School website design should not be taken lightly as it often serves as the first impression of the school for new students and families in the community. The website is often one of the main communication tools a school uses to disseminate information out to students, parents, and community members. If the school is a private school, Christian school, or Montessori school, the website can also serve as a recruitment tool to bring more families into the school system. Most of all, the school website communicates the school’s values, programs, and culture to parents and students, and can help attract new students and faculty to the school.
What makes a good school website design?
Before we dive into the website re-design I did for Western Christian School, I want to first address what makes a good school website.
How does it look? As a web designer, this is the first thing that catches my eye on any school website. How do they use their school colors, how is the layout, do they have good student photos, and so on. I’ll be covering some of these principles with the examples below.
How does it work? As mentioned above, the website is used to share information on school events and pertinent information, so functionality is very important. Is it easy to navigate? Does the site load fast? Is the text legible? Do things actually WORK on the site? With a broad range of users, the school website needs to be easy to use.
Does it make sense? A common mistake I see in many school websites is being too disorganized. To capture the attention of parents and students, it’s important to have engaging and clear content. This can be achieved through a well-thought-out layout and design that effectively conveys the school’s values, programs, and culture, while also making it easy for visitors to navigate and find the information they need.
The school website design process
Content organization is especially important for educational websites, where there is often a wealth of information to convey to parents, students, and faculty.
When I worked with WCS to design their website, the first step we took was to re-think and simplify the content organization. We looked at each page and assessed whether it was necessary, and if so, whether the content could be condensed or reorganized to make it more user-friendly. For example, we combined the mission statement, faith statement, and school history.
We also considered the user experience and thought about how parents and students would navigate the website, and what information was most important on the page.
Once we had streamlined the content, we also re-organized the website menu to make sense. We wanted to ensure that the menu was intuitive and easy to navigate so that parents and students could quickly find the information they needed. We actually simplified the main three links to be in the top navigation, with a button to expand a mega menu drop-down with all necessary links.
Most of these links are anchor links that jump to a certain section of the page. So, it still looks like Mission and Statement of Faith are separate, but they aren’t!
By simplifying the website content organization, we were able to create a new website that was easy to use and navigate. This allowed parents and students to quickly find the information they needed, which in turn improved the user experience and helped to strengthen the school’s brand. They are in a rural area, so this new website will help them really stand out among other schools in the area.
Photos of students and community members
The next step of the design process was planning pages and thinking about photos that we needed.
When it comes to designing a school website, it’s important to make sure that the website accurately reflects the school’s culture, values, and community. One way to do this is by including photos of students, faculty, and community members, rather than just focusing on the school grounds.
In the past, school websites often relied heavily on photos of the school buildings and grounds. While these photos can be helpful in giving visitors a sense of the school’s physical space, they really don’t convey the full picture of the school’s community and culture. By including more photos of students, faculty, and community members, the website can become more engaging and reflective of the school’s true character.
(It’s also more interesting to view a website with happy, smiling faces and not just buildings!)
By updating the website with a bigger variety of photos, the school can better show the wide range of activities, events, and people that make up its community. This can help parents and students get a better sense of what it’s like to be part of the school and different clubs or activities.
School website functionality
The last step of the design process was to add in necessary functionality like integrating school calendars and integrating their giving platform. There was also some simpler functionality that we needed to have on the site, like application forms, PDF downloads, and scheduling tours.
Again, we didn’t just want the website to hold information, but we wanted it to be a functional place for students and parents to do what they need to do. We wanted this website to be a one-stop shop so that everyone can save time! Parents don’t have to remember 15 different places to find information, and staff don’t have to spend as much time sending out information.