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April School Website Launch Round-Up
Angelo Otterbein

On the heels of School Marketing Day and District Communications Day, when more than 3,000 attendees from across the globe shared experiences and joined us for dozens of sessions of free professional development, it’s hard not to be talking and thinking about the Digital Campus and what that looks like for schools. We’ve got the components laid out and are eager to see them implemented on school websites. 

In the meantime, for those schools who have the opportunity to launch a new website in preparation for the challenging year ahead, congratulations! Let’s dive in to showcase a few highlights one each.

John Burroughs School | MO

The infographic on the lovely homepage of this independent day school in Missouri tells a big story: 641 students from 60 ZIP codes, 42 percent students of color, $3.4 million in tuition assistance on a 49-acre campus. That’s great information, packed into less than 15 words. 

But the website fills out this narrative in many other ways, including a highly visible Distance Learning link on the utility navigation. 

john burrough's school homepage screenshot

Pages like the Admissions Process are well designed and very usable while “Just the Facts” creatively presents a slew of data points and highlights, covering a broad swath of school life and points of pride; it’s got “value proposition” written all over it, without feeling forced. It’s nice to see admissions pages like the Letter from the Director leverage layouts in Composer that are well-balanced and welcoming.

South Texas ISD | TX

There’s a definitive “wow” factor to this district’s new website, starting with immersive video that brings the abstract idea of student outcomes and ties it directly to signature programs and distinctive offerings. 

The district is a unique mix of professional and traditional schools, which are clearly laid out in the second panel of the homepage; the rainbow gradient behind “Our Schools” adds a unique flare to the otherwise traditional grid. 

south texas ISD homepage screenshot

The homepage introduces a map to convey the breadth of geographic coverage, and the “at a glance” infographics spotlight the right facts: #1 Best Places to Teach in Texas and #2 Best Teachers in Texas. Doesn’t get much better than that. 

The AudioEye Accessibility toolbar is a clear indicator of inclusiveness, and the bottom half of the homepage is filled with updated news, social media and events. It’s nice to see how Finalsite Composer allows the district to manage its six school sites uniquely, while also maintaining a uniform aesthetic and coherent brand, allowing for a consistent experience.

Hathaway Brown | OH

The mesmerizing animated photo montage (the smoke from the soldering iron may have put me in a trance) — combined with a very unique and compelling message “Our daughters are unlimited” — almost makes it impossible not to tap on the inquire/visit/apply calls-to-action. 

A carefully crafted series of homepage panels for this independent day school in Shaker Heights, OH is as elegant as it is subtle, with classic serif typography, wide margins, lots of white space and unique border treatments. 

hathaway brown school homepage screenshot

The Aspire and Athletics microsites showcase how Finalsite’s CMS allows for a completely different website and unique navigation to live under the same platform, allowing for simplified site management with maximum design flexibility. 

Their Remote Learning and COVID-19 resource page is also an excellent compilation of learning plans, social media and key information families need.

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Munich International School | Munich, Germany

Diversity comes easy for a school with 1,270 students and 65 nationalities represented, and this new international school website makes that obvious with large, beautiful pictures that feature kids everywhere; the school just feels like it’s bursting with energy. In light of the COVID-19 outbreak, I’m sure they are looking forward to a return to these scenes where education is happening at every turn. 

munich international school homepage screenshot

The user experience is enhanced by simple animations that activate with scrolling and hover states: the “over” state of each news item under “A Vibrant Community” is particularly effective, and it’s a smart move to include social sharing links within the news story. While the visuals are compelling, the depth of content deepens the user experience, particularly in places like the Curriculum page, which is filled with content that is handily tucked into accordions to make the initial experience less overwhelming while still keeping everything in one place. 

British International School of New York | NY

The large, solid red block that carries the logo for BISNY, with the silhouette of the New York skyline, serves as a strong anchor to a stunning series of video clips that draws the user first into the city, and then onto campus where kids are everywhere. 

The “More Than a School” is a prompt as much as it is a statement. The red becomes a signature feature throughout the design, in the menu and in calls-to-action, while every other color comes through in photography.  

the british international school of new york

Practically speaking, the site also succeeds on key pages like the inquiry form, which is condensed and feels accessible, and the Campus page, which features a fun, illustrated aerial of the school, including hotspots to learn more. The footer is compact but contains the right next steps for prospective families who might want to enroll.

