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End of Year School Website Launches: A Focus on Information Architecture
Mia Major

Websites that launch in the latter half of the year particularly excite me, because they've had the opportunity to learn from 2016 web design trends, and use that as a starting place to do something new and innovative, and set a standard for 2017.

Avon Old Farms and OLGCHS Websites

Looking through the 30+ website launches from the past couple of months, one thing in particular stands out: a focus on strategically combining text and design for a better user experience — and Avon Old Farms School and Our Lady of Good Counsel High School are at the top of the ranks for successful execution.


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Featured Launches

Avon Old Farms School | Avon, CT

Featured in our 2017 Design Trends to Watch webinar, Avon Old Farms School's new website depends heavily on video and an interactive scrolling experience. On the homepage, each scroll introduced a new video, value proposition, and call-to-action, encouraging visitors to make a choice about what they want to learn about next.

Avon's Scrolling Homepage

While of course Avon's site is impressive, I really want to call attention to the strategic architecture of their interior pages — something often left for the last minute for most schools.

The website's interior page feature some subtle animations — such as the logo and navigation change in the header.

avon animated navigation and header

More importantly they rely on video and photos to tell a story, rather than paragraphs of text. Pages like "Why Avon" and "Student Life" don't have lengthy paragraphs, but rather, a value proposition with supporting photos and videos.

Why Avon? Page

Each page follows the following brilliant structure:

  • A header image with either a photo or video, with a text overlay
  • An H1 that describes the content of the page (ex. Academia, Athletics).
  • An H2 value proposition, written in active voice.
  • A video, immediately followed by 4-6 sentences of text
  • More photos and videos
  • Testimonials

This interior page structure both optimizes these pages for branded and unbranded search, but provides an unparalleled user experience. Taking into consideration that the most important parts of the page are the top left, and bottom center, Avon Old Farms places their interior navigation on the right, putting their value proposition and calls to action on the page's most precious real estate.

AOF interior page design

The site also features a simple plain text footer, hamburger navigation, and simplistic site map, Avon's site is built to provide an impressive desktop and mobile experience.

Avon's simple footer

Our Lady of Good Counsel High School | Onley, MD

Need website content inspiration? Look no further. Our Lady of Good Counsel High School's website content inspires action. Slogans like "Come Thrive," "Come Belong," and "Come Play," are quick, yet impactful messages that replace the standard "rigorous academics" and "tight-knit community" terms we commonly see on school websites.

OLGCHS

These slogans are carried throughout the homepage, creating a sense of unity to their brand and messaging, while also providing visitors the option to choose to explore what interests them most.

Come Thrive Infographic

Following a similar interior page hierarchy to Avon Old Farms, OLGCHS begins each interior page with a descriptive H1, and a value proposition. This is effective because it lets users know that they are in the right place, and it gives them a reason to stay.

Admissions Landing Page

The site features some subtle animations on their videos, infographics, and college matriculation list, providing an innovative experience, without overwhelming the user.

OLGHS Homepage Animations

Additional Best-in-Class Designs

Lausanne Collegiate School | Memphis, TN

St. Junipero Serra High School | Rancho Santa Margarita, CA | 12th Annual Davey Award-Winner (Silver)

Serra School Homepage

Western Academy of Beijing | Beijing, China

Canterbury School | New Milford, CT

The Montessori School | Ontario

Independent Schools

The Marvelwood School | Kent, CT

The Marvelwood School

Nardin Academy | Buffalo, NY

Buckingham, Browne & Nichols | Cambridge, MA

Seacrest Country Day School | Naples, FL

St. Mark's School | Southborough, MA

Cardinal Gibbons High School | Raleigh, NC

The Montgomery Academy | Montgomery, AL

St. Margaret's School | Tappahannock, VA

Staten Island Academy | Staten Island, NY

Western Reserve Academy | Hudson, OH

WRA Homepage

The Independence School | Newark, NJ

Cristo Rey Network | Chicago, IL

Ethical Culture Fieldston School | NYC, NY

The Knox School | St. James, NY

Bay View Academy | Riverside, RI

Landon School | Bethesda, MD

Landon Homepage

Westside School | Seattle, WA

Oaks Christian School | Westlake Village, CA

St. Joan Antida High School | Milwaukee, WI

Commonwealth School | Boston, MA

The Gillen Brewer School | NYC, NY

Pennsylvania School for the Deaf | Philadelphia, PA

Cedarwood Waldorf School | Portland, OR

St. John's Episcopal School | Rancho Santa Margarita, CA

Montessori de Terra Linda | San Rafael, CA

Schools in Canada

Metropolitan Preparatory School | Toronto

Meadowridge School | British Columbia

International Schools

International School of the Sacred Heart | Tokyo, Japan

ISSH Japan Homepage

The American International School of Vienna | Austria

American School of Warsaw | Poland

The International School of Port of Spain | Trinidad

International School of Paris | France

Gashora Girls Academy | Rwanda

Rome International School | Italy

The International School Nido de Aguilas | Chile

Public School Districts

Mamaroneck Schools | Mamaroneck, NY

Mamaroneck Schools

Meridian Public Schools | Sanford, MI

Franklin Public Schools | Franklin, WI

Braintree Public Schools | Braintree, MA


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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Mia Major

As Finalsite's Content Marketing Manager, Mia plans and executes a variety of inbound marketing and digital content strategies. As a former TV reporter, freelance cinematographer and certified inbound marketer, Mia specializes in helping schools find new ways to share their stories online through web design, social media, copywriting, photography and videography. She is the author of numerous blogs, and Finalsite's popular eBook, The Website Redesign Playbook.

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