Is there such a thing as love at first sight?
First impressions matter. The instant your school’s website loads is a crucial moment for capturing the user’s interest — and heart.
And that moment is fleeting — some research suggests it takes about 50 milliseconds (that’s fast) for users to form an opinion about your website that determines whether they’ll stay or leave.
Whether it’s the imagery that inspires us, the design that intrigues us, or the language that gives us pause, with some school webpage designs you just know the user experience is going to be special.
We found more than a dozen examples of school websites that grabbed us from the get-go, but it begged the question: What makes these great school website homepages so special?
What do all great school websites have in common?
More than half of users say that a poor mobile experience made them less likely to engage with a company, meaning your website’s mobile and user-friendly design could directly influence the first impression, especially while on the go.
Accessible content and design
An accessible website ensures that all of your website visitors can fully experience and understand your content and messaging. From accessible colors to proper headings and content that can be understood by screen readers, these sites welcome all users to a great experience.
These sites say so much, without saying too much. Every school has a story, and these homepages make a strong first and lasting impression by telling those stories through powerful imagery.
Skip the overproduced photoshoots and stuffy language — genuine moments of joy, curiosity, and leadership, from testimonials and news stories to blogs and social media content, users want to see authentic content that resonates with them.
Clear and concise language
These sites don’t mince words — clear and concise introductory text and calls-to-action are a staple of a great website.
A well-organized and logical navigation is a necessity for a great user experience and web design, especially when using a mobile device.
Now, let's take a look!
A panel states “At Culver Academies, leaders are always in the making,” and right from the start, its homepage is certainly a standout.
Culver’s website spins a narrative that’s big and bold, just like its programs — an all-boys military academy, a girls academy, a big summer program; they're just as impactful as its 100+ years of education. Seemingly non-stop vertical and horizontal scrolling, powerful imagery comes together like a wild interactive ride.
Video and header panels load quickly like a slick, one-two punch. We love the wordplay at the top of the page too: LIVE IT. LEARN IT. LOVETT
There’s plenty to grab your attention on the homepage — blue ripples and treelines swell and recede to deliver value propositions, signature programs, and the voices of its community, all of which tell a big story for one of the largest K-12 independent schools in the country.
“Empower Girls. Advance the World,” immediately fills the screen, slowly fading into a video montage of students living that mission.
Each panel is supported with simple words that boldly set the tone of how Kent Place is redefining the educational experience for young women. Guided by Finalsite Advantage, our strategic marketing consultancy, the site is simply stunning— it recently won four awards from the InspirED School Marketers' Brilliance Awards, including a Gold award for the homepage redesign and a Bronze award for its homepage.
Hashtags unite communities, and for Westbury Union Free School District, it’s all about #ONEWESTBURY, visualized with an enormous illustration of a dragon, then through a formation of students in the shape of a heart.
Triangles of green flank the homepage, which straighten as you scroll, and along the way, each panel is designed to share a big story about the district’s differentiators.
The site has what you’d commonly find in the independent school world; panels that first present the district’s mission and vision, followed by fast facts about the district, its DEI initiatives, and then testimonials about the school’s “Dragon Pride.” It all comes together to make a great impression.
Hillbrook’s homepage is a reminder that we want to make things as easy as possible for the user, but you don’t need to sacrifice design. Like a ripple in a pond, circles spread outward from Hillbrook’s tree when you first arrive at their newly-designed website.
Quiet colors and authentic photos support Hillbrook’s mission to “inspire students to achieve their dreams and reach beyond themselves to make a difference in the world,” and a panel of core values touches upon curiosity, kindness, doing your best, and taking risks in the pursuit of understanding.
For this school in Kobe, Japan, its homepage doubles as a canvas for giant brush strokes, a unique design element that harkens to traditional Japanese ink painting. The brush strokes, inspired by calligraphy, animate into the background as visitors scroll down the homepage and help capture the dynamism and vibrancy of the school’s character.
