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The 5 Main Ingredients of a Successful School Homepage
Mia Major

With the human attention span officially shorter than that of a goldfish, your marketing team is tasked with saying a lot in just a very little amount of time — about 8 seconds to be exact.

And to be successful, you can't waste a second of it.

Here are the five key components of a successful homepage that attracts, informs, and engages a website visitor within those 8 seconds, prompting them to stay and learn more.

Thayer Academy Header

1. Your School Name + Some Basic Info

As a prospective family, I need to know this within a micro-moment to know I'm in the right place. Are you all-boys, all-girls, or co-ed? Are you day or boarding? Where are you located?

You have two great options for this content: in your header, positioned with your school's logo, or in your footer.

I know — it's not the most exciting content in the world to have on your homepage. But it is a necessity. It can be extremely frustrating to a user to have to dig through your site to find out this simple, qualifying, information.

Here's an example from Charlotte Country Day School:

School Header With Basic Info

And Another from Greenwich Academy:

School Header With Basic Info

Besides a basic description of your school, your school's footer should also have your address and phone number to make it easy to find you on Google maps, or click-to-call. Links to social media accounts also belong in the footer.

And as a final note: be sure that this copy is plain text too, so when it is crawled by Google, your performance in local search is improved! Here's a great example of how a plan-text footer can still look great from Greenwich Country Day School.

Greenwich Country Day School Footer

2. A Value Proposition

Who are you? Who do you serve? What makes you special?

Anyone can hire a design team to build a beautiful website (that's what we're here for, right?), but you need to understand that the content that fills the design is equally as important.

Condense what makes your school special into 1-5 taglines, and use them as the text that overlays your top banner. While some schools choose one value proposition statement and let the rest of the homepage tell the story, others opt for using a variety of statements, each encapsulating a particular piece of campus culture.

Both of these routes are correct and effective.

Some great examples include:

Forman School: "Forman is dedicated to empowering bright students who learn differently," is a to-the-point statement that identifies the school's purpose.

Forman School Value Proposition

Holton-Arms School: In just a few words, Holton-Arms identifies the core of their school's culture — you'll find a path you love, or we'll give you the creative freedom to take the road less traveled. Now that's an empowering statement, and ideal for an all-girls school in the DC area.

Holton-Arms Value Prop

Santa Catalina School: Describing who "Santa Catalina Girls" are in a beautiful script text identifies everything about why you should attend the all-girls boarding high school.

Santa Cataline Value Prop

Free Value Proposition Worksheet and Template

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3. Lots of Visuals

This one should be obvious. By nature, the brain processes and remembers images exponentially better than text. So, avoid loading up your homepage with paragraphs of content that won't get read.

Focus on big, bright photos and video footage to visually engage website visitors as they scroll.

A couple of our favorite examples include:

Thayer Academy: So much awesome video footage in their top panel — it's easy to feel like you've had the entire Thayer experience without even scrolling.

Thayer Visuals

Chadwick International School: This homepage is all about the visuals. As you scroll, you're not forced to read text, but rather, invited to immerse yourself in the Chadwick culture and community from your home.


4. Social Proof

When is the last time you made a new purchase without checking out the reviews first? For me, the answer would be "never." Whether I'm buying a new kind of granola, booking a hotel, or purchasing a new pair of jeans I will always read the reviews. And if there aren't any, I won't make the purchase.

And about 70% of consumers exhibit that same mentality.

Translate this psychology to your school's homepage. You can jam-pack it full of beautiful photos and some catchy taglines, but it is the real, authentic content that sells your school.

We love this "Voices" section from Montclair Kimberley Academy's new website. Social proof in quick, easy-to-digest and visually-appealing snippets from students, parents, faculty and alumni.

MKA Voices

Aside from social proof in the form of testimonials, college matriculation elements (or upper school matriculation for lower schools) are a fantastic form of social proof.

Keep it simple, like this slider on Baylor's homepage:

College Matriculation - Baylor

Or, draw more attention to it, like Asheville School does on this interactive homepage panel:

Asheville - College Matriculation Slider

5. A Next Step

Okay, so hopefully by this point you have them hooked. Finish off your homepage with distinct calls to action that appeal to different personas at different stages in their journey. Most commonly, schools will opt for three calls to action that appeal to three different groups: alumni, prospective families ready to apply, and prospective families who are still just shopping around.

Common homepage call-to-action buttons that work well include:

  • Give
  • Apply
  • Inquire
  • Take a Campus Tour
  • Visit

As a general rule of thumb, don't go over three calls to action — and more importantly, don't offer more than one call-to-action that would appeal to the same persona (i.e. "Give" and "Volunteer"). Providing too many options can be overwhelming, discouraging a site visitor from making a conversion.

Here is a great example from Trinity Preparatory School:

Trinity Prep Footer

And another from Summit School:

Summit School Footer

What else goes on the homepage?

It can be difficult to decide who and what gets homepage real estate — but keeping these five components as the foundation, and sprinkling in additional pieces of content, like news, events, or a social media mash-up, is the icing on the cake.

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