5 Tips To Get The Most Out Of Your Website

Websites are like magazines for your brand. They provide users with information, they direct inquiries that users may have and that is the first place they go, to know more about your brand. It’s safe to say that it’s important to make sure you make the best use of it! One of our favourite blogs, Finalsite, taught us to pay attention to 5 key things that will let us make the most out of our website. 

1. Make Sure Your Homepage Answers the Five Most Important Questions!

Your website should have the right mix of style and functionality. In short, your websites look great while providing an easy-to-use and navigate experience.

However, looking great isn’t the only thing your website should do. Visitors likely first interact with your website through a search engine result, around 83 percent of visitors to be exact. This means most people that access your school’s homepage are coming in completely blind. Use your homepage to not only create the best first impression, but also answer the five most important questions a new visitor is likely to ask.

  1. What does your school offer?
  2. What makes your school unique?
  3. How can I learn more about your school?
  4. Where can I find your school?
  5. Will I (or my child) fit in at your school?

You can answer these broad questions in a variety of ways. Feel free to get as creative as you’d like while sticking close to your theme of choice. Let’s take a look at how Heritage Christian School in Indianapolis, Indiana uses the Avon theme, which features a standard navigation and utility navigation, to answer these five questions.

Heritage Christian School homepage screenshot

Heritage Christian School uses navigation best practices to simplify the user experience for current and prospective families. Plus, the “Request Info” call-to-action (CTA) button in the top-right is great for acquiring new prospect leads — a simple and effective way to answer questions #1 and #3.

The school then directly answers questions #2 and #4 through the elements at the bottom of the page that links to pages explaining how Heritage’s teachers provide a unique experience, and how the school maintains a 98 percent graduation rate, highest in Indiana.

Heritage Christian School homepage screenshot of "What Makes Heritage Special?"

Lastly, the school answers question #5 with the theme’s footer which contains all the contact information a prospective parent or student needs to know, including a “Contact Us” link to the “Location & Contact Info” page, and social media icon links on the right side of the footer.

Heritage Christian School homepage footer

Heritage Christian School also makes excellent use of the Avon theme to keep its community and new visitors up-to-date with a Calendar element towards the bottom of the page, complete with a custom image background for added flair.

Heritage Christian School homepage calendar element

Similar to Heritage Christian School, Gwynedd-Mercy Academy Elementary in Spring House, Pennsylvania created a homepage with a different theme, East Hartford.

Gwynedd-Mercy Academy Elementary homepage screenshot

Their website also incorporates the same navigation best practices to efficiently guide visitors through the website. Questions #1 and #2 are answered in a way that visually demonstrates how the School uniquely shapes tomorrow’s leaders through an innovative, experiential, and 21st century education,  with links to each.

Gwynedd-Mercy Academy Elementary "Shaping Tomorrow's Leaders" banner

Of course, the website also includes an “About Us” link at the top of the page for those interested in learning more, and the theme standard footer provides contact information with a “Contact Us” link and social media icon links, just like Heritage Christian School.

Gwynedd-Mercy Academy Elementary homepage footer

Both Heritage Christian School and Gwynedd-Mercy answered all five questions in a relatively short homepage by keeping close to their respective themes. Keeping things simple ensures that both schools make finding where you want to go is always effortless.

2. Make the Most of Homepage Content Elements!

When it comes to your website, making the best first impression is incredibly important. Visitors will decide within 10 short seconds if they want to stay on your page, or leave to visit another school’s website. That’s a short window to capture someone’s interest, so the very first things a new visitor sees once your homepage loads should immediately encourage them to stay and read on.

Schools should also pick a theme that matches the content they have readily available. Finalsite has more than 30 theme designs, each offering something different other than the overall aesthetic to match the different needs of each school. For example, let’s take a look at Archbishop Murphy High School in Everett, Washington and their stylistic interpretation of the Westbrook Theme.

Archbishop Murphy High School homepage screenshot

The Westbrook Theme was a perfect match for their school because they had a lot of impressive statistics they wanted to showcase. The staggered statistic grid can be found on other school websites that use the Westbrook Theme (such as Westside School in Seattle, Washington). This stylistic statistics showcase allows visitors to quickly absorb a lot of impressive information.

Archbishop Murphy High School homepage statistics block

Any prospective student or parent that visits their homepage and scrolls down will see their impressive 100 percent graduation rate, small student to teacher ratio, and small class size average statistics. It’s a quick way to present valuable information to those thinking about applying to your school. And on the website backend, this infographic can be easily edited and updated anytime.

Lastly, if the visitor has scrolled this far down the page, they can scroll just a little bit lower to see a highlight of select AMHS staff and students in a visual format with large pictures that truly engage.

