How to Successfully Choose a School Website Provider
(The real-life edition, not the one where a supplier lists their features instead).
Choosing a supplier can be difficult for even the more technical savvy, so how do we get it right?
Firstly, let's start with what's important. We asked schools what was the single most important thing to them when choosing a supplier.
- Design Skills - 25%
- Software / Technical - 25%
- Ongoing support - 38%
- Uptime Reliability - 13%
What is interesting from the above results is the emphasis schools put on support. When delving into the comments, we found that support meant: specialist knowledge and experience. Schools want/need a supplier that understands schools and specializes in their particular discipline - marketing a school. It makes total sense. When choosing a supplier, it's best to look for a school website specialist.
At 25% each, design skills and software / technical are tied equally in their importance to schools. To derive meaningful insight from this, we need to revert to the comments.
What was immediately evident is that rather than design, what schools emphasized here was differentiation. Schools did not want a templated design provider, including those that claimed 'bespoke' design yet provided something familiar.
Schools also seemed resentful of suppliers over-promising and under-delivering; on the creative side, suggesting that too often they'd been promised a 'wow' yet been delivered a disappointment.
Again, relating this to choosing a supplier, schools must look at a supplier's process very carefully. Does this process look capable of producing something unique? Does this supplier emphasize getting to know the school to understand what makes it tick - will they visit in person? Is there anything about the supplier's process or approach that makes you believe that what they will produce will lead to differentiating your school from any other?
SOFTWARE / TECHNICAL
Looking at the software and technical side was also tremendously insightful, with a common theme emerging of schools failing to do enough due diligence in this area.
They assumed that the platform they bought was easy to use. They expected the new platform to save them time and make them more efficient, but all too often, the opposite prevailed. Although they took time to compare the lists of features in the procurement process, they didn't ask the most critical questions about them - which features do we need, and what value do they add to our school? And after that, how easy are those features to implement and maintain on an ongoing basis?
The conclusion here, when relating this to choosing a supplier, is a simple one; you need to dedicate at least an hour, ideally two, to reviewing each supplier's platform in detail, as only then will you be able to make an accurate comparison.
If you're not technical and the thought of sitting there for an hour reviewing software fills you with dread, then get someone more technically minded to do this with you - however, be sure not to delegate it elsewhere entirely. See the system for yourself and ask the person giving the demo to show you how to do particular tasks, not just those setup and ready to demo. If they can't show you, the alarm bells should start ringing!
In the final position, with 13%, was uptime and reliability.
Schools can no longer consider themselves immune from the possibility of being attacked online, as highlighted in the recent high-profile 'ransomware attack' experienced by US school website provider Finalsite. It resulted in significant downtime for many customers at a crucial time of year - when schools needed to communicate effectively and nimbly with constituents due to closures from Covid and inclement weather.
Remember that an assessment of a supplier's data, privacy, security and disaster recovery policy should form part of your due diligence process.
In addition to the above, we also saw several other themes that we thought warranted mentioning.
- Innovation - All website companies say they innovate but is the one that I am choosing, saying or doing anything innovative? Or are they claiming to be innovative but demonstrating nothing new?
- Evolution - Does the project stop after the website goes live, or is that just the beginning of the journey of the engagement? How will your provider help you squeeze that extra value over time?
- Longevity - A website needs to last between 3-5 yrs, so do you feel the company you are speaking with will produce a website that will stand the test of time? Similarly, do you see longevity in your relationship with them?
- Personality - is the supplier a faceless corporation or a business with a real personality and human touch? All customer journeys transcend digital; so should your provider.
- Promise - Speak to other schools that have worked with your provider (not just the referrals they give you). Does this company deliver on its promise or fail to deliver?
- ROI - Does your provider openly talk about KPIs, goals and what success looks like for the project? Is there a commitment to delivering any measurable results?
Please get in touch if you'd like to learn more about Ubiq's design, software and support approach.