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January School Website Launches Round-Up
Angelo Otterbein

It’s a new year and a new decade, and with many new cool design trends to watch — and our January website launches don’t hesitate to capitalize on them. With a new website launching every other day, we have more than a dozen stunning website launches that scale the globe. 

Now, let’s recap!

Bede's | United Kingdom

The full screen homepage slideshow of this UK independent school website delivers a high impact first impression. But the way in which the School’s values are both overtly conveyed with a solid color CTA that reads “Values”, while subtly conveyed as nested in the School’s name (e.g. “Honourable”) creates this underlying sense of discovery. 

This continues as you scroll: the first panel lays out four options for the user, conveniently organized by division, but the pictures that represent each one, which show up on hover, are only partially revealed — again encouraging the user to explore. And what’s more: they have a zoo! It’s hard not to stop at a picture that features a young girl smiling at a large snake, and that’s when you realize that even if you don’t have children to enroll here, you still might want to go visit. What a great website for a school I’d certainly like to see someday!

Harrison Central School District | New York

This school district launch showcases a custom design for the main district website and its six school sites. The homepage news feature scrolls through recent highlights with large images conveniently, with upcoming events and additional news further down the page as well as a simple but nicely-designed quick facts that focuses on impressive stats for HHS. 

The Accessibility toolbar, built right in on every page, is available whenever you need it to make a library of ADA-specific functionality available, such as contrast adjustment, screen reading options and the like. Individual school pages mirror the overall design but Composer, our content management system, allows the district to empower administrators to adjust navigation and content for their own purposes, distributing management of the website without compromising quality.

Greater Atlanta Christian School | Georgia 

The stunning series of quick clips stitched together into a montage of student life and academics is worth watching just for inspiration: a large Christian school like this has lots going on, and they manage to share that quickly. Animation, combined with a unique grid with images and text that cross traditional boundaries in the layouts make for a visually engaging experience, but the content is also sound — “Be Greater” is a very compelling message, and “This is the story of us” plays out in ways that are uniquely designed for the words. 

“Spaces Students Thrive” is a homepage panel that makes the campus facilities sound like destinations unto themselves, and the 360-degree tour drives it all the way home. Finishing the homepage with testimonials is smart, and the high-contrast CTA inquire button in the footer is a great example of a best practice. 

A terrific website — and I haven’t even left the homepage!

Derby Academy | Massachusetts

There’s a lot of full-screen everything these days with independent school websites and homepages, so what I like about this is the framed image in white; the boundary helps focus the image and provides a natural home for the school’s name and navigation. 

This changes a little bit when you get into their summer camps area, which does a nice job of laying out the opportunities they offer. I also like the size and scale of the “Our Voices” panel on the homepage -- things just seem easier to read and there’s no need to squint, like we sometimes see on websites that are trying to pack it all in. 

For a school who’s just over 230-years old and one of earliest coeducational schools in the country, the site is fresh and tells a story of a school continuously reinventing itself.

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International School of Luxembourg | Luxembourg

Not often do you see a little girl smiling at a snail, and likewise followed by a picture of students protesting and fighting for climate change. This school website tells a story of a place that isn’t shy about its strong values and beliefs, and the education that it brings. 

The hamburger navigation launches a very simple overlay, guiding the user toward the programmatic areas as well as a few key links like “News and Press Centre”, which is full of great content. I was happy to have the “In This Section” guide when entering the Admissions section, giving me a quick overview of what to look for. This plays out throughout the website and in areas like the About section, the user is given a number of clear options.

Pace Academy - Accelerate Pace Microsite | Georgia

What I love about independent school microsites is the ability both to experiment and focus — such is the case with Pace Academy’s new “Accelerate Pace”. The message is crystal clear; the color palette and typography are fun and distinct; the simple animated entry points for each panel are queued perfectly; and the last panel with the progress counter a great way to finish the page. This is a site about building a case to raise funds to improve programs broadly — this site does that well.

Austin Preparatory Academy | Massachusetts

Love the simplicity of the navigation text, logo and masthead of this independent school website as an overlay on a vibrant video that really tells the school’s compelling story. The encouragement to “scroll” delivers a unique entry to the key distinctions, starting with Academics, then leading into Athletics, current news, and a lovely footer that magically continues the video you just were looking at from the top. If you look carefully, you’ll notice it’s playing in the background the entire time. Very clever!

austin preparatory school homepage screenshot

The Study | Quebec, Canada

This independent school in Canada opens with a powerful message on its homepage: “This World Needs Great Women,” which disappears in place of action statements that encourage the prospect to dig in further as to how The Study will make that happen for your daughter. 

