Many Multi-Academy Trusts are currently aiming to expand, as well as increasing awareness of the benefits their trust can bring. With so many looking to expand and achieve economies of scale, there is a fair amount of competition, so it’s crucial to differentiate your trust from others and stand out effectively. There are many ways to achieve this, but one of the most significant is through the trust’s website.
The digital world has never been more vital in the education sector, as ease of access and an abundance of information online has made websites the number one destination for stakeholders seeking answers.
With this in mind, here are some essentials to ensure that your website stands out.
The design of your Multi-Academy Trust website
One of the most obvious ways to make your website stand out is to deliver a great visual experience. People quickly connect with and remember great looking sites, and your website can deliver a first impression that is hard to forget.
Luckily, you don’t need to have an extravagant creative vision to achieve this; it doesn’t need to be expensive or complicated. Most importantly, you don’t need to sacrifice functionality and accessibility. Good website design compliments elements such as brand messaging and usability. It incorporates and respects web standards and best practice, and it can often be simple and understated.
There are a lot of brilliant design styles that could suit your trust – high-quality professional photography, video backgrounds and animated illustrations can all be featured in different ways to deliver an instant impact that makes you stand out from the crowd.
Delivering a great user experience
As Apple’s iPhone rapidly 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 designs is produced in a way that is simple, intuitive and straightforward, and this is due to their ethos of delivering a fantastic user experience.
A great website is no different – user experience is key. In a busy world, 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 that makes it easy to find relevant information is one that people will appreciate and remember.
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 brand online
Your brand has a significant impact on just about every aspect of your organisation. It dictates how the vision, values and personality of the trust are communicated to your stakeholders, so getting it right can play a vital role in driving growth.
We have previously discussed what to consider when developing your Multi-Academy Trust’s brand and highlighted the importance of 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 message through engaging content.
If you can successfully present a website that does more than just share information, that represents your beliefs, goals and passion, you can connect with people on a more personal level 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 unless people are able 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 West Midlands, for example, you will want your website to appear prominently for search terms such as ‘Multi-Academy Trusts in Birmingham’ and ‘West Midlands Academy Trusts’. Furthermore, you will want to target a position that is higher than other local Academy Trusts.
Unfortunately, gaining positive rankings is not an overnight process. Good search engine optimisation is gradual, so patience and planning are required. SEO starts in the initial planning process of how a website is built and continues with mobile-friendly responsive design, good user experience and short loading times. Post-launch, the production of regular, high-quality regular content is also an important part of SEO.
Search engines are not the only way people find information and discover websites. If you want to maximise exposure for your trust, adopting social media and developing a consistent and relevant social content strategy can be highly advantageous.
To do this, you don’t need to focus on every social network out there, as setting up a genuine social presence is likely to be time-consuming. Instead, focus on a small number of social networks that you believe will work best for you. Facebook is excellent for a direct and personal connection with parents, whereas Twitter is great to engage in a broader conversation about education, while LinkedIn is a great tool to reach potential staff.
There are still many trusts who haven’t developed an effective social presence, so while it does demand a time investment and a fair amount of planning to get right, it can be a highly effective way to stand out from your competitors.
There are many ways to make your Multi-Academy Trust website stand out from the crowd, but the best approach is one that is unique to you and considers elements of all the points made above. Accessibility and user experience are enabled by great design, which in turn is driven by a clear understanding of your brand, while a solid brand identity makes creating an effective social media presence much easier.
For more ways to get the most out of your trust’s website, have a look at our hints and tips to keep your website fresh
To discuss how to build the best online presence for your Multi-Academy Trust, get in touch with our team.