We recently completed an exciting project for Anns Grove, a vibrant and friendly school in Sheffield's borough of Heeley. Anns Grove School (originally Anns Road School) has been at the heart of the local community since it opened in 1897 and in March 2006 the school moved to a stunning new building from where the school's reputation has continued to grow.
EdHQ worked with team at Anns Grove to update their branding, design and install new signage throughout the school. We also created a portfolio of custom photography capturing the daily life, creativity and energy within the school.
On top of that we built a welcoming, mobile-friendly website that showcases the best of the school - the pupils, the great learning environment and the busy, bustling school community.
Our easy to use content management system gives the school complete control of their site and its content. Strong emphasis was placed on highlighting information that's important to parents and carers, events and activities and letting the school's unique personality and strong values shine through.
Richard Hall is our Primary School specialist and founder of EdHQ. Over his many years of experience he has worked with schools across the region to show the best of their school, maximise their appeal and improve communication. If you're thinking of improving your brand, website or signage for your Primary School, feel free to get in touch - firstname.lastname@example.org... (Read More)
Make sure you like the company’s website. If they can’t do it for themselves how are they going to help you? Also they should have a decent portfolio of at least ten examples of websites they’ve done to show you and should be able to easily send you additional examples of sites that are similar to your requirements. If you are having a hard time finding something you like, it’s time to move on.
Do they have an organised discovery process for designing and developing your new website? Did they ask you a lot of questions and do they demonstrate a knowledge and experience of the education sector with questions like ‘What are your main challenges’; ‘Who are your local ‘competitors’?’, ‘Do you need help in articulating your message?’ And the most important question; ‘What are your goals?’.
Expect some on the spot advice. They should be experienced enough to understand your position and open enough to help – after all it’s a service based industry and any sense of holding back means you’ll get this later down the line.
Is the focus just on the look and feel of the site or will success be measured by other factors such as increased traffic and structuring the site correctly for your school. A pretty website is fine, but it needs to be bespoke for your school, not a cheap off the shelf template. If you are quickly given a low price point (under £2000) it’s likely it’s an off the shelf template, will not be bespoke for your school and therefore the site will not be future-proofed. You’ll have to do it again in a few years, starting the process from scratch.
You really need an agency that measures success and a relationship with you equally. That way they are demonstrably in it for the long run and can help you evolve the site cost effectively to increase success, rather than you redesigning it every couple of years.
You should be hiring a firm that is considered to be an expert in professional website design and development as well as inbound digital marketing and search engine optimisation. And in this day and age, include copywriting and content curation in there as well. You may be asked about content strategy – don’t worry if you don’t have one – it’s a good thing they ask and the right agency will be able to help you with this.
This doesn’t mean however that you necessarily need to spend thousands on creating content. A good agency will try to understand what you as an organisation can create, and use this knowledge to produce a content and website strategy that truly fits your needs AND budget.
Make sure that you’re not buying a proprietary Content Management System (CMS), or indeed any platform that has been developed in-house as this will tether you to them for life. You need a commonly used Content Management System which provides a professional foundation for your school website. This is then adapted to the needs of your primary school, secondary schoolor academy/trust website. Systems such as Wordpress, MODx or Adobe Catalyst provide this, and it’s one of the reasons why some of the largest brands and global companies use such systems.
On the other side you don’t want a CMS created by a few coders within an agency, as you’re tied to their development schedule and heaven forbid if the company fails things will get difficult. Choosing a CMS that is open source or like Adobe Catalyst and working with an agency like us is the way forward. We follow best practice, so anyone can take over the site’s development at any time which provides you peace of mind and protects you and future-proofs your investment. Such systems are backed by hundreds of thousands of other users and commercial organisations who are continually developing the system to ensure that your site will grow with you moving forward. And if you wish to part ways with the agency, you can easily move on. There is no reason why you cannot ask an agency about such a situation, and they should have a good and immediate answer.
You shouldn’t even have to ask if your site is going to be responsive or mobile friendly anymore– it should be part of the solution as soon as you start talking to them. There is no future where visits to sites from mobile devices won’t increase – so you will need a site that responsively or fluidly adapts to smartphones, tablets, phablets or even a large screen television. If that isn’t included right at the start then you should find another agency.
Does the firm you want to engage actually provide some structure and project management skills? At least they should be talking about providing you with a proper timeline and be demonstrably geared towards managing your expectations and providing measurable results. Find out how many team members you will be dealing with, if there’s one main contact and what happens when they go on holiday? Also, gauge if they will be proactive in contacting you and reminding you about things. If it’s all a bit woolly, move on.
Decide what your ideal firm/partner would look like in terms of size. Do you want a large corporate type of company with hundreds of employees and a half dozen locations or are you okay with freelancers who will have other priorities - daytime jobs and other ‘bookings’ for example. Or would you prefer a mid-size firm that is big enough to handle anything you will need but small enough to actually care about you and your business?
Everyone will have three references. We say ask for more. References are great, but look for the softer element in them that covers customer service. If their references are a good mix of ‘results’ and ‘your team are angels’ you’ll have both bases covered nicely and will ensure you’ll be working with an agency that truly values both results and relationships. Such testimonials are a good way of working out if the clients are happy with the amount they are spending as well as the results.
Your website will likely be one of your main communication tools - and it will often need to do all of your talking for you.For example, well before you get the chance to speak with the parent or guardian of your next intake, they will be visiting your site. You need to trust that the partner you choose will help you to communicate the right message at the right time and deliver a site that fits who you are as a brand and who you want to be in the future.
There are ongoing costs with any website, but they don’t have to be huge costs. The agency should be interested in future relationships and actually passionate about developing improved results with you over time so they can continually improve your website and your digital strategy. Whether it’s just monitoring and some simple guidance on placing content up, or a full maintenance contract, make sure they have a structure in place for this, and are keen on staying around to share in your success. The alternative means they’re in it for a fast pound!
Are they going to just do what they said they were going to do or are they going to under promise and over deliver? Given the choice, you want the latter of the two. A good way to get a sense of this is to ask them for their terms. This is the black and white of the situation and if there’s anything in there too grabby over copyright (i.e. the source files to the website are not legally yours) then you should move on. Also, agencies that lead on customer service and expelling the dark art of website design should be savvy enough to place a personal note in the email about the terms and conditions or like us, have an Open Policy.... (Read More)
I visit a lot of schools and sadly I have to say that, as I wait in the reception areas, my eyes are often drawn to a TV on the wall showing endless loops of pictures of the pupils having fun. The quality of the pictures is variable but one thing is consistent – there are too many pictures and usually nothing else. What a missed opportunity.
One forward looking school, Firs Hill Primary, asked us if we could do something about the digital information screens in their reception and dining areas. The brief was for the content to be interesting, to showcase the school’s work, to provide a window on the wider world for the children and, most importantly, to be easy to update.
That’s exactly what we did. We created a whole information system and designed a number of pages, some static and some that can be edited by the school, but each consistent with the school's style. We even designed a way that each class teacher can display their class’ work. Finally we added a TV tickertape of BBC Newsround, a clock and the weather forecast. Digital signage for schools has grown up.
To meet their most important criteria – easy to update – we linked the screens to the school’s website so the information on the digital screens is updated via the website content management system (CMS). Every teacher has a log-in so they can add their posts from their own computer.
And yes, there are photo montages on the screens, but they’re interspersed with today’s menu, the author of the week, the adult education courses running that day, Year 3’s tadpoles project, what school trips are happening.....