The French language toggle at the top beside the hamburger menu is a smart way to deliver a multilingual website specific to the region; Composer makes it easy to manage this process so that native language pages can be supported in addition to some of the auto-translation features that can also be used, such as Google or Weglot.

the study homepage screenshot

Periodically, layouts disrupt the design grid enough to keep the user interested, such as the one describing the school community or the distinct programs on the homepage. “Le monde a besoin de femmes formidables” indeed!

West End Day School | New York

This New York City independent school stretches a few boundaries of the latest trends in school websites, right out of the gate: a green and teal gradient serving as a background for a left-aligned video clip, with big open type reading “More than a School” and a distinctive logo with a curve and classic tree that is simple but compelling. The homepage then aims to finish that statement with “Parents are Key Partners” and “Relationships Matter” but also sets up a landing page to continue this theme. 

Social media displays through Finalsite Feeds picks up on the color pallette and takes a playful approach to the layout. This is also a website that clearly has had a lot of TLC throughout the interior: pages like the Admissions process page and the Social Emotional Learning page leverage Finalsite’s content management system to create layouts and designs that are appropriate for the content.

Tower School | Massachusetts

It’s always intriguing to see a primary navigation contain more than the standard “Academics”, “About”, etc. In the case of Tower School, a k-8 independent school in MA, “Distinctly Tower” and the blog get prime exposure too. 

What’s more: “Watch Our Video” is the primary call to action at the top, which leads to a page that contains an inquiry form. Smart! 

Pages like “Prepared for Success”, “Meet the Faculty” and “This I Believe” are simple reminders that it doesn’t take a lot of design to create powerful and compelling pages, especially when you have great content, images and video. It’s also nice to see how much mileage you can get out of one of our theme designs.

University of Brighton Academies Trust | United Kingdom

Managing 17 schools and a Trust website is no small task. University of Brighton Academies in the UK is wisely phasing things in, launching the Trust homepage, followed by a few of its schools, the first of which is The St. Leonards Academy. The challenge here starts with navigation, but Finalsite’s CMS is set up just for this purpose. 

Each school has its  self-contained website, managed in one instance of the content management system Composer, while allowing users to navigate back to the Trust homepage. Both the content and design aesthetic also varies from Trust to School, providing a more tailored experience based on the differing needs and requirements. Good work!

Notre Dame Preparatory and Marist Academy | Michigan

“Ready to Change the World” is a great opening line to this Catholic school’s website. With toddlers and seniors alike attending, Notre Dame has a tall order to communicate all that on a homepage, but between the video, divisional entry points, a nice “At a Glance” treatment, and their central message of “With God We Form”, a lot of ground gets covered quickly. 

The MyNotreDame drop down at the top is an intuitive and efficient way to provide access to the portals while keeping the header as clean as possible for prospective families, and the footer clearly lays out address information and key utility links.

Dayton Early College Academy | Ohio

This charter school website accomplishes a number of important goals: showcases its three campuses easily; welcomes new users with pictures of friendly faces; uses testimonials as social proof for the success of the program; and integrates social media directly on the homepage, a convenient feature with Finalsite’s platform using Feeds. 

The Theme Plus design provides flexibility for the school to take an existing theme design from our library and build upon it, creating a more customized look and feel for their web presence. The At-A-Glance on the homepage is particularly compelling: 100% college acceptance with 75% of their enrollment being economically disadvantaged.

Sea Crest School | California

Going to school in California is awfully appealing when it’s winter and you live in Baltimore, but if your school is in Half Moon Bay like Sea Crest, it almost doesn’t seem fair. The website tells a story of this JK-8 school very authentically using bright images of genuinely happy children, a video and some concise content. 

The “Schedule an Appointment” at the bottom of the homepage is a great example of leading the user to take the next step; and there’s a semi-transparent image of the beach behind the footer just below that CTA -- how could you not want to visit?

Wayne RESA | Michigan

Finalsite is proud to help regional educational service agencies communicate their message and support local school districts. This ESA website is clean, functional and designed to help its users learn about events, services and opportunities, providing numerous pathways to get to key content. Pages like “Purchasing” lay the content out intuitively using Finalsite’s content management system, which has lots of layout options and elements to build pages that make sense. Nice job!

Key Takeaway

Our talented design team is off to a running start, and we’re excited to see all the new school websites that launch all year long. If you’re inspired by the websites in this post and are curious about how you can improve your school or district’s website, start with a free website report card.


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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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