Institutions of higher education - whether a college, university, trade school or another type of organization - play a critical role in our society. It is through these institutions that many Americans are educated and/or trained to enter the workforce. They are also responsible for a significant amount of research and development that takes place in the United States.
Higher education institutions still have to work to attract students (and get donations). Having a great website is a key part of this effort. A good higher education website will have a clean design, accessibility features, simple navigation, and attractive photos and videos. We have compiled a list of some of the best higher education website designs to help inspire your website.
Inclind’s award-winning website design and development team is experienced in creating great websites for higher education institutions. We understand that colleges, universities, and trade schools often require specific features, like virtual tours, application forms, and updates about issues like COVID-19. Reach out today to learn more about our website design, development, and support and maintenance services.
Why You Need a Standout Higher Education Website
Let’s face it: high school students today expect a lot from a website. They’re digitally savvy and have high expectations when it comes to technology. If you want to attract students to your college, university, or other institute of higher learning, you will need a great website where they can find all of the information that they need.
Every higher education website should have a great user experience (UX). This includes a main menu so users can quickly find the information they want, a search bar, translation options, and accessibility features.
Beyond UX, potential students who navigate to your website should find the following:
- A hero which is a central message, image, and call to action (typically featured prominently right on the front page);
- Video and photo galleries, including a virtual tour if you have a physical campus;
- Solid, consistent messaging;
- Offers, such as a free eBook if prospective students sign up for a tour;
- Clear calls to action (CTA) throughout;
- Forms that students can fill out to get more information;
- Chatbots, or virtual customer service, to answer basic questions and
- A blog to provide the latest news and information.
Your website should also have some features built into it, such as search engine optimization (SEO), so that prospects can actually find you. Think of it this way - if someone searches for “best culinary arts schools,” you want your school to pop up high on the search page results!
While technical features are critical to the overall success of a website, design is also crucial. The appearance of your website and the ease with which students can navigate it are significant. Below, we list some top higher education website designs for inspiration.
Best Higher Education Website Designs
Often referred to as the Harvard of Canada, McGill University uses a minimalist design to great effect. Visitors can click “find your program” on the home page to choose a potential major and learn more about it. There is also a button at the top to translate the website into French, which is important given McGill’s location in Canada’s French-speaking province, Quebec.
The navigation bar has four categories to choose from, including “Why Montreal.” This section includes information about Montreal as well as info for international students. As you scroll down the page, the website offers a peek at students who were “Made by McGill” and the latest news.
Morehouse College is a historically Black college or university (HBCU) in Atlanta. It’s the alma mater of Martin Luther King, Jr. Morehouse uses its school colors, maroon and white, to create a high-contrast website. Its virtual tour is also great, with interactive elements, history, and facts sprinkled throughout. Throughout the site, Morehouse also uses its name for current students - Man of Morehouse.
Located in Chicago, Northwestern University is a prestigious school known for its journalism, management, and music schools. One of the coolest features of its website is its admissions page, which provides all necessary information - such as the deadline for regular admission applications - front and center. Applicants can click to find out precisely what they need to do to apply and then continue to take a virtual tour, learn about the campus, or learn more about financial aid options.
Houston-based Rice University is known as a research university. It is little wonder that the homepage features research news front and center. The navigation bar is located at the bottom of the screen - a change from the usual, but still easy to find and use. An interactive map with graphics makes for a cool virtual tour.
Based in Ithaca, New York, Cornell is an Ivy League university with a great website. Its signature colors - red and white - are featured prominently throughout the site. These colors are also very high contrast, which makes it easier for people with low vision to utilize a screen reader. When you hover over an item on its navigation bar, a drop-down menu with more choices appears - a great feature used well here.
University of Texas at Austin
The University of Texas at Austin is its flagship university. Its website does an excellent job at branding, utilizing the school’s burnt orange color to great effect against bold text and white space. It also has a great drop-down navigation bar that makes it easy to find what you want. They also use high-resolution images to make the photos stand out.
