Most of us understand what it is that makes a badly designed school website because most of us have visited badly designed school websites. It’s pretty easy to figure out what’s wrong, but what makes great web design for school websites?
Among the must-haves, there’s appropriateness, there’s content clarity, there’s good graphic design, there’s functionality, there’s usability, and there’s a good overall depth of information. But in practical terms, what exactly does all of this mean?
What does it mean to a parent, for example, who wants to visit the website to find contact information in a hurry, but they are unable to find that information so they leave frustrated?
What does it mean to a parent who is checking out a school website on a phone but is investing more time re-sizing the webpages than helping her child with their homework?
So, great web design for a school website is not merely about nice colours, multi-media presentations, and flashy photos. It’s about how the site functions for the stakeholders: The parents, the children, the staff, the community.
Here, we look at five key elements that are necessary for a well-designed school website.
1. Functional homepage
In this case, functional means that site visitors can make that next click without too much manoeuvring and scrolling. After all, if a visitor is hanging around on the homepage for too long, chances are they are already confused.
- Keep things simple – Frequently, the best web design for school websites is a simple design. Among the most common mistakes made when designing a school website is trying to pack too much content onto the homepage. The best school website homepages are the ones that are easy to consume – the ones that quickly guide you to the information you need.
- Calendar of events and news pages – School news should be fresh. If it’s not fresh, visitors will not return. A school’s calendar is imperative for communication purposes. It must be prominent, and again, it must be kept up to date.
- Images – A good visual to keep parents abreast of important school events is by way of rotating images, which are also referred to as a slider. The slider shouldn’t dominate the homepage and should be easy to change (implement the use of a user-friendly CMS).
2. Responsive design
One of the crucial aspects of school website design these days is having a responsive (mobile-friendly) design. Successful responsive design allows the website to be usable and readable on all devices – smartphones, desktops, laptops, tablets. Responsive design, likewise, reformats and resizes the webpages so that the frustrating dragging and zooming are eradicated.
A responsive design means that the site can be viewed on social media channels such as Facebook and Twitter. This is vitally important since so many people use social media.
3. Accessibility requirements
Each year we generally see a minimum of two rounds of alterations to Ofsted’s (Office for Standards in Education) requirements for U.K. school websites. It’s important to be fully aware of these requirements to keep the website compliant.
Similarly, there are unique requirements for free schools, colleges, and academies.
The requirements are extensive, but you can keep updated by following this link: Keep up to date with school website requirements.
4. Navigation well organised
Well-designed navigation is key to a website’s usability. Some top web design companies rely on what is referred to as the “7-link rule”.
What this means is that all navigation and sub-navigation is organised with seven links. Anything more than seven links can become confusing to the user.
5. Popular pages are streamlined
Besides the school calendar, pay close attention to the more popular pages on your website. In general, the most popular pages will be:
- Calendar – The school calendar must be up to date, readily accessible, and easy to use.
- Contact page – The contact page should be very easy to find, but all too often, and on many school websites, it’s not. Also, it needs to be up to date.
- Teacher pages – It should never be a struggle to locate teacher pages. A prominent link to teacher pages ought to be located on the homepage.
There is a lot more to great school website design and it’s not merely about the five elements above. Nevertheless, these five elements do serve as a very solid foundation for all schools to follow.
Regardless of how you go about determining what great web design for school websites actually is, it’s imperative that the site is organised well and has an excellent homepage. It must also be easy to access while on the go and must have a strong presence on social media.