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27 Finalsite Schools Won Design Awards in 2019
Leah Mangold

It’s that time of year when sleigh bells ring, snow glistens and… I get to talk about the year’s best school website design! 

Twenty-seven Finalsite schools won web design awards in 2019. That’s right— twenty-sevrn! As the most decorated web design company  in the industry, Finalsite takes pride in our pursuit for thoughtful, functional and trend-setting design ideas. This year’s winners were school websites that really went above and beyond. What makes each site unique? 

Glean some design inspiration from these four award-winning schools:

  • Anglo-American School of Sofia
  • Carolina Day School
  • Merchiston Castle School
  • Community High School District 155

Anglo-American School of Sofia | MarCom Awards

anglo-american school of sofia

This international school won Gold Distinction at the 2019 MarCom Awards for its newly-launched website.  

About the award:

“Since its inception in 2004, MarCom has evolved into one of the largest, most-respected creative competitions in the world. Each year about 6,000 print and digital entries are submitted from dozens of countries.”

What makes this design unique:

An interactive campus map in the footer.  

Effective digital marketers use interactive content to liven up their content— it’s proven to be more effective than static images because it captivates the audience and evokes curiosity. Anglo-American School of Sofia uses an engaging and user-friendly interactive map in its footer navigation strategy to draw attention to the Bulgarian campus. 

screenshot from Anglo-American School of Sofia's campus map

Engaging navigation menu with visual boxes. 

Crafting the perfect navigation is a challenge for many schools. Instead of a text-heavy menu with lots of links, this website breaks the menu up into sections with pictures:

animation showing anglo-american school of sofia menu navigation

The interior pages also have fun image boxes that encourage further navigation. From the “Our School” page, visitors can click to read more about each individual school’s curriculum. 

Anglo-American school of Sofia school's landing page

Carolina Day School | Davey Award

Carolina Day School’s website has one of those homepages that immediately feels like a journey ready to happen. I reached out to Web Designer Akua Duah to get a behind-the-scenes perspective on several key design decisions for this Gold-winning site.  

About the award:

“The largest and most prestigious awards competition exclusively for the “Davids” of creativity… the Davey is sanctioned and judged by the Academy of Interactive and Visual Arts, an invitation-only body consisting of top-tier professionals from a “Who’s Who” of acclaimed media, advertising, and marketing firms.” 

carolina day school homepage screenshot

What makes this school website award-worthy:

The cloud animation on the homepage draws the user in.  

“It is always nice when a client is open to doing something different and new,” says Akua. “Carolina wanted to have a site that is clean, engage users, highlight their community, and tell their story. We felt like the clouds would be a fun treatment for the top of the homepage and would go well with the school’s tagline and motto: ‘The sky is the limit.’”

carolina day school homepage screenshot showing the moving cloud design element

Video segments incorporated throughout the site spark engagement. 

We often stress the importance of designing for the content a school knows it can provide, rather than adding creative design ideas that require more content maintenance than the school signed up for. Our design team is always client-focused, and Carolina Day School’s design process was no different: 

“Carolina had a good amount of video content,” says Akua, “so we added in a section on the homepage to highlight these as well.” 

Carolina Day School panel with videos screenshot

Each video opens in a lightbox. It pops up over the page’s content to be viewed while the rest of the website dims, enabling users to give the video their full attention. 

Carolina Day School lightbox effect example screenshot

School facts are presented in a visually compelling format.

Instead of simply listing key school numbers — such as Carolina’s teacher-to-student ratio or amount of performance arts productions — this website connects each number to a picture in a customized image slider. This design decision is a refreshing take on the infographic panel, where schools typically use generic icons.

Carolina Day School school facts with pictures of students

On the About Us interior page, prospective families are looking for a little more detail. Here, numbers are listed together, yet the list is not boring because each fact is animated. The numbers count up and zoom as the page loads, and then the animation stops for easy reading. 

a gif showing the animated facts on Carolina Day School's about page

Merchiston Castle School | MarCom Awards

I could spend all day on this site — it’s just really, really that beautiful. This Best-in-Class design took home Platinum in the MarCom Awards, and it’s easy to see why. 

About the award:

MarCom Awards honors excellence in marketing and communication while recognizing the creativity, hard work and generosity of industry professionals. The international organization, founded in 1995, consists of several thousand marketing, communication, advertising, public relations, digital and web professionals.”

What makes this school website award-worthy:

Personalization drives the user experience.

