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Improve the structure of your school website navigation

Published on 14/12/20

Your school website is an information hub for your community including existing parents, prospective parents, students and future employees. It needs to have a clear, well-structured navigation menu and an organised content format which will help your visitors find the information they need quickly and easily.  

An overview of school website navigation

Your navigation structure can also be called your sitemap; this is the layout of your headings and sub-headings. A sitemap is set out in a hierarchical manner to determine which pages will sit on the ‘top-level menu’ (the one you can see on every page of the website) and which pages will sit underneath these headings (child pages).

Most school websites have either a horizontal menu across the top of the site, or a ‘burger’ menu which is shown as three horizontal lines in the corner. If your website is responsive (if it’s not, it should be!) then, even if you have a horizontal menu on desktop, it will usually break down into a burger menu design on smaller devices and screens. This is so that the menu remains usable at all times.

Whilst the website design itself can often be taken in new directions, it’s important for the user experience that the menu is either in a standardised format or is very easy to see instantly from every page. Your top-level menu is not the place to get creative – the layout should be practical and purposeful. Websites with a confusing navigation menu can expect higher bounce rates (people leaving the page as soon as they land).

Setting up your sitemap

If you’re starting a new website project or planning an overhaul of your existing content, we recommend mapping out your sitemap in a spreadsheet or as a diagram so you can visually see where your content needs to sit.

Planning this at the start of a project will make it much easier to maintain your website longer term and not need to make fundamental changes later on.

Quality over quantity

We advise keeping your top-level menu options to a maximum of 6 or 7 headings where possible for the optimum user experience. This will ensure your menu stays fully responsive and reduces the risk of it dropping onto two lines on smaller desktop or laptop screens.

If you’d like your users to see the next set of pages within the navigation hierarchy at a glance, you may choose to have drop-down menus built into your website design. These will appear when you hover over the relevant top-level menu item, showing all the pages which sit underneath.

However you structure your navigation menu, try to stick to making all of the information accessible to the user within 3 clicks.

Marketing to prospective parents

Having a top-level navigation item titled ‘Admissions’ or ‘Join Us’ will provide an instantly recognisable access point for prospective parents. You can then have sub-pages within this section which give information on the admissions process, the USPs of your school, open days, prospectuses and an overview of the area, facilities, bus routes and costs etc – all the information that a prospective parent may wish to know.

Some of these pages may be duplicates of information which is also located within another area of the website (but if the content is the same, this can be a cloned page within the CMS – you would edit the master page, and the cloned page would update automatically). The user may then wish to explore the rest of the website, but you have given them a comprehensive starting point – they have not had to search through for the information they require.

Providing information for existing parents

You can either take the approach that all of the rest of the website will be relevant to existing parents by making use of clear, comprehensive headings such as ‘Curriculum’, ‘News & Events’ and ‘Contact Us’ (for example) to signpost parents in the right direction or you could choose to create a specific ‘Parents’ menu item.

This section could then hold all of the relevant pages which a parent may wish to see, but may not be as relevant to a casual visitor (term dates, uniform, calendar, absences, menus, trip bookings etc).

Best practice tips to improve your school website navigation

  • Ensure your page titles are descriptive and self-explanatory at a glance. Visitors to your website won’t have time to guess or click on an item to find out what it is - e.g. call it School Uniform rather than ‘Attire’.
  • Include popular pages higher up the navigation structure. They are the pages which your users will want to find most often, so make it as easy as possible to do so.
  • Stick to conventional navigation menu habits e.g. having ‘Contact Us’ as the last top-level menu item is common on most websites.
  • Check your content to see if there are any duplications of copy or pages which could be combining to save space and reduce clicks e.g. you could have all of your policy information on one page, rather than a separate page for each policy (or having some policies in different locations).
  • Review your website each term to make sure there’s no redundant pages which can be removed or updated. A good website shouldn’t be ‘bloated’ with excess content as this makes it harder for the user to navigate successfully.
  • Ensure your top-level menu headings are clickable as users will expect to click a menu item and gain access to the relevant page. Clicking a button and getting no reaction tends to make the user think that a) the site is broken or b) that the site is not user friendly and they are more likely to click away from the site (and potentially not return).
  • Make sure each content page has a specific purpose and location, which is logically and easily located. This will help tailor your user journey and allow a more focused direction for each of your key stakeholders and make the website more accessible.
  • Download our FREE DfE website requirements checklist to ensure your website content is up to date with the latest regulations.

Some examples of a good structure for school website navigation:

Primary School Example Website Structure

Home
About Us
Learning
News & Events
Parents
Contact Us
(Homepage)

Welcome

Curriculum Calendar Term Dates School Details
 

Our Ethos

Results News Uniform Vacancies
  Prospectus SEN Photo Gallery School Lunches CV Drop
  Our Staff Home Learning Newsletters Clubs  
 

Governance

    Letters  
 

Policies

    Absences  
 

Admissions

    Trips  
 

Ofsted

       

Some excellent examples of great navigation on primary school websites include:

Secondary School Example Website Structure

Home
About Us
Learning
News & Events
Parents
Contact Us
(Homepage)

Welcome

Curriculum Calendar Term Dates School Details
 

Our Ethos

Exam Results News Uniform Vacancies
  Prospectus SEN Photo Gallery

School Menu

CV Drop
  Virtual Tour Home Learning Newsletters

Extra-Curricular

 
 

Our Staff

Sixth Form   Letters  
 

Governance

University Destinations   Absences  
 

Admissions

Careers   Transport  
 

Ofsted

       
 

Policies

       

Some excellent examples of great navigation on secondary school websites include:

Independent School Example Website Structure

Home
About Us
Admissions
Learning
News & Events
Parents
Contact Us
(Homepage)

Welcome

Open Days Pre-Prep Calendar Term Dates School Details
 

Ethos & Values

Fees Prep News Uniform Vacancies
  Meet the Team Prospectus Junior Photo Gallery

Lunches

CV Drop
  Policies Admissions Requirements Senior Newsletters Clubs  
 

Governance

Admissions Form Sixth Form   Letters  
 

Facilities

Boarding SEN   Transport Links  
 

Virtual Tour

  Home Learning      
 

Interactive Map

  Forest School      
 

Our History

  Exam Results      
 

Alumni

  Destinations      

Some excellent examples of great navigation on Independent school websites include:

Multi-Academy Trust Example Website Structure

Home
About Us
News & Events
Our Schools
Careers
Contact Us
(Homepage)

History

Calendar Primary Vacancies

MAT contact details

 

Trustees & Sponsors

Trust News Secondary Staff Development  
  FAQs  

Teaching Schools

   
 

Finance Documents

       
 

Our Policies

       
 

Joining Our Trust

       

Some excellent examples of great navigation on MAT websites include:

Looking for a new school website?

Call 0333 344 9984 or get in touch for a free consultation with one of our expert team today.

Katie Sixsmith

Katie is our Marketing & Communications Executive and joined e4education in November 2015. She has a 2.1 BA (Hons) in English Language and Literature from the Open University and a Project Fundamentals Qualification from the Oxford College of Leadership and Management.

She is currently studying for her Diploma in Professional Digital Marketing with the Oxford College of Marketing.