the information already on there. Aside from that, we’d like to mention the obvious no-nos of bad spelling and grammar. Get someone to scour your website for anything that’s going to make you look unprofessional. You’re an education establishment, so it’s absolutely essential that you look like you know what you’re doing.
- Make Navigation difficult and dense
This is a surprisingly common one. Key information that is regularly accessed needs to be the easiest to locate – think term dates, prospective courses and contact details. So much of the time information is buried under loads of links to different pages. Keep everything as simple as possible and, just as importantly, be aware of accessibility for disabled users.
- Forget to make your website mobile-ready
More and more people are using mobile devices, like phones and tablets, to research colleges. In fact, more young people are accessing websites on mobile or tablet than on computers, so it is essential that your website converts to mobile (this, unfortunately, is a job for your web designer, and if you’re getting a new website should be created at the time as standard practice these days). If your website is older and doesn’t convert to mobile or tablet then it is usually messy and difficult to read on phones and other devices – a real turn off for students and prospective students. People won’t stick around for long if your website is inaccessible and seems out-of-date.
- Neglect the practicalities
You should be trying to make sure people visit your college, so don’t make it hard for prospective students to find their way around. Make sure you have a page dedicated to how to find the college, where to park and a college map. Make sure you have an up-to-date contact number and accurate list of opening hours too. Keep it easy for people to get in touch and they’ll thank you for it later.
If you need support with website changes, website content writing, re-design and branding or other marketing and PR activities, get in touch for a chat with us today. Email email@example.com