Your school or non-profit organization’s website is your first impression to your audiences; if your website isn’t making the best first impression, you’re not maximizing your marketing potential.
To avoid this, you want to have a website that best represents your school or nonprofit’s interests. Of course, you can always create your own website – there are many easy-to-use website builders available. However, to have a professional website, you should hire a web design and development agency. You want to be sure that your website has effective messaging and design, and that it is well built and managed for things like security, functionality, and SEO. There are many options available, from solo freelancers to very large companies with lots of employees, resources and overhead. You’ll find that bigger name companies come with a hefty bill and sometimes a robotic, less than adequate service.
Making the decision of who to hire to build your website is a difficult one, but it doesn’t have to be – smaller web design agencies make the website creation process easier for you. There are multiple benefits that come with hiring a smaller web design and development agency for your preschool, montessori, independent private school or nonprofit.
Bigger companies may offer a wide variety of services that handle the development of your school brand, messaging, website, as well as digital marketing and more. Most small schools don’t have a budget big enough to match that bill. That’s the beauty of small agencies; each service is customized to the need of the client and is offered at a much lower cost.
Websites in general can be expensive, and school and nonprofit websites are no exception to this. Especially in times like these, small schools like yours shouldn’t have to choose between breaking the bank to hire a professional agency and saving part of your budget for other critical needs. With small design agencies, you can often get a website that meets or exceeds your expectations. Small agencies provide personal service because you are not one out of hundreds of clients. Overhead is low, so they don’t have to bake in a lot of costs into their fees.
How much does a website cost?
Ongoing maintenance and support with Design TLC ranges from $600-$1600 per year, and includes same day service with a smile! Larger companies can charge 5 times that amount and you may have to wait a few days to have your request taken care of.
Everyone knows how frustrating it is to experience an issue with a website and wait on a long call list to speak with a customer service representative, only for your problem to remain unresolved.
This isn’t an issue with small website agencies. Cultivating positive, respectful relationships with the person designing and maintaining your organization’s website is a benefit of working with a smaller web design agency. Small design agencies ensure issues are resolved quickly – you are not just one client among many. With agencies like ours, you develop a solid working relationship with the small team building and maintaining your organization’s website.
Creativity and innovation
Small, private schools have the opportunity to be a little creative with their website design. As your website is one of your strongest marketing efforts, it’s crucial to show your school’s culture and personality through your website. Larger web design companies may encourage you to publish your website with a basic template they suggest to everyone else, while a small web design agency will work with you to implement your creative energy into your website.
Types of websites for schools
There are several different types of websites that small schools can design. We’ve explained the most popular options below.
Proprietary School CMS
The first option for a school designing a website is a website with school CMS software. CMS stands for Content Management System. This is the platform that is used to design and build the website, and where you can add and edit content once the website is launched.
FinalSite is an example of a design company that uses a proprietary school Content Management System.
The benefits of a proprietary CMS is that it does a lot of the work for you. Finalsite’s platform includes lots of bells and whistles that come from years of serving the school industry. They include digital marketing, customer database and a robust CRM. CRM stands for “customer relationship management,” and usually includes email marketing, among other things. Having a “one stop shop” can save a lot of time and make administration easier. Also, working with school marketing specialists can help ensure your website’s success.
A downside of a proprietary CMS is that you do not own your data. You are wedded to that CMS, and if it can’t do what you need, you are stuck. If the prices increase beyond your budget, you can’t shop around.
Above all, the cost for these resources come at a price, which many small schools cannot afford. In addition to a start-up cost of $15,000, Finalsite charges at least $7,500 per year for maintenance and support. Premium packages can be over $1,000/month.
WordPress is an open source software, meaning everyone has the permission to use all source code, content, and design documents of the product. Anyone across the globe can create and contribute to the code that WordPress uses. This means you can do just about anything you can dream of with a WordPress website.
Using WordPress gives the web designer full range and control to alter the site code. You never have to give up an idea because it isn’t offered. Your web designer has total permission to create any feature your website may need. This differs from a proprietary website platform that controls what website features to build and prioritize.
You also own your data when you use WordPress. Because you purchase your own website hosting account, you can choose among many market-driven options based on your needs for website speed and bandwidth. You can move it to different servers, and agencies. This can provide peace of mind and flexibility.
WordPress is popular among smaller website design agencies and website freelancers for these reasons. At Design TLC, we use WordPress to create custom websites for our clients.
WordPress is less expensive than proprietary software – in fact, the core software is free! You need to pay for hosting, which is around $300 per year. Premium enhancements to the core software can have an annual licensing fee, which usually is under $300 per year. While you can create a WordPress website yourself, there is a learning curve, and making the most of it is best achieved by hiring a professional WordPress agency.
Other website builders
Other website builders are an option, and are often quite user-friendly, while also being limiting. Platforms like Squarespace and Wix allow web designers to customize their websites, but not at the level of customization that WordPress offers. They usually offer hosting and customer support, and there are many design templates available to choose from. A school website would most likely require a Business website, which costs $18/month.
Choosing who to hire to build your website is a personal choice, one that requires plenty of time and research to make the best possible decision. While big design agencies and DIY website builders have their benefits, small web design agencies are experienced professionals who truly value the customer and will help design a website that best fits your small school or nonprofit’s needs.
At Design TLC, we’re small, but we’re mighty – and we’re ready to help you create the website your small school or non-profit deserves. Contact us today for a free consultation.