Merchiston clearly and carefully laid out each step in the admissions funnel. The first button on the homepage reads: ‘Find Your Merchiston.’ When clicked, it redirects to this navigation menu: 

"find your merchiston" custom navigation element

I love the phrase “Select your entry point.” It immediately lets the prospective families be in control of their journey through the website by choosing which content they wish to see. The school also gets a better idea of who the end-user is, allowing them to create messaging that targets specific personas. 

animation showing Merchiston's use of Forms Manager

When prospects are ready to take action and fill out a form, the school uses Forms Manager to again allow them to control their experience. Click the checkbox for “Request a prospectus by post” and you’ll see a different form than if you click “Request a tour.”

Community profiles for school storytelling. 

One of the best ways to convince a family of a school’s worth is to introduce them to the school community— people who can share their experiences, their successes, and their favorite aspects of attending the school. Merchiston’s website does this incredibly well. Through “Community Profiles” of students, faculty, alumni, and parents, the school lets its biggest fans do the talking!

merchiston castle school's community profiles arranged in a grid

The layout of the individual profile pages is fresh and engaging, too. The balanced use of block letters and subtitles make for easy reading (in other words, easy scanning!) and give it a modern, yet sophisticated look that fits the school’s brand. 

community profiles landing page example from merchiston castle school's website

Also, at the bottom of each profile is a link to other “connected” profiles. What a fun way to drive traffic to other website pages and illustrate that a Merchiston education provides students with a variety of networking opportunities! 

"my merchiston connections" section of merchiston's community profiles page

Merchiston also takes displaying alumni achievements to the next level. Visitors can click to view alumni stories from all over the world on this interactive map, emphasizing the school’s global impact. Filter the map by location or simply scroll through the map to explore— then click to read the full testimonial.

alumni success stories custom design element from Merchiston Castle School's website

A trove of swoon-worthy interior pages. 

Screenshots just don’t do the website justice—make sure you check it out for yourself! These interior pages all deserve a visit:

custom timeline page from Merchiston Castle School's website
screenshot of the parents area of the merchiston castle school website
Merchiston Castle School's news page

Community High School District 155 | IAC Award

Public schools are often faced with the struggle of creating a utilitarian website that also communicates to prospective families what makes the district unique. This Illinois district won the Web Marketing Association’s IAC award for “2019 Best School Website,” and continues to provide content for both audiences. 

About the award:

“The Internet Advertising Competition (IAC) Awards were developed by the WMA to honor excellence in online advertising, recognize the individuals and organizations responsible for creating work, and showcasing the award winning Internet advertising.”

What makes this school website award-worthy:

An infographic provides fast facts about the district.   

infographic example from Community High School District 155

Social media integration gives visitors a glimpse of daily school happenings.

By incorporating Finalsite Feeds into both its district homepage and school pages, District 155 is able to provide refreshing new content regularly— it simply filters and presents the content being shown on the district’s various social media accounts. 

Plus, it allows the district to show only relevant social media content on each school page. Visitors on the Crystal Lake Central High School page, for example, only see posts related to that school. 

Finalsite Feeds integration on the district homepage: 

social media integration example from Community High School District 155

Finalsite Feeds integration on the Crystal Lake Central High School page:

social media integration with Finalsite Feeds example from Community High School District 155

And that’s not all! 

Congratulations to all twenty-seven schools that won design awards in 2019.  

AVA Awards

Leysin American School In Switzerland

ICS Addis Ababa School

Queen Ethelburga's School

Alleyn's School

CASE Web Award Winners

Bolles School

Communicator Award Winners

Fairfield Prep School

Trinity-Pawling School

Lady Eleanor Holles

Rotterdam International Secondary School

Danes Hill School

Beacon Private School

Davey Award Winners

St. Dunstan's College

Hermes Award Winners

La Salle College High School

Thornton Academy

Muse Award Winners

Morristown-Beard School

The Packer Collegiate Institute

Mobile Web Award Winners

Durham Academy

Mansfield Independent School District

Summit Marketing Effectiveness Award Winner

Bear Creek School

Summit Emerging Media Award Winner

Parish Episcopal School

Summit Creative Award Winners

Lake Forest Academy

Quaker School at Horsham

W3 Award Winner

Brentwood School

Key Takeaway

Finalsite's design team continues to impress the judging panels for awards all over the world. Our team works with independent, international, and public schools across various timelines and budgets. We'd love the opportunity to work with you, too! Start a conversation with us today and learn what it's like to work with us!



As Finalsite's Marketing Associate, Leah promotes new school site launches and educates people on all things digital marketing. She’s passionate about global communication, handwritten notes, and sole travel. When she’s not exploring new places, she’s either blogging, doodling, or dreaming about it!

  • Awards
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