Follow These 10 Design Principles to Strengthen Your Online School's Brand

October 20, 2014


Most people know good design is an important part of creating a strong online presence, but it’s often difficult to figure out what good design actually means. Having a set of guidelines to help steer your design decisions makes it easier to establish an appealing brand and identity.

Putting trust in a process is something that we embrace internally at SchoolKeep, so I thought it’d be nice to share some of the principles that help define our design process. We hope they’ll be helpful to you while designing your online school.

Frame the page

Provide a sense of structure to the overall design by framing the your online school’s site with elements that call attention to global actions and support the primary brand.

Content First

Keep everything else simple and neutral to allow the content to stand on its own. Lean heavily on simplicity.

Provide Context

When specific elements require added attention, e.g., a call-to-action, use other visual cues on the screen to embellish it. If the rest of the page is constructed with simplicity in mind, subtlety should be enough to offer context. Only provide added context when it’s necessary for achieving a specific brand goal.

Spacing Is Good

Padding, margins and space around elements help the application breathe. Aim for a de-cluttered school site with elements that feel non-existent. After a certain point, the application should fade away — spacing helps with this.

Provide Focus

Be intentional about what you want your learners to do. Promote only one main action and make it front-and-center.

Embrace Consistency

Consistency allows people to familiarize themselves with your content, which gives your course content structured. In order for your school’s content to be intuitive, it must be structured.

Hide Complexity

There may situations that force your online school’s look and feel to increase in complexity. When complexity emerges, be mindful of how difficult it may be for a user to understand it, and abstract it away.

Offer Feedback

Feedback acknowledges learners’ actions, shows them the results and updates them on the progress of their task.

Aesthetic Integrity

Aesthetic integrity doesn’t measure beauty or characterize style. Rather, it represents how well your school’s appearance and behavior integrates with its function to send a coherent message. Be mindful of the message that your design is responsible for portraying, and make sure that’s its utmost goal.


Use transitions and animations only to maintain contextual congruity. