Is your website content relevant for your key audience? Is it fresh and up-to-date?
Your school website serves the needs of a range of interested parties. At different times (and for differing purposes), parents, students, staff, prospective students and their families, Ofsted, governors, trustees and sponsors, the local authority, the local community and the media will all look to a school’s website for information. You need to ensure that your website is an effective tool for communicating with your particular audience.
Planning your content is essential to getting your message across consistently throughout the academic year. Considering what your audience wants will enable you to put in place a publishing schedule that meets their needs.
You already have the information they need
Somewhere in your school you will already have the information your audience wants but you need to make sure that you’re sharing it through your website. From term dates to sports results, academic performance to contact numbers, you should be able to distribute any of the information that your audience could reasonably expect of you.
You need to ensure that this information is being channelled through to your website at the right time and presented there in a structure that makes it easy to find. Planning your content will help you to achieve this.
Keep things manageable
There is a temptation to offer everything including the kitchen sink on your website but it’s important that you’re able to manage the ongoing demands of your site. Promising regular content such as video blogs may sound like a great idea but when you’re midway through a term and other pressures are upon you, it’s the sort of thing that will easily fall by the wayside. In planning for what content you need to provide, you also need to think carefully about how you’re going to provide and what resources you’ll require.
Plan for success and failure
Whether your school has been rated outstanding or placed into special measures, your website is critical to getting your message across and for adding context to your current status. When times are good, you should be promoting good news stories as they give a more rounded picture of life in the school than mere statistics. And should you find yourself in the spotlight for the wrong reason, those same stories will again show that your school is more than just a troubling headline.
Plan for participation
To get all of those good news stories out of your school and onto your website, you’ll need the help of certain key people. Identify who can help to collate stories and make them your internal champions. Staff, students, governors, your PTA and partners such as your local authority, academy sponsors or other groups (such as religious orders in faith schools) can all play a part in generating stories and information for your website. Planning for this will help to share the load and ensure that you get a steady flow of content from different sources.
Going beyond the basics
Local authority maintained schools have a certain amount of statutory information they must include on their websites, all of which is useful for any school to offer. However, it’s worth considering where you can add value for your audience. If your contact details amount to one phone number and a generic email address, then think about what other information you can provide that will satisfy your audience and make things easier for you to administrate. If you have a Sixth Form or hire out your facilities, offer additional contact details for these specific areas. Offer directions to your school as well as the address. Going beyond the basics will create a much better impression than offering the bare minimum.
Don’t expect your audience to know where things are
There is no one standard structure for a school website, so you need to think through the structure of your site from the perspective of each audience group. Don’t expect them to know where to look for information – you need to signpost things clearly and use clear language to describe the different sections of your site. You might think it’s representative of the personality of your school to have fun titles for different parts of your site but if your audience doesn’t understand that “Look Inside” is the section that contains information about the school (such as your staff list, governor information, school history etc) then you’re preventing them from getting what they want.
Keep things fresh
Much of your content, such as term dates or curriculum information, won’t need to change during the course of the academic year. Some of it, like your contact details, may not change from year to year. However, wherever you can make changes to your content, you should. It helps to keep your site feeling fresh and gives your audience confidence in knowing that they’re getting up-to-date information. News stories are an obvious area for adding regular content but you should also be updating things like the Head’s welcome message each term.