There are many reasons why your school website could be underperforming, but sometimes it can be difficult to figure out what's going wrong - especially when you're faced with an analytics report showing high bounce rates and low engagement with your content.
To help you get to the bottom of your website woes, we've compiled a list of reasons that may account for why your visitors are leaving your school website within the first 10 seconds.
Consumers now spend on average five hours a day on their smartphones with 64% of UK citizens now owning a smartphone or tablet.
In 2018, mobile and tablet usage overtook desktop usage for the first time and this trend will only continue increasing as device technology continues to grow and develop. This means that if your website is not responsive and does not break down perfectly onto different screen sizes then you are alienating 50% of your users already. You will also be penalised by Google and other search engines, who now operate on mobile-first algorithms which automatically rank non-responsive websites lower in the search engine rankings.
You can check if your website is responsive by looking on a mobile or tablet device (do you have to pinch the screen to see the whole design?) or by resizing your browser window (does some of the design go off the page?).
If the answer to either of these questions is yes then we recommend looking into a responsive website design as soon as possible.
2. Slow... Loading... Times...
Do you remember the days of dial-up Internet where every page took an age to load? It was painful and meant browsing your favourite websites took forever.
Since the introduction of Broadband and 3G/4G/5G connections on mobile, the user tolerance levels for load times have gone down meaning that the longer it takes a page to load, the more likely a website visitor is to leave your page.
Ideally your website should be loading within 1–3 seconds to capture someone's attention. If it takes 10 seconds to load a page on your website - the majority of your users will have already left.
You can help decrease load times by ensuring that all of your files and images have been optimised to reduce their file size.
Modern website development techniques take into account optimisation and all good website providers should be utilising these when building your website, however your content will also play a large part in ensuring your website loads quickly and effectively.
3. Difficult Navigation
Your navigation menu needs to be intuitive and reflect the sequential steps of your customer journey. Complex, disjointed or inconsistent navigation will confuse and disorientate your users, making them feel helpless and frustrated - definitely not the kind of impact you want to make.
Your users need to be able to land on your website and instantly know where to go. Remember to use terminology that makes sense to the end user (no jargon, acronyms or internal colloquialisms) and to provide them with clear call to actions that direct them to key information like contact details, term dates and policies.
We would recommend planning your sitemap out to ensure that all of your important pages are easy to find and that your users don't have to go any further than 3 levels deep to find the information they require. (i.e School Information > Policies > Remissions)
4. Disjointed Content Layout
How well your content is laid out will have a direct impact on user interaction and will determine how well it is digested, interpreted and actioned.
Alongside a structured sitemap (see #3) you will also need to plan how your content looks on the page to ensure that it is well-structured and clear. Over 50% of conversions are lost because potential customers can't find what they are looking for.
The best way to achieve this is by using clear headings to define different sections of the page, well-positioned images and easy-to-read paragraphs of text. All relevant and similar content should be grouped together in a consistent format to avoid sending your school website visitors to the wrong location.
Remember - for ideal search engine optimisation, aim for an average of 500 - 1000 words of text per page.
5. Aggressive Pop-Ups
Have you ever been on a website where you have been inundated with large pop-up notifications in the middle of the screen asking you to review a product or sign up to a newsletter? And it won't go away until you click a button? Chances are, you probably left pretty quickly and didn't go back.
With the introduction of GDPR, it is likely that most websites you visit will ask you to confirm whether you're happy to accept cookies and this notification will take the form of a pop-up box. It's also possible that you may have a pop-up banner for urgent news within your school. Both of these are legitimate reasons for pop-ups, which your users will understand however it is important to be sparing with alerts and only use your urgent news banner when it is of vital importance otherwise your users might start ignoring them.
Too many pop-ups, especially those which are full-screen or have no visible close button, will end up frustrating your audience and will disrupt their journey around your site.
We would always advise that banners, where possible, are placed in unobtrusive locations like along the top of the page or at the bottom or side, to prevent disruption of the user journey.
6. Obtrusive Video or Audio
Give your visitors the choice to watch a video or listen to audio on your website. By setting any music or videos to automatically play upon arrival with sound you will force visitors to go out of their way to stop them playing; thus disrupting the user's experience of your school website.
