Maria Santana, Negosentro | Before the Internet, families shopping for new schools often had to go on actual trips to see if these institutions are suitable for their children. It is only in visiting the school would they know if it reflects the values and beliefs they have. These days, most parents and students receive their first impression of a school based on the official school website, which serves as the online representative of the school.
A school website also serves as a communication tool and an online hub for the school community. This is the ‘space’ in the Internet where students, parents, teachers, and school staff come together to share news and stories or discuss and plan events. While it’s common for schools to have their own account in different social media platforms, the official website is still the best venue for releasing and disseminating information that concerns the school community. Teachers can even post their lessons and homework assignments on the school website, making it an extension of the classroom learning experience.
Given the many roles a school website plays, it isn’t too surprising to find that many website award-giving bodies have included a category for school websites in their program. These awards help set the standards and trends for an ideal school website, and the prestige that goes with being awarded ‘best school website’ can significantly improve a school’s visibility online.
What makes an award-winning school website? Below, we highlight some of the criteria that award-giving bodies use to judge the merit of a school website:
We’ve all been told not to judge a book by its cover, but this adage isn’t taken to heart when it comes to website awards. Form and function come together in design, and users often have a hard time using a website that isn’t pleasing to the eyes or one that doesn’t have an intuitive interface. This criterion is typically subject to trends, so schools need to be constantly aware of design trends and must update their website accordingly to be considered for this category.
In the past few years, the trend on website design has been leaning toward a minimalist approach. Modular design, an approach that features a block grid pattern and a simple background, is a popular choice that allows a lot of flexibility when it comes to managing an abundance of content. It’s often used partly because it’s easy on the eyes, but also because it’s mobile-friendly. In addition to flat designs, many schools are also using large images, bold colors that represent the school, and large fonts that grab the attention of website visitors.
User experience or UX refers to how a person feels when interacting with or using a product, which in this case is your website. Is your website accessible to everyone? Is it engaging and fun to use? Can your visitors find what they’re looking for easily? If they have a choice, will they opt to use your website again? A human-centered design that caters to the needs of website visitors can help you answer yes to all these questions.
One the way you can impart good experience on your website is by putting the tabs that users use most, such as Admissions, Upcoming Events, or Facility Reservations, in the main navigation bar. Another is by adopting a mobile-responsive design, which allows parents to check their children’s homework assignments at any time. Implementing ADA-friendly guidelines will also make your website more accessible and useful to persons with disabilities.
Well-written copy that is properly proofed and edited is essential to any website. Aside from conveying important information to users, copy helps with SEO or search engine optimization. Your web copy helps search engines like Google identify site relevance to search queries through your use of well-researched keywords. Complete information about the school, including forms and requirements, is also helpful for new visitors and parents with inquiries.
What makes good school website copy? In award-winning school sites, the best source of copy comes from the stakeholders themselves as they know the school the best. Teachers and staff can regularly update the school blog, event announcements, and news reports to keep the information fresh and relevant.
When writing, keep your sentences and paragraphs short and sweet, and aim to be concise with every post. Try to format the content so that readers can skim through the text without missing any important detail. The use of powerful headlines is a must, but try to avoid jargon or pompous language as these can alienate the reader. Keep the tone conversational, too. These are just a few of the many tips people use when writing content for the Internet.
Gone are the days of static school websites that few students ever actually use. New generation school websites, if successful, are updated regularly and are hubs of interactivity for not just the students but involved parents as well.
While award-winning sites usually have simple visual aesthetics, they’re filled with practical features that are easy to use and relevant to the day-to-day activities of the school. Features such as the dynamic school calendar, school notification systems, teacher’s webpage, and mobile school app are all essential tools and resources for the community.
The best school websites are those that use actual images and videos of school activities. Getting a professional photographer for your web photos is a good idea if you are gunning for that web award. However, it is not the only way to get good photos and video coverage. A student or teacher with a good camera and some photography skills could also help update your school site with fresh new images.
In addition, video content is a great way to showcase your AV club’s talents in video coverage and editing. These types of multimedia content add a whole new level of engagement with the school community and website visitors.
Making your website as accessible, easy-to-use, and as engaging as possible doesn’t have to be a mammoth task. By consistently updating your website, and with the help of an experienced school website provider like Edlio, you can make your school website a solid contender for well-known school website awards.