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Six Key Features for Educational Websites
With the educational sector finally starting to embrace digital what are some of the key features that should be implemented in institutions websites?
The educational sector is starting to finally embrace digital and rightly so, when you consider that the first point of contact for prospective students or parents when deciding where to go or send their children will most likely always be the school, college or university website.
In addition to this in 2014, 53% of all internet users were under the age of 34 a large proportion of these people are the target audience of these establishments. (source)
If their online presence suffers from poor design, confusing navigation and an unclear message it can immediately turn off the users and ultimately affect the number of applications which they receive.
The Zen Agency have vast experience in working within the educational sector and most recently launched the Ayrshire College website, as such we have compiled a list of key features which should be part of any website operating in the education sector.
An Online Prospectus
An online prospectus should now be considered an essential of any educational website. This provides a greener alternative to a traditional paper based prospectus in addition to a greater user experience as students will be able to access it any time or place they wish. With so many people now accessing websites on phones and tablets the importance of this cannot be overlooked.
There a few options in the way that this can be provided but a simple PDF which is clearly marked in the navigation would provide access to everyone.
Intuitive search functionality
It could be argued that this is vital to any large website however it is especially true for ones within the educational sector.
Many of the users who arrive on the website will be prospective students; it should only take a short amount of time for would be students to find exactly what they are looking for, whether this is a specific course that they are interested in or information about a faculty.
76% of consumers say the most important factor in website's design is the website makes it easy for them to find what they want." (source)
Working with Ayrshire College, Zen implemented a predictive search bar allowing information to be found in an easy and efficient way. To date it is one of the most used features within the website.
Integration with CRM
When it comes to acquiring new students it is key to track your website visitors and store that valuable data within your CRM.
The website will provide a number of ways for both students and parents to interact with the facility via the likes of forms. Integrating your CRM with your CMS will result in more accurate data capture whilst ensuring efficient use of staff member’s time.
Integration with social media
Whether it is prospective students, existing students or parents who are visiting your website you can almost be sure that they will be on social media in one form or another.
As such it is crucial that the website is fully integrated with social media. Information on social media should be readily available on the website in the form of feeds; this will ensure your users do not have to leave to visit your social profiles to receive this information.
Real time information is essential in the day to day running of educational establishments; integrated social feeds provide the perfect way to relay this information to your website users.
An easy to use content management system
Just as important as the user facing front end of the website is the back end of the system which will be used on a daily basis by website administrators and marketing departments. The CMS should be simple and easy to use, allowing full control over updates on content such as news, events, courses and blogs.
A CMS which allows restricted access can be extremely useful in such establishments allowing staff members to edit the information which is relevant only to their department.
Integration with both internal and external systems should also be considered when deciding which CMS to use.
Your educational website must portray your culture and your brand identity. This is your shop window and should be used as a tool to attract new students to enrol. There should be a brand consistency which runs throughout the website while also allowing the various personalities of the departments to come through.
Stock imagery is a huge turn off and it should be avoided at all costs, use real photos of the campus, students, facilities and staff members to give students a feel of what life at your college or university is really like. Remember a simple and elegant design will create a lasting first impression.
The Zen Agency has worked with some of the largest educational institutions in the country including Stirling University, University of St Andrews and most recently the award nominated Ayrshire College.
If you have an idea for a new web design project for an educational facility such as a school or college please get in touch and we will discuss how we can digitally transform your brand.
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