A website design impacts how an audience sees a brand. For educational institutions, potential students expect innovative web designs highlighting the latest technologies. Public and private establishments benefit by showing they understand the trends and tools that make learning interesting. Schools should revamp dated and boring sites immediately.
In addition to the basics of excellent user experience (UX) design, web developers for educational institutions must consider what the target audience wants most. Knowing the user’s pain points and how to solve problems is the first step to standing out.
Learn how to create a stellar school website by studying examples of what other brands do right. Here are a few favorites that provide educational institutions with ideas to implement and attract students.
1. The Summit
The Summit is a college preparatory academy in Cincinnati, Ohio. The private school was established in 1890 and serves preschool through high school students. The website hits all the right notes for an upscale institution with an established reputation.
The element that works best to pull the user in and engage them is the aerial video of the school grounds. The image starts from a distance and shows the campus, including the football field. It then pans in closer and shows specific elements of the campus.
Note the overlay on the video with a transparent geometric feature. Panning over it at the beginning of the video prompts a popup menu to appear. Adding cutting-edge features keeps users engaged and makes them stick around to learn more.
Westminster is a theological seminary located in Pennsylvania. It has a narrow focus, offering Master of Arts degrees in counseling, theological studies, divinity and religion.
Something it does well that most educational institutions should repeat is offering a table outlining the different details about its degrees. The user can see at a glance how many credit hours they’ll need to complete and how long it might take. It also breaks down which degrees are on campus and which are online.
The grid-based infographic is visually appealing. Everything is organized, which is what students want in a school.
The University of Florida is a large campus, offering over 300 degree options. It is easy to overwhelm site visitors with options. Instead, it keeps its navigational hierarchy simple so the user can get where they need to go quickly.
Note how hovering over one of the six tabs at the top prompts a drop-down menu with additional options. Each subcategory has more links, too.
How can web designers narrow the options so they make the most sense? Start with the categories users click on most. Anything that isn’t visited frequently should move to subcategory status.
At times, developers can also combine two categories into one. Consider the goal of the site. If a school wants to grab leads, all areas might point to a call to action (CTA) to gain more information. If the purpose is to share specific details, which page do the categories send the user to?
Ormiston College is in Australia. It serves students from elementary age up through high school. The image above doesn’t show the full impact of its parallax scrolling. Because the screen moves with each scroll of the mouse, it keeps the user interested and moving through the slides.
Scrolling down uncovers students in various activities and headlines explaining the benefits of attending the school. The mobile version of the site features the same parallax scrolling feature but with responsive images sized to a smaller screen.
More than half of all website traffic comes via mobile devices. Considering how features such as video or parallax scrolling work on smaller screens becomes a crucial part of design for educational institutions. Younger people are far more likely to research schools online, so mobile responsiveness is a must.
Hanover College does an excellent job with its CTAs. Every well-designed site from any niche features excellent calls to action. However, educational institutions must focus on information and getting people to see the benefits of attending the school over other options available to most potential students.
Note how it uses blue to grab attention. The rest of the design comprises images and red hues and the blue provides a pop of color. Hovering over each possible option makes the shade go from dark to light.
Although Hanover offers three options for this section, most schools will want to stick to a single CTA to drive users to a specific goal. However, since the choices vary but still put information in the lead’s hands, the three buttons work well for the overall site design.
The numerous options for potential educational institutions mean websites abound. A student looking at possibilities might visit dozens of sites before choosing their favorites. Schools that want to stand out from the competition must consider why their target audience searches for them in the first place.
Once developers know the psychology behind the site visit, it’s much easier to create a design that pulls people in and keeps them there. Use these examples as a starting point for creating an excellent educational institution website. Most schools can increase their conversion rates with a few tweaks and testing, making it easier to attract the traffic they want and increase their number of applications.
Eleanor Hecks is editor-in-chief at Designerly Magazine. She was the creative director at a digital marketing agency before becoming a full-time freelance designer. Eleanor lives in Philly with her husband and pup, Bear.