8 tips for choosing the right school web design company
Getting your school website redesigned is a big deal. You need your website to educate and engage parents, pupils and prospective staff. You need it to have user-friendly features and to serve a purpose.
The website needs to showcase relevant school events, news and updates all whilst being Ofsted compliant. Parents need to find their way around easily and locate the information they’re looking for — whether that’s term dates, homework tasks, or contact details. It also needs to be mobile-friendly — in the third quarter of 2020, mobile devices (excluding tablets) generated 50.81% of global website traffic.
A school website needs to tick so many boxes, and with loads of web design agencies out there, it can be a bit of a minefield — how can you find the best one for you?
We’ve gathered together eight tips to make choosing the right school web design company that little bit easier.
1. Work with a company that has designed school websites before
Sounds obvious, but many website design agencies specialise in an industry or sector. By working alongside an expert school website design company, you can rest easy knowing that they’ve been there done that.
A school website needs to work on so many different levels; it needs to be easy to use but also store a lot of important information.
When you weigh up agencies, take the time to look through their school website design portfolio. This can give you a real insight into their previous work and indicate what you can expect for your website.
2. Figure out what’s important to you, and find an agency that matches
Make a list of ‘must haves’ for your site. For example, if you know you want a parents’ section or individual class blogs, you need to find an agency that can deliver these features effectively. If you want to amend the menu structure once the site has been built, make sure your design company can facilitate that.
You need an agency that’s going to listen to what you want, but also that suggests other ideas. You need a collaborative approach when designing your new site. Then your design company should go away and come up with an action plan and then deliver a responsive draft so you can review the functionality and design as if the site was live.
You need ultimate control over your school website design project because you’re the one who knows how your school operates, so you need a design company that designs bespoke school websites, tailoring functionality to your specific needs, not just to deliver copy and paste templates for every school.
3. Make sure they offer superior customer support
Customer support is key to any design project. Once built, you’ve got this brand new site to navigate, with new website pages to manage — you’re going to have many questions. Although the design company should onboard all staff at the point of going live, you need to find designers who’ll be there for you way after the completion date.
You need an external design team you can rely on and encourage all staff members to contact with any query, no matter how small or seemingly insignificant. You need to work with a company you feel are friendly and approachable because you need guidance and support for months after your new website has been launched.
If you can contact your design team over live chat, rather than email or phone, that’s even better. Live chat is quickly becoming the consumers’ favourite way to resolve customer service issues — in fact, 46% of customers prefer live chat to other channels of communication.
4. Work with a company that does all the work in-house
If the web design company outsources its website design process, as the customer, you can lose control over how it’s built. You don’t need a middle person; if that’s the case, you could have gone direct to a freelance website designer yourself and cut out the faff.
There are a few reasons why you need to work closely with the design team. Firstly, you need them for their knowledge; if they’re based elsewhere, you’re not going to benefit from that. Secondly, you need direct communication. You want to meet everyone involved in the design process. This is a project that’s important to get right for your school; you want the best result possible for your budget. If the work is outsourced, the communication becomes muddy due to the passing of messages back and forth through the middle person, and it will slow the overall process down.
You need to work with the design experts from day dot to build a rapport with them and stay up-to-date on the project deliverables.
5. If they offer a photography service, it’s a plus
Authentic and high-quality photography is essential for any website, but particularly for a school website. The use of generic stock images can look impersonal, and low-quality images don’t invite prospective parents to explore your site further.
Your website needs to be welcoming and professional and showcase the personality of your school and its children. You need to show your school in the best possible light, and professional photographs aren’t just handy for transforming your website; they inject life into your school marketing materials, too.
The long and short of it is: professional photos improve user experience.
6. Ensure they stay up to date on Ofsted website requirements
As we’re all aware, there’s a long list of website requirements outlined by the government for schools to follow.
Requirements include exhibiting Ofsted reports, contact details, curriculum, behaviour policy, equality objectives, and complaints procedure, to name a few. These are requirements that must be met and taken seriously, when receiving initial quotes from web design companies make sure you raise this question with them.
7. Read their online reviews
84% of people trust online reviews just as much as personal recommendations. And it’s not hard to see why. Think back to the last time you purchased something online; flicking through the reviews gives you an overall impression of whether the purchase is going to meet your expectations or not.
So, as you browse through your shortlist of web design companies, read their Google reviews. And don’t just look at the glowing reviews; find the negative ones, too. How did the company respond to criticism? Were they rude, aggressive, genuinely thankful for feedback, or friendly when resolving a complaint?
When you first visit any web design company, they’re going to promise you the world. But doing a little research of your own can help you whittle down the companies with a facade to the companies with the specific expertise to deliver a fantastic school website.
8. You don’t have to stay local
Remember, most web design companies can work remotely; they’ll take on school customers around the nation, so if you don’t think your perfect website design partner is in the local area, search further afield.
If you’ve got specific needs or you want to work with the best-fit agency, no one is saying you must keep it local. We’ve all realised from COVID that discussions can happen over Skype, Zoom or Google Hangouts — you never even have to meet if you don’t want to.
Most agencies will travel to you for your initial meeting to talk through your needs and their initial ideas. So cast your net further to find the perfect fit for your school.
Check if your website is Ofsted compliant.
Our Ofsted compliancy audit includes a full audit of your website statutory information. We will produce a report which will detail your compliance and any areas that need your attention. The price is just £99 + vat. Send us a message if you’d like to find out more about this service.