How to Make Big School Website Changes on a Small Budget

Imagine that you are facing one of the most important days of your professional life. You’re going to be talking to hundreds—maybe even thousands—of people about your school.

They’ve all shown interest in your school, but they haven’t committed. You have a matter of seconds to get their attention and make them want to learn more about you. And if they lose interest, information from your biggest competitors is close by.

How would you prepare for this day? You would hire people you really trusted to help you build a brilliant and beautiful presentation. You would probably spend a few hours reading and re-reading your final version to make sure it was perfect. Your spouse and closest friends might stand in as your practice audience so you could ensure your delivery was impeccable.

It would be a big deal.

What if I told you this insanely important presentation is not just going to happen, it is happening— right now. It’s happening as I type this, and it’s happening as you’re reading it.

It’s your website.

All day, every day, your website presents your school to the world.

All that HTML is responsible for the most wide-reaching first impression your school will ever make. It’s the hardest-working admissions counselor you have. And as the saying goes, you don’t have a second chance to make a first impression. If the first one isn’t great, there might not be a second.

If your website isn’t easy to navigate, prospective students won’t try to figure it out, they’ll just give up.

If your website doesn’t quickly and easily give them the information they’re looking for, they’re likely to move on.

If your site’s design looks like it’s from ’99, or doesn’t work on mobile, then what you’re saying is you’re an old-fashioned, out-of-touch school. Which is not the message you want to project.

A strong website needs both great design and great copy. It’s a symbiotic relationship. Great design is a big part of what makes a website easy to browse. It can help make copy easier to follow and it can emphasize key pieces of content. A great website also uses language that speaks directs the audience. Through strong copy and design, your website should show the audience why they need not just any school but your school, specifically.

And this is just about what’s visible to your audience. Prospective families need to find your website during a Google search. If you’re unimpressed with your Google ranking, you need to go behind the scenes and look at your meta data.

If your website is lacking even just one of these things, you’re headed into the biggest presentation in your school’s history unprepared.

In an ideal world, you would have the budget to reevaluate and revise your entire website, all at once. We understand, thought, that it’s just not always possible, even when your site really needs a major overhaul.

If budget is holding you back from the website redo you envision, start small. By formulating a plan to tackle the most important areas of your website—the ones that just can’t wait for the day the website overhaul becomes a line item in your budget—you can start to make an impact.

Start here to make big school website changes on a small budget:

  • If your website design looks like it was created 20 years ago (because it was): Redesign just the home page. While not all your visitors will enter your site through this page, it is the main starting point. A refresh of the copy and visuals can help set a better tone for the entire site.
  • If your copy is confusing, boring and riddled with jargon: Look at your analytics to determine the pages with the highest traffic. These are the pages you should revise immediately. Aim to make things as simple as possible. Remove the buzzwords, say what you really mean, and do all that rewriting with your audience in mind.
  • If there’s a serious lack of information on your site: Sit down with the people in charge of your key programs to find out the questions they are most frequently asked. Gather all the details on your current offerings and add them to your website. Even without the fancy bells and whistles, you can provide a wealth of information that hooks your audience.
  • If your website is huge and hard to navigate: Check into the possibility of making changes to the navigation whether it’s structure (can you add drop-down menus to make things easier to reach?) or clarity (renaming your page names can do wonders). Also, review your copy for opportunities to cross-link to other content on your site, which will make navigating from within the content simple.
  • If your copy doesn’t direct your audience: Does your web copy just drop off at the end of the page? Change that by crafting an enticing call-to-action that directs the visitor where to go next or encourages them to connect with your school by requesting more information, scheduling a visit, or joining a mailing list.The best way to ensure people do what you want them to do is to ask. Start crafting your calls-to-action by thinking about what you really want visitors to do after they have read a particular page of content. Make your CTAs helpful and relevant; mix them up so every page doesn’t end the same way.
  • If your website only works properly on a desktop computer: Run, don’t walk, to your nearest programmer and beg them to help you sort this out. Do you know what percentage of website traffic comes from mobile devices? More than half1. If your website looks bad and is illegible to half of the people who see it, that’s a problem that should be fixed now.
  • If you aren’t sure where to start: Look at your analytics to determine where to go next. Review your most popular pages to see were there is room for improvement. This might mean cutting or adding copy, styling the page content or starting from scratch. You can also start by looking at the pages with the highest bounce and exit rates. Review the copy for clarity and consistency, then find ways to draw the reader from that page to other relevant areas of your site.

A website that doesn’t do a great job of positioning and presenting your school can impact your inquiries and enrollment. Whether you’re ready to to make big or small changes, it is worth the time and budget it takes to ensure that you have a site that makes the first impression your school deserves.

If revamping your school website is on your to-do list, we can help. Schedule a Discovery Call with Emily.

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