Designing a Successful Education Website
When you’re planning a website for a public or private educational institution, you have two options: enlist the services of an expert web design agency or go it alone. If you choose the latter option, you’ll find a number of templates and services on the web that you can use to create your own site in-house. A full-blown web design project is something that requires an expert web team, so going it alone can be a long and sometimes unsuccessful road.
Engaging the services of a professional web design agency can help keep the process moving, make you accountable to deadlines and meet your expectations on time and budget. You will want to find an agency with prior experience in creating educational websites and a solid process for how that site is successfully tested and deployed.
The reality of web design makes one thing clear: business websites and education websites are not created equal and if you are to be successful, a partner with experience in this vertical could hold the key to that.
The Flaws in Education Websites
There are a few common mistakes made when designing a website for an educational institution or business. This generally ends with a website that doesn’t meet the needs of its students or its intended audience, such as faculty or employees.
The most common flaws found in educational websites include:
- Confusing navigation. The site should be user-friendly and flow smoothly from page to page, section to section. Minimizing the number of clicks is important so users don’t become frustrated when trying to reach the information they need.
- Boring! If your site’s intent is to engage high school or younger students, it cannot be boring or you’ll lose your audience quickly. You’ll need to maintain the professionalism that’s expected while still presenting your information in a way that captures the attention of your audience.
- Information is incorrect or missing. This is one of the most common problems with educational websites. When designing your site, you need to anticipate the needs of your target audience, then make certain the information you present to them is correct, complete and up-to-date.
- Keep it simple. Loading up the site with irrelevant information will fill up space and may be visually impactful, but if the information presented isn’t beneficial to your users, your website’s performance may prove disappointing.
- Too much text, not enough visuals. Educational facilities are judged by how they engage and educate their users, whether it’s parents, students or attracting teachers. Using photos to demonstrate the experience is a “must do” on your website.
Successful Education Websites Don’t Build Themselves
When you’re in the market for someone to design your website, you want the best web design company with experience in educational website design and construction. There’s a lot that goes into the design of a successful educational website, everything from page layout to font choices.
It will be up to your designer and you to make certain that the end product is a website that is easily readable, well-composed, simple to navigate and highly informative.
Steps to Building a Successful Education Website
Before your site can be properly constructed, there are a few steps you can take to make sure your end product will meet your needs.
Check out the competition. To compete effectively, you need to know what your competition is up to. Before constructing a site, do a careful search of what’s out there on the web already. This will help you locate valuable websites to link to your site, and it can give you inspiration.
Know the legal stuff. This is where it is a good idea to have a professional web design agency or digital marketing agency on board. If you’re building a large educational website, know who owns what and who controls what before you begin construction. For example, if there are copyright or intellectual property rights associated with the use of a server, you’ll need to know this upfront.
Plan it out. Anytime you must rename a file on a website, you’re altering the page address or URL. This leads to broken links and clicks that go nowhere. Careful planning before constructing prevents this when you plan the site in a way that allows for future growth without changing page addresses.
Keep loading times low. We live in an impatient society; a web page that takes a long time to load will not be popular with anyone. You can make loading of large graphics, sound clips and video files optional to cut down on load time. Make your home page the “jumping off” place with no more than 2-3 screens of material and a 10-15 second load time.
Looking good! Content is important but appearance matters. Include attractive images and creative page layouts, just make sure you’re not slowing down the load time. Consult online style guides for suggestions. (Yale Web Style Guide is one example.)
Encourage feedback. Getting feedback is essential in teaching. It is just as important in web development. There are a few ways to do this: ask for it, use digital counters to track hits to specific pages and analyze the log files from your web server to gauge your site traffic.
Come back for a visit. Once the site looks great on your computer, make sure view it out on a mobile device as well. Visit the site to see how it looks on different platforms. Do your formatting and fonts remain consistent? Also, view it using different web browsers. Click all the links to make certain they’re going through. Nothing kills website flow worse than broken links.
Promote! You don’t need to worry about promoting your site if it’s only intended for a specific class. If you’re going for a wider audience, you’ll need to let people know you’re up and running. Think Facebook, Twitter, Instagram ans LinkedIn.
Harness the Power of the Web
A professional, easy-to-use and navigate educational website can open a world of opportunities for your institution. From attracting new students, hiring new educators, increasing school donations and engaging with parents and students online, your new website is your best tool to get to where you want to be.