Websites For The Education Sector – An Insider’s View

18 May 2018

The education sector can be a tricky market when providing a website solution that not only meets the needs of the users but also meets the needs of the provider. With over 6 years’ experience in the education and public sector, I understand all too well the pitfalls around the implementation of a website that ticks all the boxes.

If you work for an education or training provider, you will no doubt have various different industry standard systems that run your learner records, data and marketing information. In some cases, these systems will be integrated as one system, which is magical. However, on the flip side, some of these systems might work completely separate, run by different departments, with data being processed at different stages of the learner journey.

Website Design For The Education Sector

What does this have to do with a new website design? Well, if you are working to a tight budget, it means a lot. Some of you might not know that prior to joining up with the team at Hush Digital and becoming a HushBot, I was a former client in my old post as Marketing Officer for Redcar & Cleveland College. When I was tasked with the project management for a new website, we had a wish list of things that we wanted from the website, one of which was integration with all college systems. Not only would this make things more efficient for the Admissions Administrators, it meant that that data had one point of input – there wasn’t any duplication or data inputted in error.  An easy feat? Well in some cases, yes, but like the majority of the information systems that are used in the education sector, they are cumbersome and hard to integrate at data entry and more importantly, at data export. Combined with the increased costs, mainly from the system provider(s), this integration just wasn’t possible. The solution? The amazing team at Hush were able to build bespoke data capture for the college, which allowed the administrators to download any new applications, contact forms and enquiries as CSV files, which allowed for quick and easy upload. Not the full integration that we envisaged, but, the time from typing up every application by hand to upload had decreased massively, meaning greater efficiency for the Admissions Administrators.

Let’s talk about how the website is managed. Traditionally, prior to the new platform being launched, one person had access to upload to a bespoke CMS platform that was “built” specifically for the education sector. Over time this system fell into disrepair and was the main issue with the site. Firstly, having one person with access to upload new information is impractical. What if that person is off for 2 weeks? Should you need to get something uploaded quick, you are stuck. Secondly, a bespoke built system isn’t the best solution for any provider going forward. You need to build your site on a platform that is totally portable, updates with the rest of the industry and is totally safe from cyber attacks.  The solution? You might not think it, but with a few tweaks and bespoke built add-ons, the HushBots were able to build the new website on WordPress. The new site still had the existing features that we wanted from the old site, such as specific course sections, the ability to upload course information for each course and have an integrated application form, but it also yielded new features for adding additional users, who could look after and administer their own sections. Meaning that once again further efficiencies were made for the college as a whole.

I have already touched on the cost of a new site being restrictive when you have to try to implement bespoke integration add-ons, but let’s just talk about the cost of the site as a whole. When I sat down to write the specification for this site, an education consultant told me that this new site would cost north of £35k! Now if you are working in a college, training provider or school, you will understand that the type of money quoted is astronomical! There was zero chance of getting the project underway for that type of budget. The solution? Rosie and Jonny from Hush sat down, listened to what we needed to achieve and gave me realistic costs against different parts of the website that I could add or subtract from the specification. The site we ended up with, was pretty much close, if not exactly what we were previously priced at, meaning the college was able to implement a new solution that didn’t break the bank!

It is no secret that the target market for colleges especially, are teenagers, looking to leave school and enter the world of further education. How do you market to this target market?  Trust me, it’s not by placing expensive adverts in the local paper. You have to get your message out on a platform that they carry around with them 24/7; their smartphones. The college had some success of using Facebook Ads and Google Remarketing, but where did these ads send our target market? To a website that wasn’t mobile optimised, meaning from a mobile device, the bounce rate was pretty high. The solution? Hush provided an amazing design for desktop browsing that was fully mobile responsive, meaning that any potential students that engaged with our adverts, ended on a website that fully responded to their device.

In short, if you are a Marketing Manager or are responsible for your provider’s website and are worried that you can’t get a platform to meet your needs, don’t worry, the team at Hush can provide a stylish solution that has all the bells and whistles you need to integrate with your management systems.

Contact the team at Hush today to discuss your next website design.

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