If you find your school website intimidating or it’s just desperately hard to use, don’t panic, because you are not alone.
You are voicing one of the most common concerns we hear from schools looking for a new website. To most, tech speak sounds like a foreign language, just knowing where to click and why has become an impossible and thankless task. To make matters worse, industry professionals use technical language and abbreviations in a way that alienates normal people instead of helping and informing them.
So I thought it would be a good idea to use this blog to try and explain some of the most used industry terms and explain why they are (or aren't!) important for your school website. After all, technology is supposed to make your life easier!
A URL is just a web address (e.g https://www.pupilasset.com/school-websites) and it's a good example of this problem. If someone said "Please tell me the Uniform Resource Locator of your website" they'd most likely only get a blank stare in reply. We think it's much better to explain our websites and ideas in a way that people can understand.
Hyper Text Markup Language (HTML) is a computer language that is used to tell web browsers how to present your information. It controls things like fonts, colours, links and images. A modern content management system will ensure that you never have to worry about it. If you need to use HTML to update your website you should probably start shopping around!
Statutory information is what the government requires you to have on your school website. It is the one major concern for schools when thinking about their websites - do we have everything we are supposed to have on our website? What is considered statutory changes regularly, you can find their current guidance here. A good web development company will keep you informed of any changes so that your website is always DfE compliant. After all, your website is the first place that Ofsted look!
When you start talking to web design companies, you are bound to hear CMS early in the discussion. It stands for Content Management System and it just means the thing you use to manage your website! Usually it's within the website itself and you'll have to log in to access it. CMS vary a great deal in terms of what they allow you to do and how difficult they are to use. It's very important to ask about the CMS when you talk to companies about your website because it's what you'll have to use to update your website. It's important that it's easy for you to access and use. The CMS is often referred to as “the back end” with the website (that people visit) being “the front end”. Our school websites use Pupil Asset as a CMS because we've found that teachers already know how to use it with confidence.
Responsive web design just means that the website works on desktop, tablets and mobile devices. Simply, the page design “responds” to the width of the device you look at it on, ensuring that the website always looks good. You'll hear this used a lot because over 50% of all internet traffic is now from mobile devices. For that reason alone, responsive design should be treated as standard and not an optional extra. If your school website doesn't look good across devices then it is time to start thinking about an upgrade.
You'll hear a lot about Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) and how important it is for your website. Many companies will try to charge you extra money to pay for their SEO services, and we find that just as many people are willing to pay for them! SEO is a mix of strategies, tactics and techniques designed to increase the number of visitors to your website. Essentially, it means trying to get your website to the top of as many Google searches as possible so that more people will click through to your page. This is really important for new businesses trying to break into a market, but your school website will generate visitors simply because they will actually be looking for your school or for schools in your area. Unless you are in a competitive catchment area, schools shouldn't need to pay extra for fancy tricks to drive traffic and companies should understand that schools are not like other businesses.
However, it is important that your website is built in a way that Google (and other search engines) can understand. Using something called meta tags, which web developers build into the code of your website, it is possible to tell Google how to present your website. Like what your phone number is, or what pictures it shows when people search for your school, and even how it looks when your website is shared on social media. It's an opportunity to present your school in a positive way before potential parents even visit your school website and is something that should be part of the cost of your website.
For more information about Pupil Asset School Websites click here.