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What Makes a Great School Website in 2022?

An effective school website is crucial to the success of your district. It is the first point of entry for many prospective families, faculty and staff as they search for districts. First impressions only happen once — and your website is an opportunity to make it positive and lasting. 

Communication with current stakeholders also depends on a great school website that connects with and engages your wider community. What impressions does your website give to prospective families?

Kealan Duffy, Production Manager at Finalsite, says when it comes to websites, “bad design is obvious, but good design is often invisible.” Here are some of Duffy’s top recommendations for creating a great school website: 

Use a Goal-Driven Approach

What do you want to accomplish with your website? When planning a new design or new content, first establish the outcome you want to see. Design and content decisions that are purposeful and solve problems will be the driving force behind making your website stand out. 

Think Mobile First

Typically over half of your web traffic comes from people using mobile devices, and the pandemic has pushed numbers up almost 70% in many districts. The goal of designing a mobile responsive site has been replaced by the need to design for mobile first.  Duffy recommends these best practices for mobile-first design:

      • Succinct, well-optimized content
      • Large type and visual hierarchy to make skimming content easier 
      • Bigger buttons to make interactions and calls to action easier for your user
      • Strategic use of white space to highlight important content areas 

Use Design Trends Effectively

Keeping pace with changing website trends can feel overwhelming. If you are drowning in the endless list of design updates, focus on a few trends that will work best for your school.

“Design trends are successful when they’re right for you and right for your audience.” – Kealan Duffy 

The top school website trends we recommend considering this year are:

Interactivity. Interactivity creates the opportunity for engagement with the user. Think: a kindergarten enrollment process that is responsive to individual family needs or demographics, or interactive school course catalogs.

Infographics. Visual presentation can organize and simplify overwhelming information and make it easy for the audience to understand. Think: a simple display of quarantine/exclusion requirements to help parents easily understand the steps. 

Animations. Small buttons, call-to-actions, cursors, products, processes, and graphics all present opportunities for micro-animations. Think: a button that changes colors when the cursor goes. 

Nostalgic Design. Combine past design trends with modern design aesthetics.

      • The ’90s are influencing bright, playful colors
      • The ’80s brings loud, geometric and colorful designs
      • The ’60s are providing more organic shapes and multicolored styles
      • The Art Deco of the ’20s inspires a more sophisticated design style

Expressive Typography. Type is taking center stage in many designs, helping tell a story. Think: use of bold text in place of a header image.

Animations are eye-catching and a huge website trend in 2022, but that doesn’t mean it’s right for YOUR site. Identifying your goals for your brand should come first.

Tell Your Story Beyond the Homepage

The homepage is an important part of any website, but it is just the start. Consider your homepage as the introduction to your the story your messages will tell with emotional engagement throughout your site. Conveying your messages as stories enables you to: 

      • Simplify complex ideas 
      • Build an emotional connection with your audience
      • Make key messages more memorable 
      • Inspire users to take action 

Remember that web searches mean a user’s first point of entry to your website may be on a page that isn’t the homepage. Storytelling beyond your homepage will help establish a consistent user experience, no matter what page they visit first. 

“It’s exciting to update your website, but shiny object syndrome is real. You don’t need to follow every new trend or over-develop your website. Overuse of auto-motion like gifs or headers can become annoying to users. Your website should have a clean look without extra clutter so your users can find what they need. Your brand design, when carried throughout your site, will tell your story effectively.”
– Chelsea Janke, Integrated Marketing Director, CEL

Be Accessible and Inclusive

Accessibility is about removing barriers to provide an equitable and helpful experience for any person visiting your site. It also enables you to engage the full potential of your audience. Accessibility affects every aspect of your website, from design through content. Consider accessibility for people with disabilities that include visual, motor/mobility, auditory, seizures, cognitive and intellectual. And remember that a positive user experience is the first step to creating meaningful relationships.

Websites are no longer an optional tool for engaging current and prospective families. A great school website design makes sure users can easily find the information they need and represents your school in a positive way. Is it time to update your website for a better user experience?

Hot tip: Add Finalsite University 2022 to your calendar (March 30 – April 1). This virtual conference will explore what’s coming next in school marketing and design and help you build your priority list. And when you’re ready to prioritize and knock out your 2022 to-do list, we’re here to help!   

Published on: February 2, 2021