When it comes to creating an educational site, the same principles apply. With any site, it needs to adhere to those important aesthetic values in order to be a success. The best way to start is to take a look at some of the most visually compelling educational sites out there. Writing in Vandelay Designs, Steven Snell has scoured the web and found 25 sites for inspiration.

In this post, we will be focusing on structuring your information and how using imagery that taps into emotion is the greatest way to make an educational site truly interesting.

For an educational site that shines and that goes for early learning, high school, higher education et al, sourcing and integrating the right content is of the utmost importance. With some dodgy looking stock photography and less than interesting writing, your site is going to send people to sleep, instead of stimulating their minds.

Ideally, you’re going to want to focus on two specific aspects when creating your site. It’s two subjects we’ve written about at Creative Freedom before.

Now, building emotional content may not seem the most obvious of things to think about for educational sites, but emotion will always have a greater appeal than rudimentary facts. Intertwining facts with emotion is guaranteed to stimulate interest and get students of all ages engaged in the subject you’re trying to promote. When it comes to photography and imagery we wrote, “Even if you’re looking to create a highly functional minimalist site, you’re probably going to need to include a few images at some point. We process images 60,000 times faster than we do text, and so they are vital to making an impression on your users. First of all, consider your photos and images as site content, rather than just visual window dressing. Like all good content, it must not only inform the user about this or that product or service—it must also make an impact and offer them a new way of looking at something. Emotions are useful to you as a designer, and so your photos or custom illustrations must have an emotional purpose as well. There’s a reason that photos with people in them are used so often: they’re powerful. Imagery of other humans gives a site a human touch, reminding users that your products or services are intended to be used and enjoyed by real people. These photos allow you to inject your site with a specific emotion, be it humour, sadness, or calmness—all through the visual subject in question.”

In our previous post Information Architecture: Pay Attention, we focused on organisation and structuring information for sites. This is particularly important for educational sites: “There are a number of ways of structuring your content in order to maximise your attention-grabbing ability. Without going into too much detail, these include optimising page load-time, minimising page size, and designing your site for mobile first. These very functional and instrumental techniques form a strong—but very basic—foundation for ensuring accessibility and avoiding user alienation (such as the 32% of users who abandon slow sites within one to five seconds of page load).

However, this isn’t the full story when it comes to engaging users. Not only does your site have to be technically optimised and your content well-structured and regularly published—information also needs to be easily accessible and quickly digestible. More specifically, your site navigation system needs to be intuitive. This can only really be achieved with the help of information architecture.”

Whether your site focuses on the arts, sciences or technology, follow these principles and you won’t go far wrong.

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