How to Design a Preschool or Nursery Website

We get a lot of Google Website hits for the Preschool Portfolio with folks looking for design tips for Preschool and Nursery Website Design, so this week’s article addresses that need.

The first and foremost thing to consider is Child Protection.  The kids need to come first and your preschool/nursery website must address their safety.

Child Protection

Personal information

Make sure no personal information that can be used to identify a child is used on your website.  When we were finding a preschool for our children we identified a website that had a child’s full name in a photograph.  Of course we emailed the school and they eventually removed the information.  This information in the wrong hands could have been used to abduct the child.  How the school make this mistake?  The school owner created the website and did not check the image for personal information.

Keep it in the EU

To get the best search results from Google – have your server located in the same country as your client base.  For a variety of reasons that are outside the scope of this blog entry, Google and other search engines give additional search rank weight to your website if you follow this rule.

Using a server located in the United States for example brings up a whole bunch of data protection issues that are easily avoided by using a website hosting company within the EU.  Google the EU Privacy Directive for more information.  Many “Website Building” tools are located in the US so consider this factor when making a choice of website host.

It is easy to check where your webserver is located, either ask your website host, or install this Plugin for the Firefox web broswer.

Secure the Login to your Website

Keep the login and password to your website a secret and be sure to use a password with at least 8 letters and at least 2 numbers.  Your login should be changed from the default of ‘admin’ (if applicable).  Having a complex password and changing the default login will secure your website from unauthorised access.

If you have more than one staff member updating the website then give each staff member their own Login and Password – if there is a dispute over an unauthorised change, the change can be traced by reviewing which login was used make the update.

Facebook & Child Protection

Under no circumstances whatsoever put photographs of your Nursery or Preschool children on Facebook.  Facebook has a well deserved reputation for being inherently insecure and Facebook does not protect photographs.

Just as important, Facebook does not allow you to delete photographs from their servers.

Imagine that an inappropriate photograph was accidentally uploaded to Facebook?  Perhaps someone knocked the camera shutter button in the rush to assist an injured child?  If you uploaded this inappropriate photograph to your website  you could delete the photo immediately – but Facebook does not allow photographs to be deleted.  With Facebook the photograph will remain on the Facebook server even after the “Story” is deleted.  We’ve written more about Facebook’s security issues here and here.

Additionally Facebook’s server are located outside of the European Union and the EU Privacy Directive rules apply.

Preschool Design Elements & Content

So you’ve got your web server set up and located in the United Kingdom, and you’ve tidied up your Facebook Business page.

The next thing to plan out your content.

Parent Testimonials

Testimonials can make or break a Preschool setting.  My advice is to hand out Feedback forms during a return coach journey from a successful school trip.  You have a captive audience, they’ll be feeling good about the school trip and parents will be pleased to have something to do to pass the time whilst their child is sleeps on the journey home.  So go forth with clipboards in hand and get those testimonials and then upload them to your website.

Blog

This’ll take about 3 months to get going, and you’ll see full results after a year.  It’ll consume two or three hours a month and you’ll get tangible and measurable results after at a full term has passed.

So why  Blog?  Well, I’m going to summarise down why you need a blog into the following points.

  • A blog will get seen by local people searching Google for a Preschool or Nursery.  When the click the link they’ll be straight on to your website.
  • A blog will help you think about activities that will be interesting for your children and will also help ‘sell’ your setting to website viewers
  • A blog will define you as a local EYS expert
  • A blog will also keep your website content fresh and up to date giving website visitors the confidence your preschool or nursery is open for business

So what to blog about? Well, every blog post needs to be a positive.  Even if a negative event has occurred, find a positive spin.  If it’s snowed 3 feet overnight, then say “Sorry we’re shut”, post a photo of the school covered in 3 feet of snow and tell people to keep safe.

A blog is not a news channel to broadcast events to current parents – items such as Chickenpox, Nits or a Tummy Bug doing the rounds need to stay off the Blog.  Your Blog is there as a Sales Generation device to sell the wonderful work you do and bring in more children to your setting.  If in doubt – don’t blog it.

Most blog posts should contain a photo or two … ideally the occasional blog should link to a gallery.  Oh, and as part of your forms and sign up, include as a default T&C parental permission for the child to be included on your website.

Once you have blogged once a month for a year or so you can reduce your blogging efforts – but run a story at least every quarter.  There is only so much you can Blog about and ‘Repeats’ of the same event serve little purpose.

Google Adwords Pay Per Click Ads

So these are the sponsored search results you see at the top of Google.  Set up correctly a Google Ad account will cost maybe twenty pounds a year and generate sales leads.  Set up incorrectly and you can easily squander thirty pounds a week without converting those clicks into actual sales.  So setting up an account is beyond the scope of this article – buy a couple of books on the subject, read, digest and deploy a small Google Adwords campaign.  Converting just one click to a Nursery place will pay for itself many times over.

Preschool Information & Ofsted

Information that must be included on your website include your Nursery/Preschool landline telephone number, mobile number, location (a map with driving directions, Google Maps are to use good here) your letter correspondence address and your email address.   Include your staff names, positions and their experience.

Have a separate page for your Ofsted Report – pick a couple of phrases and highlight them / quote the phrases on your website and LINK to your latest Ofsted Report.

Website Gallery

It goes without saying you want to have a Gallery of your setting, you activities, and you children.  All the former rules apply for privacy, and you need to  ensure that the page loads quickly.  In a nutshell you will need to re-size your photographs so the thumbnails are small, and the main photographs no larger than 900 pixels wide and 800 pixels tall.

Contact Email Form

Now your email address MUST have a domain name that matches your website.  If your email address is GMAIL, Googlemail or Yahoo … sorry you really need to change it as it smacks of penny pinching and laziness.  Speaking of Email addresses, you need a Contact Form on your website that when the message is sent (a) Forwards to a website page that says, ‘Thank you for contacting us’ (b) Automatically sends an acknowledgement email so the website visitor knows that a message has got there.  There is nothing worse than a Contact Form that does not fully acknowledge that the message has been sent.

Try to reply to emails as soon as you get them – even if it’s outside of hours. Email can be set up on Smartphones – it shows you are responsive and care.  If you sent an email reply within the hour it can make all difference when a parent is contacting more than one setting.

Colour Scheme, Logo and Fonts

Your website colour scheme should match your corporate colour scheme.  Your corporate colour scheme is your identity and your website, your brochures and your school’s paint-job should all match up.

If you have a professionally created logo – brilliant … if not … then you need to one created.  A decent logo can be created by a logo designer for a few hundred pounds.  If your budget doesn’t run to that then there are other options such as Fivesquids and Fivver that can provide a basic logo for a smaller outlay.

Regarding fonts, there is the temptation to use “Comic Sans” for a Nursery or Preschool website – and although this font is useful for early readers, that is children between 5 and 8 years old, your main target audience will be adults.  Select your font appropriately.

The Golden Rule

The Golden rule to remember is that your website is your Electronic Sales Brochure.

Make a list of all the positive points about your Nursery or Preschool.

Ofsted Report, Vehicle Access, Parking, Facilities, Established Since, Outside Areas, Play Facilities, Security, Child Toilet Facilities, Snack Bar, Lunches, Activities, Trips.

Now get get a clipboard, a stack of paper + a pen, walk round your setting write down everything you see or touch or interact with.  And I do mean write down everything you can see or touch.  This needs to go on your Website, your Electronic Sales Brochure, to sell your setting to prospective parents.

You now have all the content you need to design your preschool or nursery website.

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