The importance of benchmarking your website to inform the design process

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More often than not your website is the first window prospective parents and pupils will peer through. In an increasingly busy world where we are all time poor the importance of a website which is simple and intuitive to use and which offers maximum ease of finding information cannot be underestimated. How many times have you given up in frustration at a website which has too many pages to wade through or a complex site map you have to really search through to find out what you want to know? We don’t have the patience and more importantly we shouldn’t have to when the knowledge of how to create a high performing website exists.

However how do you know if your website is performing to the best of its ability? Whether it really provides the best and most relevant information for your target audiences? How it compares to your peers or your most admired schools?

A simple framework of fundamental principles to guide you through your website will enable you to make informed decisions about its performance in relation to your desired outcomes, be that greater enrolment figures, enhanced brand reputation or perhaps even a restructure of the school such as bringing girls or boys into the Sixth Form.

Here I shall cover a few of the key points you should consider when critiquing your website:


We all live and breathe design whether we are conscious of it or not. What catches your eye on the way to the train station or bus stop? Why do you notice one advert and not another? Why does a particular film poster attract your attention more than another one? Even signage guiding you to your destination is either effective or not. The same applies to your website’s design. Before any designer starts to scope this out it is essential to understand your target outcomes, what you are hoping to achieve from the website, what it currently does well and less so and have parents/pupils provided any feedback to take into account? With all this in mind the overarching principle of clean, uncluttered design should be applied to enable messages to be communicated clearly and quickly.


What is the hierarchy of information? What does your audience need access to most quickly? Consider the customer journey and what they need to know first and last then review your existing site map. For example admissions/fees are very popular pages as is ease of access to the prospectus. Think of it as storytelling where the order of narrative is key to the story making sense.


This is rather a large area to cover in one blog, however a few examples are whether there is a visible search function, an easy to understand calendar, a gallery of images, the ability to apply for a place online rather than downloading and printing out multiple forms and an online prospectus instead of just a static pdf. This product allows viewers to have a seamless viewing experience rather than zooming in and out on a pdf.


Any website built these days has no real excuse not to be responsive which means it resizes automatically to whatever screen size you are viewing it on. This avoids zooming in and out and trying to navigate awkwardly, in particular on smartphones which vast numbers of us use on the go.


These are just a few of the principles in the critiquing framework so I invite you to find out more and sign up to our webinar here