Archbishop Murphy High School student and staff section

Clicking through opens a pop-up window with a short informational blurb about the individual (this one being Jordan James, Director of Wellness and Sports Performance as AMHS). You can then read a short Q&A-style interview with the individual. It’s an endearing and personal way for visitors new and old to connect with the school without ever having the need to actually visit or attend.

Archbishop Murphy High School staff informational pop-up

Archbishop Murphy High School did an incredible job of using the Westbrook Theme to pack in a ton of information into a relatively short homepage that presents visitors with everything they need to know in a visually-appealing fashion, all within that important 10-second window.

3. But Don’t Forget About Those Interior Pages!

While the homepage is the single most important page on your website, it’s important to remember that most visitors use the homepage as a launching point to access the other pages spread throughout your website, or even other websites for our school districts.

Creating an awesome homepage means next to nothing if your interior pages are bland and unappealing. It’s like picking up a book with an exciting cover, only to discover the book is dry and boring once you’ve read the first few pages. It’s important to keep visitors engaged throughout their entire journey across your pages.

National Child Research Center, a historic and leading preschool in Washington, D.C., does an excellent job of keeping visitors engaged as they navigate the website through consistent use of amazing photos, interactive elements (such as fillable forms), and unique infographics and charts.

National Child Research Center "Our Story" page screenshot

For example, their “Our Story” page incorporates a “90 Years” graphic to celebrate nine decades of service. Just below the graphic rests a historical photograph serving as a visual time capsule, with a Media Element to the left that continuously cycles through an archive of historical photos. It’s an effective way to engage visitors while reminding them that 90-years worth of parents have trusted their children’s education to their preschool. It’s subtle, yet effective.

National Child Research Center "Our Story" timeline

The bottom of the page also incorporates an interactive timeline through an Embed Element so visitors can further extended their stay on the page by viewing an exhaustive look back at the history of the preschool.

4. Enhance Themes With Liberal Use of Photos!

It goes without saying that liberal use of awesome photography goes a long way in engaging every website visitor, regardless of your school’s photography budget.

It all goes back to that famous expression, “A picture is worth a thousand words.” In fact, we find photos to be so integral to creating a best-in-class website that we wrote a blog talking all about website photography earlier this year.

Heritage Christian School enhances their Avon theme with great use of stunning images on their homepage that automatically cycle through the Media element at the top of the page.

Heritage Christian School homepage photo of student reading with younger boy

This particular photo leverages empty space well and connects users to an engaging story about a specific student. Going the extra distance to elevate your website with great photos is a simple way to improve the overall quality of a website. Think of it like hiring a professional photographer for your family photos. You can always take the photos yourself, but a professional will produce a better result nearly every time.

But don’t waste all your photography on the homepage, and don’t forget those interior pages. Spreading out your awesome photos throughout all of your interior pages keeps visitors engaged during their entire visit.

Landmark Preschool makes excellent use of photos to keep visitors engaged as they check out pages other than the homepage. In particular, their “About Us” page features an adorable photo of one of their preschoolers.

Landmark Preschool "About Us" page photo of preschooler having his foot painted

And their “Vacation Clubs” page features an equally compelling photo.

Landmark Preschool "Vacation Clubs" page photo of two preschoolers painting

Not only do these photos look great, but they also break up the monotony of viewing page after page of text. While some information can only be conveyed through paragraphs, bear in mind that people are able to process information conveyed through images far more efficiently and quickly, with less work, than text alone.

5. And Keep Image and Thumbnail Sizes Consistent Throughout Your Site!

Our final tip: keeping image and thumbnail sizes consistent throughout your website and posts creates a streamlined look that’s consistent across all devices: desktop, tablet, and mobile. Considering half of a school’s website traffic comes from mobile devices, it’s important to go with a “responsive design” when choosing the look and layout for you website.

Fortunately, all of our theme designs are built from the ground up with mobile devices in mind, including a handy preview option in Composer that shows what each page will look like when viewed on different devices.

Let’s take a look at Westside School, which uses the East Lyme Theme, to show how consistent image and thumbnail sizes across all pages can provide a better, more visually-appealing browsing experience. Think of it like reading a book: you’d expect a consistent font size and style from start to end, right? Suddenly switching size or style, or randomly switching between several or more at a time, creates a confusing, perhaps even frustrating, user experience.

At the time of writing this blog, Westside’s blog has various different sizes for the thumbnails scattered through the page. Most are the same size, but that makes the inconsistencies in size all the more noticeable. See how off this row looks when all three thumbnail images are a different size?

Westside School blog photos with inconsistent sizes

Let’s see if we can fix that.

To do so, let’s head into Composer, click on the grey gear icon at the top of the Posts element, and head down to the “Formatting” section. From there, we’ll select the “Shape” option under the “Page Thumbnail” section. This is where you can adjust the size and shape of each thumbnail on the page.