Brisbane Grammar School | Brisbane, Australia

This all-boys boarding school in Australia clearly has a stunning campus in a stunning location, which serves as a convenient backdrop for kids engaged in learning. 

From the homepage, a visitor can quickly access BGS Education, which lays out a broad cross-section of opportunities for its students, making it readily apparent that education is more than in the classroom. It’s hard not to notice the caps students wear as part of their uniform, but that’s just one of the many distinctive features that make BGS special. 

brisbane grammar school homepage screenshot

To explore, the hamburger menu opens a full navigational overlay to hop around the site, and a touch of animation for the sub-navigation adds a little zip to the experience. Simple pages like Contacts are important to get right and are handled well with this multi-column layout.

Culford School | Suffolk, UK

The wide open lawn and grand main building in the distance is photosensory enough that it feels like you could almost just walk into your computer and visit this school. Following the homepage CTA to learn about this coed UK boarding school’s mission and values, leads to a similarly striking shot, this time with people, and, uniquely, two dogs scampering along; it almost seems too good to be true. But Culford is a real place with real people, and with the outstanding academics, pastoral care and extra curriculars every school aspires to. 

culford school homepage screenshot homepage screenshot

The website conveys this well: a simple, organized meganav sends users to divisional pages that are deep and expository, and one page after another brings pictures that are just lovely. Design treatments of testimonials, such as on the sixth form page, or the interactive buttons on the parent hub page, all show a finesse and refinement in keeping with the institution.

European School The Hague | Netherlands

The re-launch of the European School The Hague onto the Composer platform, Finalsite’s content management system, is as good a reason as any to celebrate a uniquely modern design. 

European School of the Hague homepage screenshot

The site’s multilingual options in the bottom right offer a nice focused alternative approach to the long list of translation options typical on international sites, and the footer presents convenient access to contact information, a way to expand a map, and a few sets of useful links. Every now and then, the logo’s stars seem to make an appearance, helping to reinforce the brand without overemphasizing it. 

The School Life page is a good example of how varying the layout and grid can make content more accessible, in this case to help prospective families understand just how much the school has to offer.

The Haberdashers’ Aske’s Boys’ School | Herfodshire, UK

Another re-launch onto Composer, the design for this all-boys independent school in the UK has a practicality to the interface that is refreshing. Buttons that overlay impressive scenes from student life are labeled unambiguously: “Who We Are And What We Stand For” is just easy, while others “Senior School (Year 7 to 13)” are purposeful.  Throughout the site, pages like the Code of Ethics or the Admissions Process pages are not lofty design, but rather layouts that provide information to the user in an easily consumed way.

the haberdashers' aske's boys' school

Royal Russell School | Surrey, UK

The Page Pop for this independent day and boarding school in the UK has a particularly sharp look, and the deep blues and burgundy accents keep it that way. 

royal russell school homepage screenshot

The homepage is also a good example of intentional animation as blocks of content slide in passively while you scroll, at a pace that feels manageable while presenting options sequentially to the user. Likewise, the social feed and array of thumbnail images that are thoughtfully cropped, present a window into school life that is vibrant and varied. Interior pages like Senior School and Co-Curricular show how mixing columns and text can lead to a very interesting page that’s well suited to both the orientation of the respective images and amount of content. Lots to see and learn here.

Wellesley College Alumnae Association | MA

This beautiful new alumnae association website centralizes the tools, resources and utilities to serve and connect its 35,000 alumnae. Password-protected class pages allow alums to get the information most relevant to their graduation year, with pictures, news, reunion information and more. Alums can connect to other Wellesley Shared Identity Groups and search the directory securely. Behind the scenes, the College updates information from Salesforce to the website through Finalsite’s API, ensuring the latest information is available to alums. 

wellesley college alumnae association homepage screenshot

Theme and Theme Plus Website Launches in April

Horris Hill | Berkshire, UK

Pocklington School | Pocklington, UK

Colegio Maya | El Salvador

Cristo Rey Miami | FL

Aldro School | Surrey, UK

Newland House School | Middlesex, UK

St Nicholas’ School | Fleet Hampshire, UK


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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

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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