Parents make up the majority of visitors to your school website. They already know a lot about your school and they don’t visit your site just to browse. They visit because they're looking for something very specific. Job one is to make it as easy as possible for parents to find the information they want. If you organize your website well you can also get parents to see information you want them to see during their visit.
Give parents what they want
What sort of things are parents looking for when they visit your school website? We looked at analytics from hundreds of school websites and found that parents most often look for:
- Important dates, events and holidays
- Daily schedules (bell schedule, lunch schedule)
- School bus route updates
- Class schedules and homework
- A way to contact teachers and administrators
- Registration information
- Back to school info in August and September
- How to report an absence
- School news
- Photos from recent school activities, field trips or events
- Exam schedules
- Sports teams’ schedules
- School policies
Look through the content on your website and make sure you have everything from the above list covered. Your website should answer parents’ most frequently asked questions:
Think like a parent
Visits to school websites spike around back-to-school time and registration time, and so do phone calls to your school office! Keep note of all the things parents ask you at those times of year, and make sure your website content answers all of their questions in plain language.
The best-designed school websites use the homepage for timely information and news — don’t fill it up with things your visitors already know, like introductory information about your school.
Keep your online school calendar up-to-date. Your content management system should let you add dates to a responsive online calendar that looks great on mobile devices. Embedding a Google Calendar might be convenient but it isn’t fun for a parent to browse through on a phone.
If you have a busy sports program at the school, add a second calendar for your Athletics schedule!
Set standards for teachers to maintain class websites with schedules and downloadable assignments. This practice is proven to reduce the time teachers spend answering phone and email messages.
Make sure parents can communicate with teachers and administrators through the school website. Try an anti-spam contact form that lets parents message school staff directly, without exposing staff email addresses to spam.
Keep a newsfeed on your homepage and update it often. Share your posts through social media and include links back to your website for all the details. Today’s parents are very active on social media and you’ll reach more of them if you post news to all of your platforms at once.
Start a gallery and upload photos from school events. Parents love to see photos of their children and their friends enjoying school activities.
Keep up good habits like posting your news, updating your calendar and removing Back to School information in October. When parents see that your website is a reliable source of information they will keep coming back throughout the school year.
What DON’T parents want?
Parents know who you are already. While it’s good to have an “About” page on your website, things like your school mission, motto, Principal’s message or a long introductory paragraph do not need to go on your homepage. Parents will skip over that information every time, which means you’re not using the valuable real estate on your homepage effectively. A new visitor who wants to learn all about your school will be able to find your “About” page easily as long as you have a functional, easy-to-browse menu.
How do I get parents to see important information?
What about information you want parents to see? How do you get parents to notice important announcements, schedule changes and reminders when they visit your website?
Enticers are eye-catching areas of your site that display a brief snippet of text with a link. Enticers draw the visitor's attention and direct them to important, detailed information on another webpage. Enticers might appear on your homepage, or on every page of your website. Your website should let you edit your enticers as often as you need to so you can promote the things that are most important at every time of year.
Homepage News & Features
Many of your visitors will enter your site through your homepage. Make sure the most urgent or timely information is always front and centre on your homepage so visitors can't miss it. Display your most recent news stories on your homepage too.
Share to Social Media
Your Content Management System should let you cross-post to your social media platforms when you publish a news story, notice or calendar event to your website. Cross-posting saves you time and reaches more people. Parents today are very active on social media!
Try an app
Consider adding a school or school division app to your communication tools! Ask your website provider if they can support an app that integrates with your website. A good app not only displays news, events, and other content from your website, it gives you the ability to send push notifications to app users' phones. Busy parents will appreciate receiving a push when you publish important notices, and they can turn to your website to get all the details.