Westside School "Edit Post Element Settings" menu for editing blog photo sizes

The “Size” choice of “Large” is fine as is, but let’s change that “Shape” option from “Original” to “Rectangle”. Now, let’s take a look at the changes.

Westside School blog photos with consistent photo sizes

Much better, right? Now, all three thumbnails in the row are the exact same height and length, creating a visual consistency that makes it easier to look not only across this one row, but up and down the other rows on the page, too. Maintaining a consistent image and thumbnail size on every page across your website makes browsing your website just a bit easier.

We also recommend uploading images and videos to Resources, which allows you to import the same image or video to multiple pages, rather than needing to upload the same content over and over again. Resources also automatically optimizes each image and video to load in varying sizes or qualities based on the device the visitor uses, as well as their internet speed.

Our Thoughts

The perfect website should have the perfect balance of simplicity and customization. By following these five pointers, your school can maximize your choice of theme to design a best-in-class website that is sure to blow the socks off your constituents, staff, and alumni. Share the love and knowledge by sharing it on your social media platforms!

If you’re interested to find out how Finalsite can help you grow your platforms, drop us your email here and we will link you right up with the relevant parties!

Read the full article by Andrew Martin on Finalsite here

9 Habits To Have To Become A Great Content Creator

Struggle with coming up with content? Same here. Coming up with content is tough and having to come up with it in a short period of time is worse. Fret not, our friends from HubSpot has 9 habits for us to get into, to become a better content creator and keep those creative juices flowing!

 

1. Read news about your industry every day.

Creating great content that really resonates with your target audience requires you to know what’s going on in your industry. And the best content creators scour — not just read, but scour — the internet for industry news and trends. This sets them up nicely to understand the context behind what’s happened historically in their industry and how that shapes their target audience’s mindset in the present.

Get in the habit of reading by putting everything you read in one place. You can set up an RSS feed with an app like Feedly for blogs you know that contain relevant industry news. Discover where your buyer persona spends time online and snag those blogs, too.

2. Write on the regular.

If you don’t use it, you lose it. Good content creators understand the importance of constantly flexing their writing muscles. Doing so helps them work through ideas that might be jumbled in their head and identify nuggets that could turn into fully realized ideas later. You may not always be inspired to write, but know that something inspiring can come from your writing.

Get in the habit of writing by doing it daily or every other day. Set aside 10 or 15 minutes to jot down some thoughts and ideas. Figure out when your mind is the clearest — for most people, that’s after or during a cup of coffee — and just free-form write. What did you read yesterday that stuck with you? What didn’t you understand? Asking yourself those questions should start the flow.

3. Study your industry’s audience.

One of the hardest pills to swallow is that you are at the mercy of your audience — and the needs of that audience can sap your creativity.

However, if you study your audience deeply enough, you’ll find interests and creative opportunities you wouldn’t have found without them.

The third quality of all good content creators: They know their audience inside and out. Examine your own readers and viewers: What do they want that you’re not yet giving them? What problems do they have that you can solve for them? Here are some other characteristics of your audience you can identify for yourself or for your employer:

  • Age
  • Gender
  • Location
  • Family size
  • Job title
  • Salary

4. Establish your own voice.

You’re not the only one offering the advice, observations, and thought leadership your industry is asking for. There are lots of things you can do to stand out from the other content creators in your field: diversifying into a new content medium, promoting your content on different channels, and naturally gaining experience and trust over time. But even then, the content producers with whom you’re competing for attention are doing the same thing.

What you can bring to your content, that nobody else can, is your own personal voice.

Readers click on your content for the information, but they come back for the personality. Don’t just offer fresh insights; offer analogies and personal stories that justify your insights and that only you can offer. The brand you write for might restrict you from opinionated or overly informal content, but that doesn’t mean you can’t indulge in the unique perspective that inspired you to join this business in the first place.

Learn how to blend your employer’s content guidelines with your own creativity, and you’ll become a much more valuable content creator in the long run.

5. Curate other people’s content (when it makes sense to).

There’s no shortage of people curating content these days. In fact, anyone on the internet can take someone else’s content and retweet it, share it on Facebook, pin it — the list goes on. But successful content creators know it’s not enough to take relevant industry news and spit it back out to your fans and followers.

Get in the habit of curating content when you have something valuable to add. Now that you’ve started scouring the internet on a regular basis for industry news, you probably have a wider depth of knowledge than you think. So be confident, and give your readers additional, useful information or even a thought or opinion when sharing others’ content. Your networks will appreciate it, and the author probably will too (or it could at least spark a debate — bonus!).

6. Understand your KPIs.

The internet is a big place (obviously). In fact, it’s safe to say it’s too big for your content to be discovered by your audience all by itself. In 2018, 61% of professionals stated that generating traffic and leads was their top marketing challenge.

