5 Essential Web Design Elements for Top Schools

Are you in the educational services industry and want to make sure your website is as good as your school?
Here are 5 essential web design elements for the top school websites.

Before anyone ever schedules a school tour or steps into your school, they meet you through your website.

According to Microsoft, the average website visitor judges your site within 1 second of arrival.

First impressions are everything. What does your website say about you? Does it represent you as one of the top schools in your area?

Let's cut through the mediocrity and peel back the layers to discover the 5 essential web design elements for the top schools.

1.) Start With a Style Guide

The most important design element of the websites for the top schools isn't even on the screen. It's called a style guide.

The style guide is a set of blueprints that everyone who works on your site abides by.

It includes things like:

  • What fonts to use
  • How large fonts are for the various headings and paragraph text
  • What color schemes you use
  • How your navigation system works on each page.
  • The types of images that you use
  • How links work

Your site should be consistent across the whole site.


Because all schools need a strong brand. People remember brands. They're drawn to what's familiar.

If you have no consistent branding across the site, it affects people on a subconscious level.

Parents and prospective enrollees have trouble connecting with you.

This connection drives everything they do: scheduling school tours, sharing on FaceBook, telling friends. Top schools put emphasis on the consistency of their brand through a style guide.

2.) Value Minimalism / Empty Space

When you create your website, you want to share everything you do. Where do you even start? You have so much to say?

But too much information can paralyze people. This includes text, moving objects, images, videos -- all of it.

Decide what's important. Say it or show it in the most concise way possible. Create a lot of empty space on the page. Don't let things look crowded or run into each other.

Use bigger fonts, 16 at the smallest for paragraph text. 20,30,40 for text that you want to stand out.

Avoid elements that are distracting. Steer clear of sidebars that appear when you scroll over them or images that slide with you as you scroll.

Know that light boxes -- those overlays that ask for your email or welcome you to the site -- don't welcome anyone. These kinds of "fancy" features don't improve user-experience.

They even frustrate some visitors. That's not what you want.

Top schools focus on minimalism.

They may have a huge, inspiring image that really relates to their brand. The image will be overlaid with impactful text.

Effectively use high-resolution pictures to tell a story whenever possible.

Ultimately, keep it simple and amazing.

3.) Be User-Friendly

The sites of top schools exemplify user-friendliness.

They look great on all devices.

80% of Internet users are now on mobile devices.

You can't afford not to be mobile-friendly. Unless you're only concerned with that other 20%, you might as well not have a website.

Keep navigation simple and standard. Don't try to get creative. Web navigation has become second nature to people.

If you make it even a little hard to figure out, you'll send people fleeing.

Your speed on all devices is incredibly important. Nearly half of people will abandon the page load if it takes over 2 seconds.

Once you exceed 5 seconds, you've lost nearly 80% of the people who tried to load your page.

Call them impatient if you want. But this is what the data shows. Top schools put a premium on web design that achieves the ultimate user-friendliness.

4.) Don't Neglect the Footer

The footer is often the most neglected design tool on a website. You put your terms and conditions and your copyright there and you think you're done.

But the top schools recognize the value of the footer.

Why is the footer so important?

  1. It's on every page
  2. It stays at the bottom, so it doesn't interfere with your design and message.
  3. It can be skinny or tall to hold more information

How do you effectively use this magical space?

  1. Put the things that are important no matter what page you're on there like privacy, terms, address, hours of operation.
  2. List 1 or 2 of your current promotions with eye-catching pictures.
  3. Scroll through testimonials.
  4. Add a link to a fun quiz that allows visitors to earn a discount.
  5. Add social links and an invitation to join you on Facebook
  6. Link to some of your most popular blogs.

Don't overdo it though. Follow your style guide, meet user friendliness standards, and keep it minimalist.

5.) Learn about A/B Testing

The top schools know about A/B testing as a design element.

In A/B testing a web designer creates two different version of your website's landing page.

You could test two different navigation styles. Or perhaps you want to know which of two huge images or headlines get the most attention.

Maybe you want to know which color scheme speaks best to your prospective enrollees.

Sometimes the pages will be totally different.

Both pages will apply best design practices. But one page will simply perform a lot better with your specific prospects.

A marketer will usually lead people to each site through social media, banner ads or pay per click (Google Adwords). They then analyze the data collected from various tools like Google Analytics.

From this data they can see things like:

  • How long people stayed on the page
  • If they left without doing anything
  • If/what they clicked
  • If they actually went to your scheduled tour or appointment.

You can further delve into data to see the gender and general interests of people who clicked on the site to see if you're targeting people who would actually become enrollees.

Some companies will have advanced software called a heat map that will allow you know exactly where visitors are focusing their attention.

They can then completely optimize your site.

The Top Schools Invest in Top Design

They know that the right web design will achieve the results they're looking for.

Do you want to increase enrollments & improve retention for your school? Do you want your existing students to share their experiences with others?

Do you want new students to come to you?

It all starts with a great web design. Schedule a call for a free Website Audit for your school.

We deliver, manage and optimize your results.

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