Key Design Principles for Your School WebsiteSeptember 10, 2019
A note from Digistorm: this post was originally posted in August 2017 and has since been updated.
Your school website is kind of a big deal. In fact, we’d be so bold as to say that it’s your number one marketing tool when it comes to showcasing your school and attracting new families. If you’re considering building a new school website or revamping your existing one, there are a number of design principles you should keep in mind.
For this article we asked our Lead Designer, Debora, to share some of her experience and wisdom with us. Deb heads up our expert team of in-house designers, who work hard to create custom, engaging, and user-centric websites for schools. Without further ado, let’s dive into the nine key design principles that Deb says every school website should abide by!
1. Understand your audience
When it comes to creating a website that attracts prospective families and generates new leads for your school, you’re going to need to start by understanding who your audience is. Drilling down on your school's ideal customer profile (ICP) is will enable you to create more realistic and measurable goals for your school website — plus it helps our team ensure that your website is being built in line with your specific requirements.
Need to get personal with your target audience?
Check out our post, Why Personas Are the Key to Boosting Parent Engagement
2. Start with a wireframe
You wouldn’t start building a house without a blueprint, would you? Well, we like to think about your website's wireframe in the same way. It doesn’t need to be perfect, but it should provide an idea of how you’d like to organise your website content in a way that’s easy to navigate and makes sense to the user. So long as you have a basic idea of your wireframe, our team can assist with our expert knowledge across UI/UX best practice to ensure that your website is easy to navigate.
3. Nail your information architecture
Your information architecture (IA) is the structural design of your website content. To understand your IA, you’ll need to define what will be the primary and secondary information on your school website. Start by grouping related information, keeping in mind that all information on your website should be quick and easy for the user to find. At this point, it’s important to go back to your target audience and focus on what actions you want them to take. We recommend taking the opportunity here to think about how you can help your audience take these actions and reach their goals as quickly as possible.
Website navigation is by far, one of the most important features of any website. Poor website navigation will confuse and frustrate users, leading them to ditch your website altogether. Your website’s navigation (that bar across the top of your website that links to each page) should offer a clear and simple path to the information you want your prospective or existing parents to access. Again, always think back to your target audience and goals to ensure your website navigation is aligned.
4. Make it easy to explore
Your website users need to have the flexibility to navigate through your website, without needing to return to your homepage or scrolling back to the top of the page. To achieve this you might include sticky navigation that remains stuck at the top of your webpage while scrolling, or perhaps you include some key navigation links that float on the side of your school website during a user’s session — this is called non-linear navigation. Navigation tools like these ensure that regardless of where a user is on your school website, they can easily complete their goal.
Another way to improve navigation and make your website more intuitive is by reducing the number of steps (or clicks) a user takes to complete a conversion. For example, if attracting online enrollments is a key objective for your school website, a strong call to action button encourages users to get there faster.
5. Optimize for mobile search
Did you know that 52 per cent of all global Internet traffic comes from mobile devices? These days, not having a school website that’s mobile responsive is self-sabotage. Responsive websites are made with 12 column grids to ensure they can adapt to every screen size. Essentially this means that no matter what web browser or device parents use to browse your website on, they’re guaranteed to receive a fully functional, effective and consistent experience.
6. Take advantage of white space
Blank space throughout your school's website helps avoid crowding and gives the user a break. Too much information can also make it hard for the user to scan and easily find the information that they are looking for. Remember to keep your school website clean, clear and well-organized with regular breaks for the user's eyes. Read more on white space here.
7. Work within your brand guidelines
Branding is an important aspect of any business, providing its customers with a strong identity. As Jeff Bezos once said, “Your brand is what your customers say about you when you’re not in the room.” At Digistorm, we’ve been working hard to develop and strengthen our brand, making our brand assets more familiar to our clients and the broader education community.
Likewise, schools need to develop their brand to differentiate themselves and to become instantly recognisable and unique in the eyes of your school community. Clear brand guidelines are an important tool to ensure everyone in your school team understands your brand and your brand assets and can use them appropriately.
Remember, every school is different and has different offerings, requirements and online objectives, so a custom solution is always best. If you’re thinking about a new school website and get in touch with the Digistorm team today!