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5 steps to planning your new school website

Published on 18/05/20

Planning a school website can seem like a complex task. Our guide answers your questions, helping you create a new school website that looks good, functions well and lifts the load from your financial and administrative teams.

Step 1: Plan your project

Begin by gathering your core project team together – this should include your business or administrative leads and your IT support - and map what you think you need. Think about this from both a legal standpoint; the statutory information you must publish, and from a functional perspective – what, in an ideal world, you would like your website to do? Statutory requirements will differ depending on the type of school you are.

Maintained schools can find more guidance here and a useful checklist here
Multi-academy trusts can read more guidance here and download a useful checklist here.

Step 2: Agree your website brief

To assist in a smooth process and to capture all the changes and requirements that you’d like to see in your new website, write a brief. You can brainstorm with you team to share ideas.

To assist with writing your brief, map the pages you require and the type of functionality you need, page-by-page. Good websites for schools can integrate with your social media channels, support the quick and easy creation of newsletters, manage your parents evening, wraparound care and facilities bookings, take payments, reduce incoming telephone calls, share information with parents and carers via mobile apps and much more. 

Think about the design of your website. It should be responsive, accommodate simple navigation and allow parents to find what they want within three clicks. In most cases, if you show your school website design company a look that you like, their digital designers will accommodate your visual style or show you sample designs. 

Consider accessibility issues and the range of people with different needs who may access your site. This video provides a useful guide.

Step 3: Choose your website partner wisely

There are any number of providers who can help with your project but choosing one with the right skills and experience is vital. You may have recommendations for local companies, but also consider using a specific school website provider that understands the unique environment you operate within.

All good agencies will be happy to talk to you about your needs and it’s worth taking the time to do so. During the project, you will be working closely with them and you need to establish trust. You don’t want them to bamboozle you with jargon.

Ask for examples of previous websites they’ve designed and built and try and establish:

  • If the website is built using their own software or a third party?
  • Who will host the website for you and what are the security and cost implications?
  • How easy is it for you to update the website yourself moving forwards? 
  • How much of it can you update once it’s completed?

Step 4: Check your contract thoroughly

Once you’ve chosen your provider you’ll be expected to sign a user agreement, terms of business or contract of works.

Make sure you check for ongoing maintenance and hosting fees. If the content management system (CMS) is owned by the agency rather than a third party, how is this updated and how do updates affect you and your site?

Step 5: Ensure a robust delivery plan

Your chosen provider should work with you to create a plan that includes key milestones. Agree project responsibilities. Check in regularly with your account team to ensure the project is kept on time and budget. The plan should also factor in a testing phase, as well as a training and handover phase.

Terms and explanations guide:

You may come across some of this terminology during your enquiries:

CMS ­­

CMS stands for Content Management System, used to create and manage your websites’ digital content.

WYSIWYG

WYSIWYG  stands for What You See Is What You Get and is the representation of text on-screen in a form exactly corresponding to its appearance on a printout.

Payment Gateway

An online solution that allows you to take payments quickly, easily and securely.

SSL

Stands for "Secure Sockets Layer”; a secure protocol developed for sending information securely over the Internet.

HTML

Hypertext Markup Language, a standardised system for tagging text files to achieve font, colour, graphic, and hyperlink effects on website pages.

Content

The text, images or video that makes up your website.

CSS

Cascading Style Sheets are used to format the layout of web pages. They can be used to define text styles, table sizes, and other elements of web pages.

Back-End

The technical programming that sits behind your website to make it function correctly. This can include the server, application and database.

Front-End

The user interface and the part of the website visible to users.

Server

The primary function of a web server is to store, process and deliver web pages to visitors