- Public School District
Over the past five years we’ve seen high school websites change from what was once a glorified bulletin board where admins could copy and paste lunch menus and prom dates to become a crucial marketing tool for schools and districts. After all, it’s the first impression made on a prospective family and a window into your district’s brand.
Nailing that first impression drives enrollment too — which of course, drives your budget. Nowadays half of parents are exercising school choice; they’re more inclined to make real estate decisions factoring in neighboring districts than leave their child's education to chance.
In short, there’s a lot at stake with your website. Specifically, in the world of public schools, that doesn’t just mean your district homepage. It also means the individual school sites for your elementary, middle, and high schools need to tell the unique story of the education and opportunities available. Public high schools, in particular, are stepping up to improve the way they market the content families care about, such as academics, athletics, and college counseling.
The following five high schools have been able to distance themselves from the competition with award-winning websites. While each of these websites is different, they all possess a few key design elements, including:
- A truly mobile-first design, one able to keep its potency on any device a visitor may use to access it.
- Purposeful content that communicates a school’s brand and speaks to its target audience
- Creative navigation patterns which lead a visitor to the most vital information first and let the school communicate a high amount of valuable info without feeling cumbersome.
In addition to these design elements, great high school websites:
- Have their own unique branding identity
- Offer a similar or identical navigation experience to their district homepage and other schools within the district
- Are equipped with their own unique content
With the above in mind, here are some of the five best high school sites of 2019:
5. Cary Grove High School
Their website is lean and concise, making it easy for prospective families to find what they’re looking for in just a couple of clicks. By making use of sleek modules (such as Finalsite’s Calendar Manager, Posts, and Feeds) and rich infographics, they’re able to catch a parent up to speed on their district and tell its story before navigating to any subpages.
Some of the best aspects of this site include:
An embedded hero video that showcases the highlights of the high school’s campus, athletics, and day-to-day life:
The “Our School by the Numbers” infographic tells the high school’s story in a way that’s quick and digestible:
Regularly updated social feeds which capture a slice of life for curious parents and improve school to home communications:
The accessibility toolbar which allows equal access to content for all users and provides a certification to the high school that reassures prospective and current families that accessibility and equity matter to them:
How can you make a great high school website? Download The Website Redesign Playbook: Public School Edition to find out!
4. Booker T. Washington High School
Booker T. Washington High School is one of Tulsa Public School’s nine high schools to take home gold from the MarCom awards. The website is an ideal balance between eye-catching content that shares the school’s story as well as important content that families need to know.
Some of their most effective aspects are:
A minimalist sticky navigation consisting of three key website pages allows a visitor to take action if and when a piece of piques their interest, all without bogging down the homepage:
The “explore out classroom” section uses a grid-style layout with imagery to draw in visitors to learn more:
Simple calls-to-action make it easy for website visitors to quickly find important content:
3. Wayzata High School
Wayzata High School features an aesthetically pleasing design that also makes important information easy to find — a feat not always easy in the public school world.
The space efficiency is particularly impressive as they’re able to share nine different visual calls-to-action with minimal scrolling which translates well to mobile users.
The high school’s efficient use of space is evident throughout the site, including in their clean mega-navigation, and even on interior pages with the use of accordions and tabs.
Additional great features on their site include:
A strong and concise introductory statement “Excellence. For each and every student.” is quickly supported by a plethora of available information for prospective parents and a host of fast facts about the school itself to support the claim.
The decision to take a two column approach when pairing social and calendar saves considerable space. Any content that does strike a user as important features interactive expandable menus, providing the necessary information without navigating away from the main page.
2. Divine Child High School
Let’s take a moment to look beyond district websites and into the private school realm for inspiration. Divine Child High School received recognition in the form of a gold W3 award for its website, and it is well-deserved!
An embedded video greets website visitors and showcases the beautiful parish campus. The high school’s excellent use of visuals means the text is minimal — keeping the homepage engaging and focused on selling the value of the school.
Like a public high school, Divine Child High School understands the importance of both marketing their school to prospective families, but also providing information that matters to current families. They do so by sharing a value proposition, recent news, the calendar, and calls-to-action to key pages on the homepage.
One notable component of their “news” section, in particular, is their use of branded graphics. This makes the homepage feel more cohesive.
Some features that make this site effective include:
The admissions page is historically where schools fall into the trap of long bricks of text full of forms and PDFs which can be quick to lose a parent’s interest. Divine Child mitigates this with a panel of clearly defined admissions steps, complete with appropriate links to additional content. For districts not worried about admissions, a similar layout would be helpful for re-enrollment or first-time families.
For most high schools, athletics are a huge part of the culture — and Divine Child High School recognizes and embraces this with an athletics page that engages and informs families and athletes. The athletics section of their website features athletics news, schedules, rosters, and scores (all managed via Finalsite’s Athletics Manager) as well as videos and live tweets.
1. Spring Lake Park High School
Spring Lake Park High School's brand is all about its community and their site does a great job communicating this. They opted to have a site which visually focuses on individuals, using its people to draw in the viewer.
Here are a couple of key elements that Spring Lake Park High school uses to humanize their school:
The district is fairly active on Facebook which is used to its advantage in social and news feeds. These content streams are thematically consistent because they focus on members of the community while they keep the landing page fresh.
The use of community testimonial on a school site is not in and of itself groundbreaking, but few schools chose to make it the centerpiece of their designs. Rather than tucking away these stories into a subfolder, the school chose to display them on the front page in a way that is both visually appealing and compelling to prospective parents.
High schools (both public and private!) are tasked with the job of keeping current families informed while attracting prospective families. This delicate balance isn’t always easy to achieve, but when done right, can lead to an award-winning design!
Wondering would it take for your school to make the list? Start with a free website audit today to see where your website can improve to better-sell the value of your district, too!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Anthony graduated from The Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at ASU, and joined Finalsite’s business development team in 2018. Anthony is a broadcaster and storyteller by nature, working closely with public schools and charters across the country to help them uncover their story.
- Web Design