In this article, we’ll discuss how visual design has such an impact on decision-making and website navigation, and we’ll also discuss content, what we need to include, and what we need to look out for. If you haven’t yet, I encourage you to read the first three parts of this series: step 1, step 2 and step 3.
Visual design can make or break your goals
It’s easy to gloss over how your school website will look, however the facts backed up by research show that globally website visitors judge websites by their impressions within seconds of it loading.
We may have a great functioning website, and some clearly defined audiences and goals, however unless we tie that up with visual polish, the end results will be nowhere near as effective as they could be.
Designing for goals
Website design isn’t just about the choice of colour palette and the size of your logo. A well-planned visual design takes into account your audience and the goals you have set out for them.
For example, if your newsletter and flyers are designed with a one colour palette, it would be a jarring experience if the online experience was vastly different. Whilst we have more flexibility visually online, the base choices of layout and design should accurately reflect other communication mediums.
Using the goals we defined at the start, you can work with a designer to ensure these goals are clearly defined from the homepage of your website. For example, if you wish to increase enquiries about enrolments, it makes sense that homepage screen real estate is given to navigation or visuals to encourage people to click to enquire.
Consider the goals you wrote down earlier. How does a proposed design work to meet these goals? Perhaps you have three main goals – can the designer allow for these goals in your homepage design? Can we keep the amount of clicks between the homepage and completing that goal to an absolute minimum?
Watch out for roadblocks
Your existing website statistics are usually very interesting for this; what goals are you expecting users to achieve (such as ‘Get this term’s planner’) and look in your statistical reports to see if this is achieved. If your statistics show that the typical user flow is to go from homepage to a document’s page, and most never reach the actual ‘term planner’ page, then there’s a good chance that there is
a roadblock along the way.
Common roadblocks are items such as hard to find links buried in content, registration forms that are too lengthy in the fields they ask for, and confusing text. Use simple phrases, such as ‘Download our prospectus here’ and keep any forms to an absolute minimum length.
Whilst ensuring your website embraces your offline marketing materials, we need to be mindful that a website is vastly different to printed matter. We have no control over what devices people are using to gain access to your website, and nor do we have the same control over typefaces and visuals as we’d all like.
Different designs for different devices
A great website will have a number of interfaces. The full rich interface that is shown to desktop computer users, who typically have more time, more bandwidth and are searching for a fuller experience. Mobile users are a different audience, and have different requirements. They are likely to be time poor, have less bandwidth and are looking to undertake an action and leave.
Many websites built in the last few years are touted as ‘mobile friendly’. That’s much better than a website that has no scaling at all, however an ideal website is ‘mobile optimised’, meaning the type scales or images scale are removed and likely different content appears.
View the Bam Creative website on a desktop computer, and then on a tablet, such as an iPad and then on a mobile device. Do you see the differences? Design alters according to your screen size, and content moves about too – our mobile users are likely after our contact details, not a full screen portfolio experience.
Professional photography makes all the difference
A blurry photo of a swimming carnival taken on a parent’s phone is likely to have less impact than a professional photographer’s take on the same subject.
Ask around your school community – it is very likely there is a professional or very good amateur photographer that could donate their time to take some really good photographs. The impact a great photograph with good composition and lighting has, is incredible.
Be careful to also get parental permission for any children in any photograph. It is a legal requirement in Australia to have a model release form for any images used with people in them for commercial purposes.
In this article, we have gone through and determined how we wish the website to look. Now that we’ve determined the design, and we have the functionality and previous materials behind us, it is time to move to determining how we’ll measure the website traffic this overhauled school website will attract.
Miles Burke is an Author, Public Speaker and Managing Director of Perth-based digital agency, Bam Creative. His team has created websites and digital marketing campaigns for dozens of schools, and their work has been featured in the media, won plenty of awards and most of all, helped schools demystify the digital marketing space to attract enrolments and better communicate to their communities.