University of Pennsylvania
The University of Pennsylvania, or Penn, is an Ivy League university founded by Ben Franklin. Its website does an excellent job conveying the latest news and information that may be important to prospective students, current students, alumni, and donors alike. It features a main “story” on the top half of its website. As you scroll, there is more news, information, and links to the various platforms the school maintains.
Located in New York, Adelphi University is a private institution offering undergraduate and graduate programs. Its website has many cool features to make it more accessible, such as transcripts, closed captions, and alt text for images. It also has an entire section of its menu devoted to accessibility issues, making it easy for students and prospective students with disabilities to find what they need on the website.
Loyola University Maryland
Loyola University Maryland has a cool, streamlined website. When you visit its homepage, you’ll immediately see a seamlessly scrolling video of campus life, with the school’s slogan imposed on top. Loyola keeps the design straightforward, with just three “call to action” buttons at the top - visit, apply, give. A menu bar will also expand if you want to know more.
University of Iowa
The University of Iowa is a public university located in Iowa. Its website uses the school’s colors, yellow and black. As a bonus, the contrast between the two colors makes it accessible to people with low visibility. And while the site doesn’t have an accessibility button, it wins pointsfor built-in features, like the ability to navigate using just a keyboard and the ability to adjust font size easily.
University of Pittsburgh at Bradford
As a regional campus, the University of Pittsburgh at Bradford isn’t located in a city - a fact highlighted by the gorgeous imagery on its website. On the home page, you’ll see an endless stream of videos of campus life and the natural beauty of the surrounding mountains.
Pitt at Bradford also offers a great virtual tour that uses virtual reality to provide a more immersive experience. While on the tour, you can hear video testimonials from current students. This tour is also accessible so anyone can learn more about the campus.
Delaware Technical Community College
The Delaware Technical Community College website is one of our own site builds at Inclind! Delaware Technical Community College offers Delawareans access to affordable higher education with programs focused on helping students enter the real-world workforce as quickly as possible.
We worked with Delaware Technical Community College to design a site that was easy to navigate for a diverse user base. When it comes to intuitive navigation, simple tends to be better. We didn’t focus on creating a flashy design and instead used a mega menu and a simple block layout to make the site accessible. The result is a site experience free of frustration.
University of Arizona
The University of Arizona is a large public university in Tucson. One of the notable things about its website is how it focuses so much on getting students to apply. When you land on the home page, a bold picture encourages you to become a Wildcat. Along the top of the screen are buttons that allow you to specify your relationship to the school (such as student, prospective student, alum, or donor), apply, or schedule a visit. Given this design, there is little chance that any visitor could come to the site and not know how to apply to the school!
Georgetown is a prestigious university in Washington, DC. Its main page features striking photos on a carousel. But the real standout on this website is its admissions page.
Georgetown is a highly selective university. Nevertheless, they make it a point on their admissions page to include a statement about access for all. They also provide personal testimonials from current students and a link to the tour page so that users can schedule an in-person or virtual tour. The design is both smart and beautiful.
Rhode Island School of Design (RISD)
Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) is both a college and museum - so perhaps it isn’t surprising that its website design is so eye-catching. When you land on the home page, the bold blue color stands out against the stark white background. An arrow beckons you to click. As you scroll, you see eye-catching, creative photos and videos that draw you in and make you want to learn more.
Beyond the beauty of this website, it is also incredibly functional. The spare design of the home page makes it easy to locate what you want, whether it’s admissions, financial aid, or any other topic. The menu bar at the top right expands to offer a full site menu.
Building a Higher Education Website? Give Us a Call.
Higher education websites can’t just be functional. They should also be beautiful, effective, and easy to navigate. After all, it’s challenging to attract students in 2024 if your website is slow, outdated, or simply doesn’t look good.
Inclind offers web development and design services to colleges, universities, and trade schools throughout the county from our offices in Delaware. We know that these websites have to serve a range of potential users, from prospective students to current students to alums to donors. We work collaboratively with our higher education clients to help them create a truly outstanding website. In addition to design and development, we offer a full range of services, including website design, site redesigns, custom integrations, and accessibility audits.
We're available if you’d like to learn more about our web services for higher education institutions. You can fill out our online contact form or hit the live chat button to talk to one of our experts about your website.