At first, building a new website seems relatively straightforward. Then, as you dive into the details, things can get a little more complicated. After doing a little bit of research, you’ve probably realized that there are a lot of questions to answer:
- Should you use a website builder like Wix, Squarespace, or WordPress?
- Does a fully-custom website perform better than a pre-made school website template?
- Which type of school website template is best for your organization?
- Is it better to build the website yourself, or hire a school web design partner?
These types of questions need to be answered before you ever start rebranding, writing new content, and adding pictures.
Looking for more help? Here’s an in-depth guide on how to confidently make a decision when designing a school website.
In this article we’ll break down some of the key features that every school website template should include. We’ll also help you decide which website template is best for your school depending on the mission, type of school, and overall website goals.
Must-Have Features for School Website Templates
Before picking a template and deciding on your approach, it’s important to understand the critical functions, features, and design principles that apply to all school websites. No matter the style, design, and layout of your school website template, these features will help you deliver an optimal user experience and put the right information front and center.
Below, we’ve separated our recommendations into two categories: proven design principles to follow, and key website features to include (regardless of which template or provider you choose).
School website design principles:
- Provide the right visual cues (e.g., buttons, images, videos, banners, pop-ups, menus, etc.) without confusing or distracting visitors.
- Less is more when it comes to copy, images, video, and other content. No matter how valuable or well-written you think a specific website section is, the truth is that most visitors glance at and skim over content while looking for a specific action or piece of information.
- The website should be relatively easy to keep updated with current information, imagery, events, etc. Visitors should be able to easily find this information each time they view the site.
- Every school website should have a clear visual flow and information hierarchy. This means that you should address the most important needs first and most clearly at the top of key pages.
- Structure the website in a logical hierarchy and clearly categorize information by putting things in the right “buckets” (administration, nutrition, sports, extracurricular, etc.). Often, your primary website sections will be the main menu items (at the top of the site), and each subsection will be a related topic, page, or resource.
Important design and functional features to include:
- Schedules and calendar templates for school events, holidays, breaks, sporting activities, and other relevant information.
- An “Announcement” panel somewhere on the home page for displaying important, time-sensitive communications.
- Staff and administrative directories.
- Communication tools like RSS, email subscriptions, or even mobile apps that can be used by students, staff, and parents.
- ADA compliance, especially if it can be built into the CMS.
Want more best practices? Check out our school website design 101 recommendations.
Choosing the Right Website Template: A School-Specific Guide
Picking the right school website template doesn’t need to feel confusing or overwhelming; the key is knowing what features matter most for your organization. Companies like Foxbright provide schools with a wide range of customizable and standardized website templates to make the whole process simpler, faster, and easier.
In the following section, we’ve made school-specific website template recommendations based on hand-picked options from our expert design team.
Kindergarten Website Template
To be as user-friendly as possible, kindergarten websites usually have a basic design and layout with simple functionality. Shorter schedules, fewer activities, and less overall programming means that kindergarten website templates often keep the homepage limited to a primary image, a clear call to action, and a little bit of additional information (e.g., school missions and values, or basic daily schedules).
Recommended template: Hickory. See what it looks like.
Why: Hickory is a flexible template that easily displays key website information like mission, values, and quick links to key resources. With the option to include dynamic media at the top of the page, Hickory immediately informs visitors without an overwhelming amount of content or navigation choices.
Elementary School Website Template
Elementary school website templates are also fairly straightforward. As kids get older, parents tend to be more interested in the school’s educational approach, classroom size, upcoming events, and more. Clear messaging addressing key parent concerns can support student attraction and retention. Additionally, elementary schools will likely have longer school days, more administrative staff, and increased programming (depending on their size), which means that clearly marked resources and page structure are essential for quick navigation.
Recommended template: Dogwood. View it in action.
Why: Offering a simple, functional design, Dogwood hits the main criteria for a great elementary school website while still allowing you to feature media and messaging at the top of the homepage.
High School Website Template
Summary: High school websites typically need to do a heavier lifting, from emphasizing their academic approach and student body achievements, to highlighting extracurricular activities and staff members. Large high schools have other unique challenges as well, including increased communication and coordination directly with students, and much broader academic programming (resulting in many different class schedules). Recruiting also remains a significant issue for many schools, and specific website sections for job seekers and open opportunities are essential.
Recommended template: Kapok. Check out why.
Driving School Website Template
Driving schools are in a unique category of education providers. Most kids will attend a driving school at some point, but the schools have to compete for new student enrollment every year. To attract students, driving schools need to have a clear brand and value proposition on their website. This messaging needs to help parents feel confident that their kids will have expert instruction and become safe, responsible drivers. Driving school website templates should effectively attract visitors and “convert” (e.g., turn into a customer) them through compelling messaging, clear pricing, and explanations of what to expect when attending the class.
Recommended template: Road Rules. Experience the template in action.
Why: This template, offered by Driving School Marketing, meets some of the key criteria for a great website:
- It puts key messaging at the top of the website, front and center.
- There’s an inspirational photo directly underneath the menu, “above the fold.”
- Visitors are presented with the option to immediately schedule lessons or submit an inquiry – no searching required.
- As visitors scroll down the page, they can quickly digest exactly what the classes offer, and see happy testimonials from past clients.
- The top menu provides quick access to key areas of information, making navigation easy.
Click here to see more templates from Driving School Marketing.
School District Website Template
School district websites need to communicate a large amount of information efficiently and clearly. An effective school district website template will properly balance the requirement to provide plenty of links, resources, and directories while still providing a high-quality user experience (and without sacrificing branding opportunities).
Recommended template: Juniper. Here’s what it looks like.
Why: Juniper offers easy navigation and the ability to display different news categories or feature a sponsor block that highlights local businesses and organizations that support the school district. Juniper focuses on ease of navigation and provides a significant amount of information simply and clearly. Users can search, explore different media, or use the top toolbar to quickly find the section they need (or move to another website).
Templates for Private and Catholic School Website Design
Private schools, whether religious or not, need to maintain a steady focus on new student attraction. Accordingly, their websites need to quickly communicate what sets them apart from similar schools or alternative options. Capturing student’s and parent’s attention usually involves a combination of large feature images (or videos), mission statements, and plenty of opportunities for visitors to learn more about the school.
Recommended template: Birch. See how it looks.
Why: Birch makes a bold statement from the moment visitors see the website. The large feature image at the top tells a story about student experiences, the school culture, and academic vision. Clear menu structure and plenty of customizable options for calendars, announcements, and spotlight sections make the Birch template highly versatile.
Which option is right for your school? If you want to learn more about our custom or template school website options, talk to our team today or a request a demo to see the full range of features and capabilities. Foxbright has been helping schools update and upgrade their online presence for over 20 years, and our expert staff provide the training, support, and tools needed for long term success.