September sounds like the perfect time to launch a new school website; new academic year, fresh start, new students. Everything is shiny and new, ready for the new academic year. However, it may surprise you that these are also reasons why September is possibly not the best month to launch.
We’ve shared our key times in the year we think, from experience, are perfect for launching your new school website(s).
Why is September not a good time to launch a new school website?
Limited resources over the summer holidays
A new school website often requires a complete overhaul of content – after all, you don’t want to put old and outdated information onto a beautiful clean new site.
The content population phase of a website project usually happens in the last few weeks of the project. If you are looking for a September launch, you will need to be populating, checking and organising this throughout August, a time when most teachers and school staff are having a much needed and well-deserved rest. Even if you have full-year contract staff working on the project, they will still be working on this around all the other things they need to do to get your buildings, grounds and paperwork up to date for the new academic year.
There is a lot to do before launching a new website and depending on availability, it not only puts a lot of pressure on your team but also means the key decision makers may not be around to sign off on the website prior to launch.
Inconsistency of brand and familiarity
A new academic year brings new faces to your organisation in the form of students, staff and parents. These individuals will have been on your website multiple times over the past few months, whether it has been to check admission deadlines and term dates, discover key information about your school or familiarise themselves with the staff profiles and processes.
To change the website design, layout and navigation a few days before the year starts risks increasing the number of queries to your admin team, as well as confusing your audience, who will be relying on the information they need to find to be in the same place. This also goes for returning students, parents and carers who may wish to refamiliiarise themselves with the times of the school day, return dates, menu options and so on after the summer break.
The last thing you want to do is add more confusion to a period where consistency and reassurance are a priority and having clarity of information is critical.
Competing (and higher) priorities
The start of a new year is a busy time for your school and there are many things to think about including:
- Inductions and orientation of new starters
- Settling in new students
- Different classrooms and teachers for returning students
- New staff inductions and navigating their first few days
- Advising and speaking to new parents
- Handling situations which have occurred with parents & carers over the summer
- Teething issues with new timetables and new lesson plans
- Directing traffic if there has been building work over the summer
- Learning new systems if there has been a change to MIS, phones, emails etc
- Changes to the way of working if the school has joined a trust
Adding the launch of a new school website into the mix can often result in one too many changes, which also means that the excitement and fanfare of the launch can be lost amongst the practicalities.
The launch of your project is something to be celebrated and shared with your community, and it should make a splash - after all, you only get one chance to make a great first impression.
By launching your website amongst the challenges and complexities of the start of the year, you risk not only missing out on the celebrations and impact, but also risk diluting the message of why you have made these changes in the first place.
The best time to launch a new school website
The best time to launch your new website is ultimately up to you and your team, once your website has been built, but these suggestions may give you some food for thought.
October Half Term
The rush of the new school year is out of the way, you will have already had some of your open days and your new staff, students and parents are settled into their routines. You could choose to launch your new website over the half-term break or perhaps a few days afterwards once the new term has started. It also allows for you to fine-tune any content that needs updating during September, and check that all new policies have been added.
If you time it right, you could choose to launch your new website in early December, giving your team plenty of chance to shout about it by directing parents to content on your new site about the nativity, Christmas concerts or Christmas fayres. You can also send a reminder about it in the end of year newsletter and your social media posts can reflect the celebratory mood that comes naturally in the festive month.
If you want to wait until after the festive season, launching during January is a great idea. School is back in session and with moods a little deflated after the holidays, it’s always good to have something to shout about. The launch can also tie nicely into new beginnings and the new year – giving you all of the benefits of this without the pressures associated with the new academic year.
End of March / Beginning of April
Launching now, before the start of exam season, gives parents and students time to navigate the new structure and design before they need to check for exam timetables or updates. It’s also another time for new beginnings – so you can emphasise the importance of a spring clean, and with the weather turning nicer, it's an ideal opportunity to capture some new photographs of your students for the homepage.
Whenever works best for your school
We know this may be an unusual answer, but you know your school better than anyone and there may be a date during the year which is very important to you. It could be the date you were founded or an anniversary of a new building being opened. It could coincide with an internal celebration, or you could just decide to make a random day extraordinary. You’ve worked hard on your new website, so make sure whenever you choose to ‘go live’, you give it the credit and attention it deserves.
How do you announce the launch of a new school website?
You’ve spent lots of time on your new website and you need to make sure your community are aware of the changes. You may choose to share your success and announce your new website launch by:
- Generating some interest on social media – including build up posts, countdowns and sneak-previews leading up to launch day
- Unveiling the new website, a day or so after launch (to make sure its propagated fully!), in a whole school assembly to your staff and students
- Sending out messages to parents inviting them to bookmark the new address and/or visit the new website
- Tying in the launch of the website with an event or open day, so you can share more information and/or new prospectus designs at the same time
- If you have gone for a new brand or logo, invite parents and carers into the school for tea and cake to explain the new route you have gone down.
Whatever you choose to do, make sure you launch at a time that works best for your school, doesn’t put pressure on your staff and allows you to reap the full rewards of all your hard work and effort.
Are you looking to start a new school or trust website project?
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