For many synagogues, their preschool/early childhood center (ECC) is a main attraction that brings young families into the synagogue community and starts them on their path to synagogue membership. What many synagogues often do is include the preschool content within the main synagogue website, but is that really the best approach? Or would it be better if the preschool had its own separate website, one that better highlights what the preschool offers?
There are pros and cons to both approaches, which I’d like to discuss here. Note that there isn’t a right answer or right approach – which one works best will depend on your specific synagogue community.
It may also depend on such things as what other synagogue preschools in your geographic area are doing – if they all have separate websites, then your synagogue’s preschool should have a separate website as well. That is the case where I live in Raleigh, North Carolina. There are three synagogues here in Raleigh, each with their own preschool, and each preschool has its own separate website. Thus the website I built for my synagogue’s preschool (where my children attended), Beth Meyer Preschool.
On the Synagogue’s Website
Most synagogue’s maintain their preschool/early childhood content directly on the main synagogue website, usually under a “Lifelong Learning” or “Education” section on the website. The reasons for doing it this way may vary – it may have been a historical reason (i.e., because that’s the way it’s always been done), or it may be because it’s the best way to highlight the relationship between the preschool and the synagogue.
- Whoever updates the synagogue’s website can also update the preschool’s website (i.e., less people have access to the website, and there are less people to train on how to update the website).
- The branding of the preschool (as a part of what the synagogue offers) is consistent with the branding for the rest of the synagogue.
- There is no additional cost for the synagogue, since you’re just creating more pages on the main website.
- Synagogue websites can be very busy with lots of information on them, and this would effectively be burying all the information that the preschool needs to publish (i.e., the preschool wouldn’t be as prominent as if it were featured on its own website).
- It’s more difficult for the preschool pages to be optimized for SEO when they’re part of a larger website, which can be a problem if there are a lot of other preschools that the synagogue’s preschool is competing against in Google search results.
- It’s more difficult for non-members and non-Jewish families to learn about the preschool, since non-member families may not be familiar with the main synagogue website and know where to look on it for the information about the preschool.
- It may be difficult to get information posted to the preschool section in a timely manner if you have to go through the synagogue’s webmaster and/or marketing/communications person in order to first get it approved and posted.
- Parents may have preconceptions about a particular synagogue, or movement of Judaism that the synagogue is affiliated with, and may be turned off of the preschool (however good its programs are) by the fact that they have to go through the synagogue first to learn about the preschool.
On a Separate Website
In this approach, there will still be links to the preschool’s website from the main synagogue website, most likely still within a “Lifelong Learning” or “Education” tab. You’ll be taken to a separate website, though, rather than staying on the main synagogue website.
- If the synagogue’s website is outdated or very difficult to update, it’s easier to build a new one using an easier-to-use system such as WordPress.
- It’s much easier to showcase what the preschool offers, and the information that parents need to know, since it’s not buried within a content hierarchy.
- The preschool will have plenty of room to build out a main menu and fill it with content.
- Assuming the content is organized intuitively, it’s much easier for visitors to the website to browse the content and find the information they’re looking for.
- It’s much easier to optimize a separate preschool website for SEO.
- It’s easier for non-members or non-Jewish families to learn about the preschool and to focus on the school’s programming, particularly if they don’t necessarily care that it’s affiliated with a particular synagogue.
- It can be much easier to get content posted to the site if the preschool staff can make the updates directly.
- There can be more freedom to create a design and layout that is more reflective of a preschool and not of a synagogue (i.e., using softer or more vibrant colors, more photos, more fun fonts, etc.).
- More people need to be trained on how to maintain the preschool website, and/or the preschool may need to find a separate webmaster to manage their website.
- The branding of the preschool website can become too far removed from the branding of the main synagogue website – unless you think about how to keep it continuous across both.
- There may be costs associated with this, such as for domain registration and hosting (if the hosting isn’t done in the same place as the synagogue’s website).
The Hybrid Approach to Preschool Websites & Synagogue Websites
Like I said earlier, there is no correct approach to this question. However, that doesn’t mean that I don’t have my own solution to the problem, which is to take a hybrid approach that combines the best of both worlds.
I recommend that synagogue preschools have their own websites separate from the main synagogue website.
However, I understand the value in the synagogue still maintaining some degree or control and influence over the preschool’s website. Keeping in mind that I build all of my synagogue websites using WordPress, and that I would build a new preschool website using WordPress, what I specifically recommend is that synagogues do the following:
- Assuming that the synagogue’s website already runs on WordPress, make that standalone WordPress installation into a WordPress Multisite network. The preschool website would then be created as a site within that network, either at a unique URL (that would need to be registered separately) or at a sub-domain of the main synagogue website. If the synagogue’s website doesn’t run on WordPress, still build the separate preschool website in WordPress.
- Work with the synagogue’s marketing/communications team to create a template for the preschool website that is continuous with the look of the main synagogue website. Ideally this process would be done at the same time as redesign of the main synagogue website.
There are benefits for both sides to this hybrid approach.
For the synagogue, from the administrative side of things, the synagogue’s webmaster and/or marketing communications team can still have overall control over the preschool’s website (through the use of the Superadmin role within the WordPress Multisite network), even though the preschool staff has day-to-day control over updating the website. The preschool is still highlighted as a main part of what the synagogue offers, and by working collaboratively with the preschool, the branding won’t get too far out of line with that of the overall synagogue website.
For the preschool, they now can:
- Make the design of the preschool website reflect the target audience they’re trying to reach
- Showcase the content they need to, and organize it in a main menu
- Do the keyword optimization necessary for SEO purposes, so that they stand out from their competition
WordPress is easy enough to pick up that it shouldn’t take long to train someone from the preschool on how to use it. If the main synagogue website is also built using WordPress, then the preschool’s webmaster has an immediate resource at the synagogue if there is a question about something. And if the synagogue is already paying for hosting for their main synagogue website, the preschool website can be built there through no additional charge, since the vast majority of hosting packages are capable of hosting multiple websites.
That leaves the question of whether to register a separate domain or to go with a sub-domain of the main synagogue website URL. Either approach is fine – if you go with a separate domain, those usually cost less than $15 a year, which is minimal.
Contact us today
We have experience building preschool websites for synagogues through this approach, as well as in creating entirely separate preschool websites that are completely separate from the main synagogue website. If you are interested in working with us on either a preschool website, a synagogue website, or both, contact us today to get started!
About Hirsch Fishman
Hirsch has been working professionally with websites since 2001, working exclusively in, and focusing on, the Jewish community. Hirsch offers a wide range of website knowledge to his synagogue web design clients from his years of experience working in the Jewish community. He lives in Raleigh, North Carolina.