It’s a subtle animation that captures the vibrancy of the school’s culture. It’s also an impactful way to visually connect panels that detail an innovative curriculum, the boarding experience, and campus happenings.
As a top charter school in California, Grenada Hills stands out in a competitive market.
Its branding is strong, and with a focus on preparing students to be global citizens, the site speaks to the future success of students, their lifelong learning, and being prepared for meaningful work.
Their homepage checks all the boxes — program overviews, testimonials, news from its campus, and toward the bottom, users are nudged to “start your journey” with CTAs to inquire, take a tour, or apply.
I’m sure the image of a young student holding a tarantula has nothing to do with it…but Winnetka Public Schools website introduction catches your attention quickly. Just before the realization takes hold, the image fades into a comforting green once you start scrolling, aided by a value proposition that transitions from the hero image into the first content panel.
The homepage links to its strategic plan, as well as a portrait of a graduate, which is quickly becoming an important consideration for districts competing for enrollment against private, charter, and other school choice options.
A social media integration captures the pulse of the schools with posts from across the district. Much like it began, an image toward the bottom quickly fades to green and reveals the district’s mission statement, capping off a great experience. Nicely done! (Spiders aside...)
An opening caption implores users to: “Be Greater,” first filling the screen, then pulling users through the text and into a bustling campus. Subtle animations and parallax scrolling bring depth to the homepage that presents a campus that cares as much about academics as it does about the student experience and its community.
“This is the story of us” leads a narrative of faith-infused learning, students learning to grow, excelling in athletics, and above all else, “Be greater.”
Edina is as focused on the start of a child’s educational journey, as it is graduating young adults who are “future-ready.” Its homepage opens with strong imagery that's paired with the cornerstones of the district’s mission — the text expands on the academic excellence, the positive learning environment, the developing leaders, and the engaging community, all surrounded by an equitable, inclusive culture.
At Edina, the enrollment process for new families shares the spotlight with the profile of a graduate — two defining moments that bookend countless moments of meaningful learning.
Ah, to be a kid again! The super-crisp video on the homepage captures the discovery, the magic, and the journey of learning so well. With text that boldly says "This is Curiosity, Sparked" the homepage drives home the wonderment and excitement of early childhood learning.
Clear, fresh, cool blues and teals tie everything together nicely — even a social media feed toward the bottom of the page seems to be branded with their colors. The site really engages on multiple levels, complete with panels of value propositions, and community and division information that subtly animate as users scroll to explore.
Ascension takes a different approach to its homepage. It leads with a single image, then positions the profiles of school community members just below the fold, followed by the district’s news, community calendar, and a message from the superintendent, all flanked by the district’s logo, an “A” resembling a sharp upward curve that represents charted growth. “Excellence. Ascending Together.”
The homepage ends with a brief video that's good enough be found within the hero area of any other website, but the subtle, deliberate choice to place a focus on its people echoes the district’s commitment to its core values of teamwork, leadership, service, and learning. With the branded red “A” working its way through different design elements, it’s a fresh take on what community means to schools, and Ascension nails it.
What stands out is Barrington’s twist on key homepage elements — the district’s main navigation and calendar overlay a video, a fresh take on some of the most sought-after bits of information. The looped video of students in the classroom, on the football field, and younger students loving classroom activities is just engaging enough to catch our attention, but short and subtle enough to be able to interpret the upcoming event dates and featured events.
Social media feeds, student and teacher testimonials, and featured content are
strategically arranged like pieces on a chessboard, which ties together nicely with Barrington’s mascot, the bronco, reimagined through the knight chess piece.
Whether it's through strong visuals, bold language, or a unique design, grabbing a user’s attention is an important step in creating a memorable first impression. However, once expectations are set, maintaining their interest with an engaging user experience is what really sets a website apart.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Connor has spent the last decade within the field of marketing and communications, working with independent schools and colleges throughout New England. As Finalsite’s Senior Content Marketing Manager, Connor plans and executes marketing strategies and digital content across the web. A former photojournalist, he has a passion for digital media, storytelling, coffee, and creating content that connects.