We will always strongly advise against having automatic audio playing on a website, as this is generally considered bad practice.
It's also worth noting that many mobile browsers will disable auto-play of the video itself by default to allow users the decision to play the video or not, depending on whether they are using mobile data. This means that even if you did have audio enabled, it is not guaranteed that the browser would allow it to play anyway.
If you do have a video with audio, you could enable a play audio button on your slideshow which allows the user to choose to listen. Alternatively, you can embed the video within a content page, allowing visitors to view the video controls and choose the option to enable sound themselves if required.
7. Too Much Text, Not Enough Images
When the amount of text on your website appears to be overwhelming, many people won't even give the content a chance.
One way to do this is by using lots of high-quality, engaging imagery throughout your website. This instantly gives your users a flavour of your school - a snapshot of life behind the scenes. Vibrant imagery showing happy students enjoying their work, visual depictions of sports and music or striking photography of your state-of-the-art facilities can all help to draw the user in and make them take note of your content.
8. Illegible Font Styling
Website accessibility standards state that fonts should be easy to read and clear and that the text colour should have sufficient contrast to the background colour. Not sticking to these standards can contribute to illegible, unreadable content and ultimately a very poor user experience.
Where possible, use sans-serif fonts with clean, clear aesthetics for the main body of text, to ensure that the content remains accessible to the widest range of users including those with visual impairments or dyslexia. Fonts should also be sized appropriately to guarantee legibility.
Elaborate or more intricate typefaces are best used within designs and for aesthetic appeal. They should never be used in text-heavy content regions where a user will need to read and digest large volumes of information.
9. Outdated Content and Inactive Feeds
If your homepage only shows news articles from six months ago and your calendar feed is empty, not only will this frustrate existing parents looking for information but it will make your online presence seem neglected to prospective parents, or worse still, that you don't have anything exciting going on.
Your school website, and by extension your social media feeds, are your shop window to the world. If your visitors come across the same content, every time they visit your site, they are going to be less likely to come back for more. It's essential to have a detailed content strategy to ensure you are constantly producing new content; whether it's on a daily, weekly or monthly basis.
The good news is that a lot of your content can be automated through your website design to ensure a dynamic ever-changing homepage. With a calendar sync to your Outlook or Google calendar, your events can automatically be pulled through to your website and by linking up your Twitter feed - you can have a rotating feed of up to date information auto-generated when you post to your social media.
Get into the habit of writing weekly updates for your news feed - they don't have to be long, they just need to be interesting and give your users an overview of the latest happenings within your school, whether that's a positive inspection report, a visit from the local MP or a table of winners from last week's Sports Day.
With this in mind, you can easily use your school news, blogs and social channels to create a constant flow of communication between your school and stakeholders.
10. Uninspiring and Boring Designs
Have you ever visited a website and instantly clicked off it again because it was difficult to use and looked awful? If you have, you'll know that as a website administrator, this is the last thing you want your visitors to do on your website.
You want them to be inspired by your designs, to feel excited by your website layout and to want to spend time looking around and reading your content. An outdated, ill-functioning design can decrease your credibility and increase your bounce rates. You definitely don't want that.
We would always advise using a professional company to design and build your website, preferably one with experience in your industry and sector, as they will not only know what works best visually but they will be able to translate this into an elegant, easy-to-use online presence for your school.
Design trends are often changing and, as with anything, the quality of design can be subjective, but with a professional team by your side, you can ensure that you'll be getting a quality service which will last you for years to come.
- Top Tips
You might also like...
Latest Live - May 2021
This month we've seen 32 school, trust and teaching school hub websites launch, as well as our own brand-new website! Congratulations to everyone who has gone live in May! If you're thinking about a new school website design, then take a look at a selection of our latest l...
A new website to celebrate a new decade
Last month we celebrated our twentieth birthday. Back in 2001, websites were only just starting to be adopted by schools and were more like a brochure hosted online. Thankfully websites have changed a lot, and they are now our “shop window” and essentia...