Schools aren’t just bricks and books. A strong, interactive website is an essential part of any educational institution.
It’s the first impression that many potential students and their parents have of a school. It’s where current students go to find out what’s happening in their community, their resource for choosing classes, connecting with teachers and shaping their course of study.
Thanks to WordPress, it’s very possible for you to create a great, highly functional website with little or no technical programming experience. There’s even an abundance of WordPress themes available that cater specifically to schools, colleges and universities.
In this article, I’ll give you a crash course in what makes a good school website and what to look for in a WordPress theme. I also have a few recommendations for the best education themes on the market right now.
What to look for in a school website theme
A good theme for a school, college or university should be attractive, clear and easy to navigate, while conveying trustworthiness and community spirit.
You’ll want a modern-looking theme that visualizes information, avoiding lengthy blocks of text.
A school website has to serve several distinct groups of visitors. Current students will use the site to find events, in-depth information about courses, programs and opportunities, and educational resources. Prospective students will come looking for more general information about the school, what sets it apart from other schools and what it has to offer.
Parents are more likely to background-check schools their children are interested in. They will want evidence that the school is reputable, sets a high academic standard and produces good “results” for their students (success stories, professional connections, etc.).
Many parents are less fluent in technology, and your site must be easy for them to get around too. Make sure the website’s navigation is clearly visible. Hidden menus and “hamburger menus” (expanded from a three-line icon) can be confusing or frustrating, especially when someone tries to visit the site on a cell phone.
Besides these qualities – which are good for any website – look out for these essential features to make your school’s website as functional as possible.
What are the specific features to look for in an education theme?
A clear, complete calendar is a must for any school website. Display the full schedule of current and upcoming events to help students and parents keep track of what’s going on at the school.
The calendar should be visually clean and minimalistic, and interactive if possible.
If a theme doesn’t offer a calendar, it should at least have a separate Events page. In this case, you can always add a full interactive calendar with a WordPress plugin.
Any prospective university student will want to see exactly what your school has to offer. Make it easy for them by providing a section with detailed information about your courses: summary, syllabus or reading list, information about the teacher, etc.
You can also use this to provide resources for students enrolled in the courses, or to promote and enroll online courses.
N.B.: The course section must include a good search function. Otherwise, it’s just an unusable labyrinth of information!
Section about teachers
Teachers are the heart of any school. Your website should give current and prospective students a full introduction to the teaching faculty.
This will help current students make decisions about what courses to enroll in. It will also give potential students and parents a better idea of your school’s intellectual atmosphere, as well as assuring them of the school’s credibility, accountability, and professionalism.
In this section, include email or contact information for each teacher, plus links to their most relevant academic work.
College students love to show school spirit. Selling branded t-shirts, sweatshirts, mugs and souvenirs is a great way to build community and raise funds for the school at the same time.
Choose a theme that comes with pre-designed shop pages and that supports WooCommerce. This plugin, which is used by nearly one-third of all online stores, offers everything you need to sell, receive payment and ship merchandise.
An engaging, attractive blog offers several benefits. First, it will help students stay up to date with the latest news and events. It will also add substance to the site, giving potential students a better taste of your school’s community and activities. Finally, it will give your site a big boost in SEO (search engine rankings).
Many educational themes include tools or allow plugins for creating online courses and quizzes, uploading syllabi or reading lists, posting grades, and other features that will make the website a useful support for your students’ experience.
Don’t worry if you find a theme that’s perfect for your school but doesn’t include these. You can use plugins to add extra functionality depending on the website’s needs.
Best education WordPress themes review
There’s no shortage of education themes on ThemeForest, Ocean Web Themes or other WordPress template sites. In fact, your problem is more likely that you’re drowning in choices!
To help you out, here are just a few themes that I think are really top of the line.
Education Plus is clean and minimalistic, combining beautiful design with quick, simple setup. It’s fully responsive, SEO-friendly and compatible with most WordPress plugins. Its vertically centered content and custom fixed navigation menu with scrolling animations make it attractive and easy to navigate.
It comes with social sharing, unlimited colors and fonts, and it’s backed up by 24/7 customer support.
Education Plus is a no-frills-attached theme, but its strong functionality and ease of use – both for you to manage the site and for visitors – put it high on my list of recommendations. With a few well-chosen plugins, you can use it to create a unique, useful and eye-catching school website.
A hot new theme, Campus was recently revamped to incorporate the latest, best and fastest WordPress features. It’s loaded with premium features, including a full blog, a mobile touch-slide menu, and the unique SuperSkeleton 2 Framework. WooCommerce, among others, is included in the basic package, and several powerful plugins (such as Slider Revolution) come with premium.
The drag and drop layout builder lets you create your layout from scratch, without juggling tons of templates: just one template does everything.
Campus is built on clean, solid code that supports good SEO.
Buntington is a sleek one-stop-shop for any school or university website. Powerful enough to build a top-class site but easy enough for the non-tech savvy to use, it promises everything you need without adding plugins.
Nice perks of Buntington include a visual home page builder, slider builder, events and courses pages (with search functions) and galleries. Its reusable content library provides shortcodes, widgets, and a collection of theme options.
If you’re looking for a lightweight, user-friendly theme, it’s a great choice.
With its elegant black and white design and powerful set of features, Educaz will present your school with gravitas while providing an impressive spread of resources for current and prospective students.
A fully equipped, “out of the box” product, it will help you to publish course details, upcoming events and other essential information right from the start.
It’s highly customizable, and it includes 5 custom plugins (including courses and events sections) and 13 widgets. The course catalog includes a super-accurate search function, so students can find exactly the course they’re looking for.
Ed School is geared to a younger crowd, designed specifically for elementary, middle and high schools. Its bright color scheme, inviting visuals and plethora of features set it above the crowd.
Ed School comes with three demo layouts, bundled with Visual Composer and Revolution Slider plugins to help you customize them into the perfect, unique page for your school. It also includes over 26 niche pages, some of which allow you to visualize your school’s achievements in animated graphs and pie charts.
A few other awesome features that you get with Ed School:
- Event Organizer plugin
- Google maps integration
- Social sharing options
- Several ways to display testimonials
- Instagram widget
- Contact forms
When you want to design a really A-grade school website, Ed School has your back.
A good website is an integral part of any 21st-century school. It will help support the students, attract new students, build community and promote the school.
Specialized education WordPress themes make it easier than ever. Just look out for clean, modern design, easy navigation and a few key features, and your site will pass with flying colors.