Posted - March 2014
 
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Strengthening Relationships through Your School's Website

by Jon MoserCIS Affiliated Consultant

International schools have the tremendous responsibility of meeting a wide and globally dispersed set of communication requirements. Keeping your current students and families informed of daily activities via calendars, news and updates is only part of the job.  Prospective parents and students, new faculty, and alumni also need to be added to the mix, as the first place they typically visit is your website. With such a varied website audience, schools need a clear vision and strategy to deliver the content users require.  

In working with more than 130 international schools around the world, my experience has shown that the most successful schools use their websites to effectively engage and communicate with their constituents. They place the upmost importance on their branding, communication strategy and delivery and realize these are the keys to strengthening relationships and success. They never cease to evaluate their strategy and make improvements, while also keeping an eye on their competition.

International schools have so much activity that it amazes me. From children travelling to competitions in other countries, students and faculty performing community service locally or around the world, distinguished alumni visits and just the fact that they are often located in fascinating locations, are reasons enough to keep their websites abuzz. With modern website solutions, schools can easily update their websites and engage their constituents without any technical expertise.

As part of any website evaluation, these are my top 5 recommendations for any website strategy.

1. THE 7-SECOND RULE

You have seven seconds to grab people’s attention so do not waste the opportunity. You need to engage them through various key components including design, navigation, multimedia and access to information, and most importantly, genuinely connecting and engaging with them.   

Good examples of attention-grabbing sites are:

2. ARE YOU MOBILE? – FOR ALL DEVICES?

The mobile experience is very important also. Figures show that by 2015, 50% of the traffic to websites will come from mobile devices.  Your site needs to be optimized for whatever device your viewers use – thus the term Responsive Design. From an iPad, iPhone, or tablet, check out how these responsive format sites adjust:   

3. FLIPPING THE CLASSROOM

International schools are inherently more geographically dispersed, with children often living in various areas of a major metropolis, parents travelling, and teachers taking students to other countries for a global classroom. The flipped classroom model enables students to learn from any location, not just while sitting in the class. By providing class resources online, busy parents who travel can feel great about helping their children succeed even if they are thousands of miles away. Students who cannot attend school due to a natural disaster or just a common cold, can access their work from home. The opportunities for learning are no longer confined – and the opportunities are endless. We have worked with thousands of schools and have developed a state of the art Learning Management System (LMS) that is aimed at connecting students, faculty, and parents.

4. HOW FAST IS YOUR SITE?

Have you looked at your Google Analytics to see where users to your site are located – not just your local users but prospective users or travelling parents looking to see their children’s progress?  From China to Berlin, San Paolo to Nairobi – speed is important.  Amazon, Google, Yahoo and many other companies have ALL proven that with any slowness in their sites their revenue drops. Through the use of content delivery networks and website accelerators, your site can be quick no matter where your users are.

5. MULTI-LANGUAGE WEBSITES

Not everyone speaks another language – including me.  It is worth looking at your Google Analytics to see which countries your site visitors are coming from and making sure some of your key pages are in those languages. Take a look at this example from Avon Old Farms School. If a large proportion of your constituents speak another language, a dual language site is important. The American School of Paris is a good example.

Take the time to have your team evaluate your website and see where you might make improvements. You might also get some inspiration by visiting our portfolio which highlights some best practices from schools around the world. Never stop striving to strengthen your relationships and achieve your school’s full potential.

ABOUT the author:

Jon Moser is a Member of the CIS Affiliated Consultant Network. As founder, CEO, and current Board Member of Finalsite, Jon is passionate about web trends and strategies that impact education. For more than twelve years, Jon and Finalsite have been committed to providing cutting-edge web technology for clients. He is a frequent advisor, keynoter, blogger and presenter on all things web related.

CIS Note: The views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of CIS.



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