Just because you publish content online doesn’t mean you’ll get the traffic your insight deserves. To get your content discovered, you first need to focus in on a key performance indicator (KPI), and optimize your content for it. A KPI is a specific metric you’ve chosen to measure how well your content is doing against your expectations. Modern KPIs include:

  • Social media traffic, the number of visitors that come to your content from a social media post.
  • Direct traffic, the number of visitors that come to your content by entering your website’s URL directly into their browser’s address bar.
  • Organic traffic, the number of visitors that come to your content from a search engine result link.
  • Submissions, the number of people who visit your website and leave having submitted their contact information in exchange for a resource you offered them (a form of lead generation).

If you or your employer chooses to focus on organic traffic, for example, it’s a good idea to study Google’s search algorithm to find out how it ranks content. Then, optimize your content so that it performs well under the organic traffic KPI. The more knowledge you have of the KPIs available to content creators now, the more successful you’ll be as a marketer.

7. Network at every opportunity.

Successful content creators know their success is due not only to their passion, but also to those who taught them, inspired them, and pushed them to think in different ways.

This is one way content creators grow into successful content creators. They’ve accepted the fact there’s more to learn than what they already know, and they’re open to new ways of thinking. Networking forces you to do just that. It’s a time to listen to others’ ideas and take them into consideration alongside your own.

Get in the habit of networking by seizing the countless opportunities you have to do it. They aren’t called social networks for nothing! Spend some time on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn to check out who the thought leaders are in your industry and follow them.

Once you do that, you can ease into in-person networking. If you’re not a natural extrovert, the thought of networking can make you cringe. Make it easy on yourself and start small with colleagues. You already have something in common, so striking up a conversation in the kitchen or at your desks shouldn’t be too scary.

8. Offer solutions, not just commentary.

When you’re just getting started as a content creator, you might already have the knowledge your market is looking for. For successful content creators, however, expertise isn’t everything.

Want your audience to remember your content? Don’t just recite the things you know — explain why they’re important and what your audience can take away from it. The people consuming your content aren’t interested in just hearing you talk. They come looking to satisfy specific needs. Whether those needs are to solve a problem to simply increase their confidence in your industry, it’s your job to put your market observations into terms they can understand and find lessons in.

9. Question everything.

Polished content creators are curious by nature. They’ve learned to be curious about the internal knowledge they already have and the external information that’s being promoted out in the world. It’s the insights that come from this inherent curiosity that makes great content.

“You need to be curious to identify problems worth solving,” says Lorraine Twohill, head of marketing at Google, “and then come up with new solutions.” It’s these proposed solutions to age-old problems that gets content creators on the radar.

Get in the habit of questioning the status quo by constantly playing devil’s advocate. Taking the contrarian view of a piece of content can be difficult at first, but if you start to question why the author thinks this way and what happened in the industry that triggered this viewpoint, you’ll begin to think more critically about the content you’re consuming. And if you didn’t know, critical thinkers make great content creators.

Our thoughts

Having great content is a huge part of a marketing strategy and the pressure can get real. They always said everything starts from within, so start from the habits you form and you will be ready to tackle content creation head-first in no time! Let us know what other habits you have to keep those juices flowing in the comments below!

If you’re interested to find out how HubSpot can help you grow your platforms, drop us your email here and we will link you right up with the relevant parties!

Read the full article by Maggie Butler on Hubspot here

 

Welcome to our new website!!

Launching a new website is a bit like giving birth to your first child.  It always takes longer than you think it will and right when you think its over, it keeps on going and going (yes, my oldest son took 24 hours to arrive…).  But when its all over, and the sweat and tears have subsided, its all worth the effort.

Welcome to the new EDU website from MotionPicturesAsia.  We’ve been doing video and photography production for corporate and editorial clients around the world for several decades.  But in the last few years we’ve developed somewhat of a specialty in one particular field – videos for international schools.

And we love what we are doing.

Producing videos and photography for schools gives us the opportunity to tell real stories about real people.  We don’t have to get caught up in the “corporate speak” and of large corporations pushing their global agendas.  Our school clients like to work with us as a team to come up with ideas and strategies to produce the best videos we can to showcase their particular personalities as a school.  And we are often given creative freedom to do what we do best.  To date, we have produced over 40 videos for international schools in Asia.  And there’s a lot more in the works.

We’ve designed this new website to do three things:

1. Give us a chance to show off a bit (c’mon – you know we all like to do that once in a while!).  We are proud of the work that we do for our clients and we’d like to share it with you.

2. Connect with new potential school clients and build their confidence, in order to trust us with their future video and photography needs.

3. To become an online resource for sharing knowledge and information about the emerging field of using video for marketing educational institutions.  We will be creating blog posts sharing our own experience as well as connecting you with other people, companies, and ideas.  Stay tuned!

We think that we’ve met our goals.  Let us know what you think in the comments below.  We’d love to hear from you.

Cheers,

Alexander Manton