The school website is one of the first contact points between schools, parents, students, and teachers. The homepage is the front door to a school website; it draws a large share of traffic. After all, it’s only logical because it is the face of the school, but it’s surprising how often it’s overlooked.
Many think by mistake that the homepage can be designed just like any other landing page, but that’s far from reality. An excellent homepage should be specially designed to attract, educate, and convert different user groups that visit your school website.
To do that, you must incorporate some design elements into the homepage. First, define its purpose.
First, Define The Purpose of the Homepage
Many people believe the homepage is the place to display every vital piece of information site users may be searching for, but this is one of the most common blunders designers make.
Homepages should be tailored experiences. A school website’s homepage should be designed to fulfill specific purposes, which would be different for every school at every level.
For instance, if one of the main purposes of your school website is to reach prospective partners and students, your school website design should feature your programs, showcase your beliefs, and describe your school’s mission, goal, and vision as well as make it easy to locate the steps for enrollment.
News, publications, and calendar links may best be placed at the bottom of the page since they are not vital to your target group. Focusing the design on your specific purpose will alleviate user confusion.
In this article, we’ll help you get closer to defining your objective by providing a school website design strategy for three types of schools.
Three Main Types of a School Website
Not every school will fall under these website categories, but they still cover a lot. Let’s get to them.
Higher Educational institution
Here, the website’s purpose is to promote the university’s or school’s general brand. A university website includes a wealth of useful material for students, teachers, and staff. It’s also a chance for students to learn about the college culture.
The Design Strategy
Many colleges have excellent school website designs. A well-designed homepage must be direct and eye-catching to keep the user’s interest, especially if the user is a potential student.
Find a hero image (a large banner image prominently placed at the top of a website) that captures the distinctive qualities of your university. The image must be relevant and entertaining and show users what makes your school unique. This is your chance to show off and shine.
While a fantastic hero image will tempt visitors to stay and browse, a neat and concise website design, with plenty of whitespace and clear, easy-to-understand sections will help users get the most out of their browsing experience.
You want your website to have a simple design with a clickable, practical, mobile-friendly layout and intuitive navigation.
Despite similar goals of websites for higher education, high school websites have a very diverse target.
Many students and more parents and staff are likely to access this type of school website. They are a valuable source of crucial information, so it’s critical to present everything in way that makes sense to these various audiences. In many cases, high schools choose to hire experts to create a school website that portrays spirit, enthusiasm, and a supportive, nurturing environment for all involved.
The Design Strategy
What do users want to see on a high school website? They likely want to see that your school is a nurturing environment full of engagement and growth. Show various exciting pictures of current students having fun or interacting with teachers at your school.
Pay attention to all the tiny qualities that make your school excellent, and above all, showcase how joyful the students are while they are there.
Be genuine in your approach. Hire a photographer who can portray the students and faculty as who they are rather than using stock images.
Again, make sure your website has a simple design with a clickable, practical, mobile-friendly layout and intuitive navigation.
Online School Websites
In recent years, online education has gained a lot of traction, especially with the pandemic. A clever school website design serves as the foundation of any online education institution, from public schools to homeschooling or online college.
In this rapidly expanding industry, the quality of such a website must be outstanding.
The Design Strategy
A simple, neat school website design is imperative. Keep it simple, simple, simple.
It’s as simple as ABC: a virtual learning platform should make it incredibly simple for users to find what they are looking for and to go where they need to be.
Try not to complicate anything too much. Choose direct CTAs (calls to action) like “check out our programs” or “start your free trial today” with clear fonts.
This kind of school website is different from others since learners will basically perform on an online platform. You must carefully consider your profile and the course pages. Students must be able to quickly find courses and understand their content, time frame, and other details.
They should also easily navigate the student profile section where they work out their curriculum and arrange notes. Make it simple for them by creating attractive, informative metrics and badges that show success. Even the most dedicated students might struggle with self-motivation.
Top Elements in Your School Website’s Homepage
Now that we’ve talked about setting goals in different types of school websites, it’s time to explore the elements that make for an inspiring school website design. We’ve listed 12 of them.
From the time your homepage loads on the screen, there’s only a ten-second period before the user decides to stay or exit the page. Headlines play a major role in that decision. They are like the cover of a movie or a book because they tell you everything about everything your website has to offer.
You might have a wide range of website visitors, so picking a few sentences that resonate with everyone will be challenging. Don’t try the impossible. A wiser strategy is to tailor the headline to appeal to one-third of targeted users who are the most likely to be pleased with your service.
Keep the headline itself short and simple. It must be clear but powerful. Nobody should have to decrypt technical jargon to understand what your school actually does.
Include a concise summary of your school and services in a headline-supportive subheading. Use your sub-headlines to concentrate on your parents’ and students’ essential pain points to show them that you’re the solution.
Use bigger fonts in the headings to make the browsing experience more mobile-friendly for users. Having to zoom and squint to read the text is just not user-friendly and will diminish the user experience.
Use the page editor’s header choices. H1 headers are ideal for titles, and each page must not have more than one H1. The hierarchy should be followed by the subheadings H2, H3, H4, etc. You can use several subheadings as long as they are in the correct sequence. For instance, you shouldn’t go from an H1 to an H3 without putting an H2 in the middle.
3. Call to Action (CTA)
When designing a website, one of the main goals of all schools is to draw in prospective students and parents. Along with a great school website design, you must use specific CTAs to achieve this goal.
