A school website is so much more than a place to house factual information. Your little slice of the internet is a place that inspires, welcomes and creates relationships with your community. Which is precisely why it’s so important it’s projecting your school well.
For Helena College, a progressive independent school located across two campuses in the Perth Hills, this importance was clear. As their main marketing tool, they went on a mission to craft a school website that spoke to their balanced focus on whole child development and created meaningful interactions with prospective and current families.
With a marketing team of just three working together across all online communications, their upgrade to a more modern digital presence was transformative. Not just for the people visiting their website, but for the productivity of their internal teams.
Helena College isn’t located on a major road, so the school’s website is vitally important, acting as their billboard and main marketing tool. Despite this significance, the original Helena College website was outdated and challenging—to the point that staff members cheered when the new version was launched.
From a website visitor perspective, the site wasn’t particularly user-friendly or engaging. “In terms of what visitors to the website were seeing, it was very static. There was no movement,” says Mandy Cosser, Marketing and Community Relations Manager at Helena College. “Parents weren't actually able to interact with the website in any meaningful way other than clicking on an occasional link, and it definitely wasn't doing our school and our school community any justice.”
Behind the scenes, it was exceptionally difficult to manage and edit. The team needed to understand and write HTML despite having no training in it, and the platform was clunky and difficult to use. There were also limitations with embedding videos. "Pretty much anything we wanted to add that was outside of the ordinary, we'd have to purchase an additional add-on or plug-in," notes Mandy. "It was quite frustrating because, generally, this caused a delay."
On top of all this, they were struggling with their newsletters, sending parents a link to something they were creating outside of their website CMS. The templates they used offered little flexibility in terms of layout and adding photos and video.
The Helena College team had some clear ideas about the basic features they needed in their new website and the kind of clean look and feel they wanted.
For the backend, it was paramount that the CMS was exceptionally easy to use and offered plenty of flexibility. They also wanted to have everything they needed already within the CMS without the need for additional plug-ins and payments.
From a front-facing perspective, the website needed clear and simple navigation for parents. It had to be engaging and provide the kind of information that prospective parents are looking for with clarity.
But most importantly of all, the website needed to be equally good across desktop and mobile.
“It needed to be mobile responsive because that is where parents are looking,” explains Mandy. “They'll be sitting having a cup of coffee in a cafe and Googling on the phone, and we want them to be able to see the website and read it just as easily as they would sitting behind their desk at work.”
“Prospective families are now the generation that grew up in a digital age and go online first for information. Research has shown that most parents will do a lot of research online before even coming on a school tour. Quite often, the first interaction a prospective family has with our school is through our website.”
When Mandy Cosser joined Helena College as Marketing and Community Relations Manager, she’d already worked with Digistorm at three different schools. Mandy’s decision to turn to Digistorm again stemmed from many reasons, but first and foremost, she likes choosing a company that specialises in the school industry.
“Schools are not your typical business-to-consumer or business-to-business kind of model,” shares Mandy. “So it was really important that we worked with somebody that understood the way schools work and the things that are important to marketing a school.”
Mandy also knew from experience that the customer service and responsiveness with Digistorm were high. “That makes the whole process easy, especially as a small team. Having someone at the other end of the phone or in a Zoom call just makes it a lot easier for us,” says Mandy.
The Helena College team also liked Digistorm’s new templated website options. Mandy found that there were quite a few to choose from and “it made it a lot faster to build the website because there was a structure in place. The design suited what we were looking to do and it was very, very easy.”
Ease of use is undoubtedly one of the things the Helena team loves most about their Digistorm website. For them, they say it’s as easy as making a Word document.
On top of that, they like the fact that they can have a workflow process and approvals process before a page goes live.
“There's not a specific time period in which we regularly do updates. We update as and when we need. And it's easy to do that,” shares Mandy. “The website is really, really easy to use. It's no different from using a Word document in any way. The navigation and the functionality is easy to find and to see and to apply.”
They’re also enjoying the smooth sailing of their new newsletter pages and now use their websites for advertising tours and current events that are happening at the school.
Being in Perth, the team at Helena College stepped cautiously into this website project with Digistorm, unsure if time delays would impact the flow of work. “The fact that we are 5 hours flying time away from the East Coast does tend to make us a little isolated. The time zone differences were a concern. But we've been able to work really well with Digistorm. The ability to get support when we need it is really important, and I can pick up the phone at any time,” shares Mandy.
“The onboarding process was really simple … and was really essential to the long-term success of our website. The training did not take long at all. Both my team members picked it up very easily. It wasn't long before the whole team was flying and comfortable using every part of the system.” Mandy also adds that “the ongoing support from Digistorm is really good. We can send an email, log a support ticket, make a call. There's a heap of resources online that our team has access to, which is very, very helpful because our website is so much of who we are in the public space.”
For the Helena College team, it’s been all about feeling looked after and having a website team that’s responsive to ideas and suggestions. “I would absolutely recommend Digistorm, and I have done so on a number of occasions,” Mandy concludes.