Does Your School District Website Speak To These Audiences?
When it comes to your school district website, knowing your audience is everything.
Think about it. Your website is your top communication tool — it’s a place to tell your story, connect with your community and, ultimately, inspire your audience to act. For your website to truly do its job, you need to know who is visiting and why.
You see, people rarely visit a website to browse. They want information. Specific information.
Make it easy for your online visitors to find what they need, and their impression of your school district will be a positive one. A successful visit to your site means repeat visits to your site — that’s more chances for you to tell your story, to connect with your audience, and to grow and strengthen your school district.
On the other hand, if your online visitors can’t find what they need (and fast), they will get frustrated and leave. Your most powerful communication tool becomes, well, powerless.
It’s time to ask yourself:
- Who is my audience?
- What do they want to know?
- How can I connect with them?
Let's look at your most important website audiences, and how the best school district websites connect with them.
Parent and Student Prospects
You want new students to enrol in your schools, but the parents and students living within your district have options. Neighbouring (or overlapping) school districts may be reaching out to parents in your community. Private schools are also marketing to parents in your area. Your website has to help parent and student prospects feel at home in your school district.
When these parents visit your website, they want to know:
- Is there a school near my home?
- What grade levels, programs and courses does it offer?
- How can I contact the school?
- How do I register my child for school?
- Is the district safe and welcoming?
- Will my child succeed here?
So, how can you make sure your website engages these parents, answers their questions and helps them feel at home in your district? Here are some tips:
Make information about school locations, grade levels and courses easy-to-find — and keep this information current.
Highlight your programs
Show off your programs with high-quality images. Use candid shots of your students engaged in learning.
Maintain a news blog
Make it fun and post often! Show parents and students that your school district is an exciting place to learn.
Choose the right content management system (CMS)
A good CMS lets even non-technical users add content to your website easily. Your school district CMS should also let you push district news and documents to each of your school websites, and crosspost content from your website to your social media accounts.
Consider updating your branding
Modern branding will help parents and students see your district as forward-thinking and innovative. Outdated brand elements, like old logos and colours, give the opposite impression.
Parents of Current Students
These parents already have children attending a school in your district — they know who you are, and are likely going straight to their child’s school website to find relevant information and timely updates.
Parents of current students are looking for:
- Important dates, events and holidays
- Daily schedules (bell schedule, lunch schedule)
- Updates on their child’s school bus route
- Information on their child’s classes and homework
- A way to reach teachers and administrators
- School news
- Photos from recent school activities, field trips or events
Like their parents, when students visit their school’s website they need something specific. High school students are the most likely student group to visit their school’s website — and they are probably using a mobile device.
Current students are looking for:
- Homework assignments
- A way to reach their teachers
- Details about school events, holidays and field trips
- News about school clubs or sports teams
- Bus route updates
How can you help parents and students in your school district quickly find the information they need online? Here are some tips:
Keep your calendars up-to-date. Use responsive calendars and schedule tables. Up to 75 per cent of your visitors are using a mobile device!
The best designed school websites use the homepage for timely information and newsfeeds — don’t fill it up with things your visitors already know, like introductory information about your school.
Set standards for teachers to maintain class webpages with calendars and downloadable assignments. This practice is proven to reduce the time teachers spend answering phone and email messages.
Make sure parents can communicate with teachers and administrators through the school websites.
Keep a newsfeed on your homepage and update it often. Share your posts through social media and include links to your website.
Start a gallery and upload photos from school events. Parents love to look for photos of their children enjoying school activities, and students love to see themselves and their friends on the website.
Video brings personality to your site and keeps people there longer. About 90 per cent of Canadian internet users have watched at least one video online in the last month!
Set branding, website design and sitemap standards for your school websites. Many parents have children who attend different schools in your district; they will appreciate a consistent look and functionality across your district’s websites.
You want the best staff. Job seekers visiting your website are motivated to find career listings, but they still want to find your job postings (and decide whether or not to apply) quickly and easily.
Job seekers want to know:
- Do you have jobs available? What kind of jobs?
- Where are your schools?
- How do I apply?
- How long will it take me to apply?
- Is the district a positive, welcoming place to work?
- Does the district want to hire someone like me?
- Will I succeed here?
How can your website attract job seekers, and help them apply to your postings quickly and easily? Here are some tips:
Make it easy to find
Make job postings easy to find on your website. Put a colourful, attractive career portal right on your homepage.
List open job postings on your district website in real time. Don’t just link to an external job posting service that doesn’t show your division's personality (even if applicants have to go there to submit their application).
Include high-quality images of teachers interacting with their students.
Your staff use your website to access district services and documents but, keep in mind, your staff is an internal audience.
Keep links and content for your staff in less prominent places. Try Quicklinks for lists of staff services. Use a vaulted or password-protected area to store internal documents, and hide the area from the menu (and Google).
There you have it! Knowing your audience is the key to creating an easy-to-use website that will keep parents, students and job seekers coming back. Defining your audiences, and addressing each audience need with clear, impactful content and thoughtful web features will establish a positive online presence for your school district.
Next, download our free resource: 14 Ways to Engage Your School District Website Audience! For help engaging your audience with an awesome new website, contact Box Clever today.