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Posted by Ant Jumratsilpa on 14 June 2017

How independent schools can use web design to convey their unique personality online

Would you want to welcome parents and students in to a school foyer strewn with litter, with peeling paint and outdated awards hung haphazardly on the walls? Would you be comfortable beckoning parents through a door that sticks when it opens? I doubt it. So why would you allow them to have a similar user experience on your website?

Having a user-friendly, attractive website is crucial for independent schools. Your homepage is your virtual prospectus and often the first point of contact for a parent – so it is important that you leave the right impression and use your website to clearly articulate why parents should invest in a private education at your school.

In this blog post we’ll talk about how independent schools can take advantage of current web design trends to deliver an engaging and visual experience that will stick and resonate with prospective parents who are looking for a trusted education provider.

Why good website design is crucial

Rising fees and growing competition makes it more important than ever for independent schools to distinguish themselves and clearly communicate their unique assets. Today, parents are looking to the best private education providers to prepare their children for a competitive job market and they're willing to pay higher fees for schools with the most modern facilities. And one look at a clunky, outdated website could put them off even considering your school.

When selecting a school for their children, parents often look for an education provider with values similar to their own - a school which can work in tandem with them to educate their kids into successful, well-rounded adults. Therefore, everything they see when they land on the homepage should convey your school’s unique personality. Your institutional values should be a focal point and you should be showing what the school is actively doing to achieve its aims and instil those values in its pupils.

5 School website essentials 

Independent schools need to justify expensive tuition fees by demonstrating the unique benefits of a private education such as small class sizes, state-of-the-art facilities and a multitude of extra-curricular, skill-building activities - and their school website is the perfect place to do this. A professional, well-designed website provides schools with a great platform to share important key messages in an engaging and easy digestible format (e.g. by using video, imagery, blogs or infographics). 

In this article we’ll set apart 5 important web design trends you can use to make your school website an attractive marketing tool, helping to convince parents your independent school is the best choice for them and their children.

1. Video

In a recent post, our Senior Developer talked about how schools can bring their personality alive online. One of the best and easiest ways to engage parents online is by telling a visual story about your school. Whether that’s through a promotional video, virtual tour of the school facilities, highlights from the past year or interviews with key members of staff - video is one of your most useful tools in making your online presence stand out.

Video can offer an interactive and memorable experience, and offers schools the opportunity to connect with parents on an emotional level. Video does not only help showcase your dedicated staff and state-of-the-art facilities but also makes it easier for parents to imagine what a day at your school will be like.

 

 

Stamford Endowed Schools created an engaging promo video showing parents how a SE education can help shape their children into well-rounded adults.The video tells a story and evokes emotion through its portrayal of real pupils and the various activities students have available to them. 

How you integrate video is also important - Greenwhich County School use video on their homepage which autoplays on silent, seamlessly pulling the viewer in without interrupting their experience.

For another example of how you can use video to make your school website stand out, have a look at the website we created for Beau Soleil - a premium boarding school in the Swiss alps. 

2. Staff and student blogs

Being able to read words from the teachers that will help shape their children’s growth is a huge bonus for parents. Having staff blogs on your school website adds a human element to your school’s brand and makes your institution seem more authentic. Tell stories portraying how children are conquering challenges at your school – providing parents with real life examples while adding credibility to your approach.

As a bonus, regular blog content means your site stays fresh and lets visitors see what you’ve been doing lately.

Teacher and Student blogs on TASIS website


TASIS, The American School in England, aim to create life-long relationships with students’ families with their 'Faculty voices' videos, 'Student Life' blogs and social media integration. These integrated tools provide staff and students with a voice and offer current and prospective parents a look ‘behind the scenes’ so they can learn more about how the curriculum is put into practice – making them feel more involved in their children’s education.

3. Responsive design

This one is fundamental, but often overlooked. If your website doesn’t look equally as good on different kinds of smartphones and tablets as it does on a desktop computer, you’re in trouble. According to TechCrunch, November 2016 marked the first time that website access traffic tipped the scales from desktop to mobile devices.

Parents may not make the final decision or send the first enquiry on their mobile, but it’s highly likely to be the first place they view your school’s website. Make that first impression count.

NAE Responsive website

If your school website is not responsive (that is, doesn’t adjust for the device it’s being viewed on), Google can now punish you by pushing your site to the bottom of the search results. Explain that one to the admissions board...

4. Infographics

What are your school's key values? What is your average class size? What extra-curricular activities do you offer? How does your school compare to other schools in the region? Where do your pupils end up after finishing their education? This is all key information parents will be looking for.

Infographics are a great tool to simplify this data and present it in a more visually engaging way. Instead of having to scroll through pages of text parents can have a quick look at your homepage to get all the information they need to decide whether your school is the right choice for them.

NAE School Infographic



The British International School Shanghai (Nord Anglia Education) presents their most important key statistics on their homepage using icons, labels and numbers. Making the information easier to digest and easy to remember.

5. Digital prospectus

Gone are the days of parents patiently waiting to receive a pile of prospectuses in the post. By the time they land on the doormat, your prospective students' parents will have already browsed your website and checked out social channelsSo why not save the hassle and costs associated with printing and postal fees and publish an up-to-date online prospectus on your school's homepage? 

An online prospectus that is easily accessible on your website enables you to catch parents while their interest is peaked and can offer many advantages over a simple, paper prospectus. Use the opportunities of digital to your advantage and
create an engaging and interactive experience by incorporating video, call to actions, virtual tours, image slideshows and sound.

prospectus.png

A great example of an example of a digital prospectus can be found on the website of Dulwich Prep School. The interactive prospectus combines sound and video with an interactive menu allowing parents to easily navigate through the pages and get more detailed information about the topics that are relevant to them. 

Why great web design leads to higher enrolment rates 

Anyone working in the private education sector, will be aware that a drop in enrolment or lowered school perception can lead to a cycle of cut-backs. The most effective way to combat this is to invest in a quality website, as our MD Nick Salloway argued in his blog post about why schools need digital marketing.

Your website is your number one piece of marketing collateral in creating and maintaining your school’s reputation. It allows you to explore creative initiatives designed to grow the school’s audiences, raise its profile and maximise the success of other marketing activities.

Without a stellar website, your marketing is left in the hands of the teachers, pupils and parents, who can rewrite your brand’s image as they see fit. And as a member of the marketing / admissions team, it's you who has to answer to the Board of Directors if enrolment drops.

Need help?

The five design tools listed above are the tip of the iceberg - there’s everything from accessibility to social media integration to think about when you’re designing your school’s website.

At Status Digital, we’ve worked with a variety schools, designing webpages for Nord Anglia Education and the North East Learning Trust. To find out how we can help you improve your school’s website - get in touch.

And if you’re not quite ready to invest in your site, you might like to subscribe to our education marketing blog to keep up to date with the latest school website design and marketing trends.

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