With so many Multi-Academy Trusts looking to expand, as well as increasing awareness of the advantages and benefits their Trust can bring, including economies of scale, it’s crucial to differentiate your Trust from others and stand out effectively. There are many ways to achieve this and one of the most significant is through your Trust’s website. In recent weeks the digital world has never been more vital in the education sector, as ease of access, vital communications and an abundance of information online made school websites the essential destination for parents and other key stakeholders seeking answers. With this in mind, here are some essentials on how to design a Multi-Academy Trust website.
Designing a “remarkable” website
Probably the most obvious way to make your website remarkable is to create a great visual experience. People quickly connect, engage with and remember great looking sites, and your website should deliver a first impression that is hard to forget.
Whilst you do need creative vision to achieve this; it doesn’t have to be expensive or complicated. Most importantly, you don’t need to sacrifice functionality and accessibility. The best website design compliments elements such as brand messaging and usability. It incorporates and respects web standards and best practice, and it is often simple and understated that works most effectively.
There are a lot of brilliant design styles that could suit your Trust – professional photography, video backgrounds and animated illustrations can all feature in different ways to deliver a powerful message and create an instant impact to make you stand out from the crowd.
Delivering a great user experience
As Apple’s iPhone grew to become the world’s most popular and well-known smartphone, there was one consistent piece of feedback users gave – it just works. Everything Apple design is produced to be simple, intuitive and straightforward, and this is due to their ethos of delivering a remarkable user experience.
A great website is no different – user experience is key. In our busy lives, ease of use is essential, and people will remember online experiences that save them time and that prove to be simple and stress-free. A website that is well laid out and makes it easy to find relevant information is one that people will love and appreciate, and come back to time and again.
Sometimes elements of user experience design can be common-sense, but you will be surprised how often small details are overlooked. It can be incredibly frustrating for a user to search around a website clicking through numerous links because they are unable to find the one piece of information they need.
Representing your Trust’s brand online
Your brand has a significant impact on almost every aspect of your organisation. It dictates how the Trust’s vision, values and personality are communicated to your stakeholders, so getting it right is vital in driving growth.
We will be discussing what to consider when Unearthing The Remarkable in your Multi-Academy Trust’s brand in a future article but will highlight the importance in understanding your Trust’s values and what it stands for. Incorporating the relevant colours, fonts, logos and imagery is essential, but for your website to stand out, you must also capture your core messaging through engaging content.
If you can present a website that does more than just share information, one that represents your beliefs, goals and passion, you can connect with people on a deeper and more personal level and one that will be remembered.
Planning for search engine optimisation
You can have a beautifully designed website that is a joy to use, and that perfectly reflects your brand, but that is all meaningless if people are unable to find it. Search engine optimisation (SEO) can help by increasing the likelihood that your website will appear in the most relevant search engine results.
If you are a Trust operating within the North East, for example, you will want your website to appear prominently for search terms such as ‘Multi-Academy Trusts in Newcastle’ or ‘North East Academy Trusts’. Furthermore, your aim is a position that is higher than other local Academy Trusts.
However, gaining positive rankings is not an overnight process. Good search engine optimisation is gradual, so strategy and planning are required. SEO starts in the initial process of how a website is built, and continues with mobile-friendly responsive design, good user experience and quick page loading times. After your website launch, production of regular, high-quality regular content is also an important part of SEO.
Adopting good social media practices
Search engines are not the only way people will find information and discover your website. If you want to maximise exposure for your Trust, adopting social media with a clear social content strategy and plan can be highly advantageous.
You don’t need to focus on every social network available, as setting up a genuine social presence is likely to be time-consuming. Instead, focus on a small number of social networks that will work best for you. Facebook and Instagram are excellent for a direct and personal connection with parents, with Twitter being great to engage in broader conversations about education, and LinkedIn is great for reaching potential staff.
Many Trusts still haven’t developed an effective social presence, so while it does demand time investment and a reasonable amount of planning to get right, it can be a very effective way to stand out from your competitors.
There are many ways to make your website stand out, but the best approach is one that tells your story, unique to you and considers elements of all the points made above.
Great design enables accessibility and improves user experience, which in turn is determined by a clear understanding of your own brand. A strong brand identity makes creating your key messaging and an effective social media presence much more straightforward.
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Blue Apple Education are School Communication and Design Experts. We believe each and every school is remarkable and unique in some way. We see it as our duty to unearth what this is and to convey the essence of this both beautifully and convincingly.