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Choate Rosemary Hall

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13 Stunning School Website Launches You Need to See
Angelo Otterbein

Fall. Leaves. Pumpkins. Apples. Chilly mornings. Hot cider. Clear nights, big moon. And, well, websites! 

Because here at Finalsite, it’s all about websites in August and September. Even though we remind our clients that there 10 other months of the year that have plenty of upside for the Great Reveal (take, February — everyone’s miserable. Why not go against the flow and launch then?), back to school is busy as ever — in fact, 84 website launches busy. In two months. 

Queen Ethelburga's

Oh man. Where to start. I just happen to have Queen Ethelburga’s open and, wow, what a neat way to segment current parents from prospective families, splitting the screen right out of the gate and guiding users in the direction that makes sense.

queen ethelburga's website experience

With the importance of personalized content and web experiences on the rise, we give Queen Ethelburga a 10 out of 10 for being one step ahead in their marketing strategy.

Wingate University

Wingate University, one of our most recent higher education clients, stops you in your visual tracks with a novel use of the grid, overlays, embedded video, subtle messaging, and some of the best iconography I’ve seen in recent memory.

wingate university homepage

This panel of the homepage is just terrific with clear pathways for undergraduates and graduates and bright colors to segment their academic departments.

wingate university program panel

The homepage also features awesome alumni spotlight features, well-assembled news and a footer that should win an award. Check it out.

wingate university footer

Chadwick School

And then there’s the over-the-top, blow-your-mind, call-people-over-to-your-desk, email-your-head-of-school-to-ask-for-a-bigger-budget launch of Chadwick School.

chadwick international school homepage

I thought we had topped our top when we launched Chadwick international, which is still an awesome website. But what is impressive about Chadwick School’s site, here in the US, isn’t just the beautiful video and photography, or the infographics that say it all, or the sharp and succinct copy that says a lot with a little, or the lovely and serene campus shot sitting along the footer — but the depth of the design.

chadwick2-inforgraphic

Just check out how awesome this landing page is for one of their divisions. And cheers to Composer, Finalsite’s content management system, for providing the flexibility and layout options to make sophisticated pages easy to put together and update. Just incredibly rewarding to see software, design and a great client committed to the site come together in one great project. Wow!

Harvey School

What I like about Harvey School’s new website, aside from the fact that it’s a great new design, is that they called out their Signature Programs right in the navigation. Well done!

harvey school 1

There’s sometimes a heated debate about where that should go, but I like the idea of being loud and clear about some of the key areas thatsets the school apart. I also like the small utility navigation for their subsites. Very thoughtful and organized. Touches the OCD funny bone in me.

harvey school nav

St. Johnsbury Academy, Jeju

And then, all the way over in Korea, St. Johnsbury Academy, Jeju launched a great new website. I love that Composer supports multilingual websites so seamlessly.

st johnsbury jeju homepage

And while the hamburger navigation can be hit or miss for some schools, for St. Johnsbury, Juju, this case a direct hit. Full screen opens to a painless navigation that sits easy, accessible. It’s hard to put your finger on exactly why and what makes for a great user experience works, but “you know it when you see it”. Definitely the case here.

johnsbury navigation example

Wilshire Boulevard Temple and Schools

Speaking of navigation and more broadly, site architecture, here’s one that was surely a head scratcher for our designers when they started. Wilshire Boulevard Temple and Schools has a temple, two school elementary campuses, a religious school, early childhood centers and a unique site for camps — and one visual story that needed to connect them all. I wondered how we’d solve this one. But wow, nice job! 

willshiretemple

Mulgrave School

Mulgrave School has been a client for many years, and I love their latest iteration. This is one of the only examples I’ve seen recently of enhanced photography. Neat idea and says a lot about the school.

mulgrave enhanced photos

They nailed a lot of things with this website, but one, in particular, is the footer: careful use of content, links, messaging, accreditation — a lot of mileage for not that many pixels.

mulgravefooter

Elmwood School

While we’re in Canada, Elmwood School in Ottawa launched a nice site for the fall. The message of “Whole Girl. Whole World.” was particularly compelling.

elwood - whole girl whole world

The school also has a nice use of Page Pops to promote their open house. Each Page Pop is triggered automatically throughout the site depending on which page you land.

elmwood pagepop example

The Signature Programs page was organized and particularly on target with its messaging and design.

elmwood signature programs

Denver Jewish Day School

I love the colors of Denver Jewish Day School — how can you not be happy looking at it?

denver jewish day school homepage

How the site presents the divisions is simple and compact...and purple! Whether I'm a first-time or returning visitor, I know where to go — and that creates a happy user experience. The video is also a great piece of content sprinkled into the homepage.

djds colorful homepage

The sticky nav for key calls-to-action (located on the right-hand side of the screen) are big enough to notice but not so big as to be intrusive. Another nice touch. 

Grand Rapids Christian School

Grand Rapids Christian School has a nice spin on the same sticky nav as DJDS, but with simple words (“Ask”, “Visit”, “News”) — obviously driven towards enrollment, and easy for the website visitor. As for the homepage video, I love the speed of the video — slow motion for a bit, then slightly frenetic, but high energy, bustling like every school day is. Really smart twist on how to bust out of the full-screen video box.

I also love the featured programs right on the homepage, with subtle icons and unique handling of the photography with the circles. 

grand rapids - signature programs

South Ascot Village Primary Schools

It’s been a while since I’ve seen nice, big makes-you-think-about the beach waves on a website, so was pleasantly surprised by South Ascot Village Primary School’s website -- the huge amount of purple and large serif type stepped away from the mold, but in a good way because in this case the mold is for a nursery school. Those waves even expand in the navigation. Reminds me of those days in math studying sine and cosine. I dig.

ascot-homepage1

Portsmouth Abbey

Back over to Rhode Island, Portsmouth Abbey rolled out a stunning new site with a drone shot that makes you want to jump into the screen. Can I come?

portsmouthabbey homepage

I love the nav vis-a-via the hamburger menu and the prominence of the search once you click in. What do you call an infographic that’s made up of pictures? Info-photographics (an infographic driven by photos) work great here to showcase impressive numbers and school culture. Oh, and check out the unique layout of their dynamic social feeds. Is there anything that Finalsite’s CMS can’t do? Uh, no.

portsmouth abbey social media mashup

William Penn Charter School

For a school in the US that’s over 300 years old, William Penn Charter sure knows how to reinvent itself. This dynamic new site conveys a school you can believe in, drawing you into the campus and supporting its message with testimonials, social proof and convincing stories. Great school, great website. And is it me, or is it just extra awesome that the The Odyssey, Harry Potter, and Lost are all on the same shelf, being held up by what looks like a Odysseus himself. 

william penn charter school homepage

Conclusion

So that’s… 13 websites of 84. That’s a lot of design, coding, project management and a lot of just plain old work. It’s so rewarding to see these sites come together and launch — the deployment team makes it look so easy. Great job!

And want to see which one of our launches earlier this year won an award? Check out this blog!


click here for a free website audit


ABOUT THE AUTHOR
angelo otterbein headshot

Angelo graduated valedictorian from St. Paul's School in Baltimore, MD and from Princeton University. Despite getting his degree in creative writing and English Literature, it generally takes some doing to keep him from programming and breaking websites. Just after graduating, he started Silverpoint, and grew it to over 300 schools worldwide before merging with Finalsite in 2013.

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