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6 Tips for Finding the Best School Website Design Agency

6 Tips for Finding the Best School Website Design Agency

For today’s prospective student audience, recruitment and a top-notch website must be intertwined. After all, research shows again and again that for future college students, a school's website is the single most important tool to find information and select the right fit.

A standout website for your school becomes the backbone of any effective marketing and recruitment campaign. As such, finding a reliable partner to help design that website is a crucial part of building a long-term, sustainable recruitment strategy. 

With thousands of web design agencies available and promoting their services today, finding that partner can be complicated. Fortunately, it doesn't have to be. 

These six tips can help you uncover a school website design agency that helps take your higher education marketing efforts to the next level, thus enabling long-term strategic success.

1) Limit Your Search to Agencies With Experience in Education Websites

The first tip might also be the most important. Among the almost 80,000 professionals and companies offering web design services in the United States, only a select few have experience in the education sector. And yet, that experience is likely the difference between success and failure for any new website.

That's because school websites tend to be different from other industries in a few key ways:

  • Instead of just a few central pages, many sites have hundreds, if not thousands of pages.
  • Audiences are much more varied, ranging from prospective students to alumni.
  • Stakeholders are also more nuanced, from the marketing team to admissions, university advancement, and individual faculty members.
  • Because of the number of stakeholders involved, content management tends to be more decentralized.

The best school website design professionals understand and account for these and other related differences. That's what makes finding the right agency partner important for your website and overall marketing success.

2) Clarify Your Primary Goals and Audience Before Starting the Agency Search

Depending on your marketing strategy and emphases, your website likely has to accomplish different things. A school that needs to increase the top of its recruitment funnel will likely build a different site than one looking to roll out a new capital campaign for alumni. 

Getting your goals and audience right early can make a big difference later on. It allows you to find an agency with experience in building websites similar to what you're looking for and allows you to frame early conversations about the timeline and process of your web design project. 

3) Ask for Sample Website Designs of Schools Similar to Yours

Sample websites, especially when recently designed, allow you to judge an agency's quality of work. Asking for it early helps you determine whether the fit is right, not just in terms of overall design quality but also for your specific school and project. 

These samples can help you understand how the agency you're evaluating might help you reach your goals and audience, established above. They can also help you judge whether your potential partner has experience designing websites for your type of school, whether it's public or private, large or small, rural or urban, etc.


4) Reach Out to Current and Previous Clients of the Agency for Authentic Feedback

With samples firmly in hand, this tip allows you to go beyond the agency you're thinking about working with. For the samples you like, ask whether you can speak to a contact of the school for whom it was developed. Ask questions like:

  • What was the process like in working with this agency?
  • Were there any things you wish would have happened differently?
  • Did the timeline established early on stay intact throughout the web design process?
  • Was anyone else (like an internal web developer) involved in the web design?
  • How did the agency interact with others at the school?

These conversations can serve to make you more or less confident about your potential partnership. They also provide insights into the actual process, preparing you for what happens after the contract is signed.

5) Understand the Internal Requirements of Partnering With a Given Agency

This step varies drastically depending on your internal processes. Answering it early, though, can go a long way towards streamlining the process of working with a website design agency.

For example, your school's president might want to be directly involved in the approvals process at the various design stages. In that case, building in more time for approvals makes sense, as does selecting a partner with demonstrated expertise in presenting their work to high-level stakeholders. 

Alternatively, if your faculty union requests involvement in building out the academic content, an agency with experience in that process can come in handy.

6) Focus on Agencies that Can Improve Your Overall Education Marketing Strategies

The final tip goes beyond the actual design of your school website. As mentioned in the beginning, the modern student journey goes through and centers on your website. 

The language, visual look, and style of your website should align with your other marketing materials. Code snippets and integrations should be in place to track and analyze the success of your marketing efforts on your website. Inquiry and application forms, in turn, should link into your CRM system for follow-up contacts from admissions.

Too many institutions mistake the need for a simple school website design versus a simplistic backend. A more integrated approach, allowing you to optimize all of your marketing strategies, can be much more successful. Look for partners who are not just experts and experienced in building those websites, but also anticipate future digital marketing campaigns. 

Ready to Build a Better School Website Design?

Ultimately, the agency search for your website design comes down to some simple questions: are you looking for a service provider who builds a nice-looking online presence? Or could you benefit from a more comprehensive partner that can build a great website for all of your goals and audiences along with integrating it into your other marketing and recruitment efforts?

At Sonority Group, we understand the need to build an effective website user experience – that supports your marketing efforts. Let's chat!

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