You offer a better and more individualized user experience by adding a range of solid and straightforward CTAs to your school website. Plus, it boosts user engagement and interaction.
What’s the right approach here? Don’t go general. You should create customized CTAs for each service on your website.
For instance, in the school activity section of the site, you want parents and students to check out the upcoming events, alumni community news, activities, or subscribe to stay updated. Or, in the application section, you want parents and students to contact the respective department for more information.
Plus, don’t put “contact us” in every CTA with links that direct them where they need to go. Not every CTA link has to end up on the “contact us” page.
4. Primary Menu
A school website doesn’t always need to be large and involve a lot of pages and panels. Nevertheless, a primary menu is a necessary component for every school website.
This aspect of school website design serves a very important, practical function: It simplifies user navigation around the platform. It plays a considerable role in user-friendliness.
There are many ways to design the primary menu on your site. This element usually sits at the top of the web page and offers links to other inner pages.
Some website designers prefer using a drop-down menu. This technique is equally effective, particularly if you want your school website to look great on all devices with different display sizes.
5. The Hero Image
Pictures are the main attention grabber on the homepage, probably more than the headline. That’s why the hero image dramatically influences people’s initial impression of your school.
You may be thinking of putting a nice slideshow on the homepage, as many websites have today. Slideshows were quite popular, but they are losing traction. Most viewers simply won’t sit and watch them.
In most cases, users prefer to overlook the slideshows and will scroll past them. It’s much simpler to showcase your school and send the right vibe by putting up a hero image.
You can adjust high-quality images to smaller sizes for people who visit via mobile devices. You should always add alt texts to images to improve your SEO rankings and make it easy to see pictures with screen readers.
6. Contact Details
School website or not, you cannot possibly overlook contact details. They are a core element of every school website that requires a separate page. You need to provide the school location, email address, phone numbers for every department, and any other way users can contact your school. In addition, you can even put a contact form on the contact us page.
Be sure to update that information as it changes. The webpage should provide this information for each campus if you have more than one. Ensure the email addresses include links so people can click on them and contact you immediately.
7. Intuitive Navigation
This one doesn’t just apply to the homepage but to the whole website. Effortless navigation is key on every school website. You want students, parents, and staff to quickly find the what they’re looking for without going down a rabbit hole from one link to another, forcing them to just give up.
Consider the target users and their behavior here. For instance, the “About Us” and “Courses” pages must be highly visible if you want to attract new students. And it is crucial to avoid using odd words or odd titles for such sections.
The overall layout must be clear, uncluttered, and easy to read. If you provide clarity, users will stay on longer, visit other pages, and help boost your search engine rankings.
Every school website design must include one extra component—branding. Why is it vital? Because clever branding makes you stand out. You’re not an ordinary school. Branding is one sure way to stick your school’s name in people’s minds. It is essentially your school’s image.
But where does it fit on the website homepage? One place is the domain name. It must be simple and easy to remember. The URL must be clear and easy to recognize—ideally, it should be either a full name or the abbreviation of your school’s name.
You can also focus on branding with a great logo. Site visitors should be able to see your logo next to the domain name as well as in the header and the footer on the homepage.
Additionally, there are a few more techniques for branding. If your school, for instance, has distinctive colors, you might want to incorporate them at the heart of your design.
You may also include things that showcase your school’s brand, including pictures of your mascot, the school’s credo, and even incorporate social media links on the homepage to find out more about your school.
9. Social Proof
Social proof is virtually an approval stamp for your school. You can say that you have the best teachers or staff in the country, but it won’t hold credibility until other people approve it on your website. Social proof is what makes people believe your claims.
Include only a handful of your top (brief) quotes on the website homepage. Include links to relevant if you can. Including a name and a photo makes testimonies more legitimate.
10. Informative, Concise Content
Quality, informative content is another crucial component of every school website design. It’s obvious but overlooked. The information you offer must be concise, well-structured, and error-free. It’s not just catchy words and funny anecdotes. Content is the tool to give people what they want: information.
Also, stay to the point. Don’t stretch the content far too long with redundant fluff. If you can give all the information in an 800-word article, do it. Don’t write a 3000-word essay for people to read—because they will not.
11. Special Portals
Portals are one of the essential items to direct visitors to where they need to go. Without them, your homepage is just a general, good-vibe nothing.
Since school websites will have many portals for students and teachers, your drop-down menu and navigation must be extremely well structured. Academics, athletics, and admissions are at the core. Work on navigation for these portals and then go from there.
12. Features & Benefits
Last but not least, let your viewers know what sets your school apart from any other school in the area. If you provide certain unique services, amenities, or even payment aid plans, talk about them and highlight all the features. Some websites have a “Why Us” or “Why Choose Us” link on the homepage. You can do that too.
How We Can Help
So, there you have it. These are some of the most critical and crucial design elements any school should consider. Of course, an excellent school website should also include other aspects and functions. However, these fundamentals are essential.
If you’ve read the whole article and you’re sitting there scratching your head, wondering how to do all of this, you’re not alone. Many schools at different levels don’t have the extra time, staff, or budget to set up the design team to optimize their website.
Instead, they’d much rather bring in a reliable website service provider with the infrastructure, expertise, and experience to handle it at an affordable price.
Doing so will free up the staff to focus on the core task, which is running the school. Luckily, that’s precisely what we do here at School Webmasters.
You can easily get a quote right now or just contact us (call 888.750.4556 and speak with Jim) to let us point you in the right direction.
Bonnie Leedy, CEO, School Webmasters, LLC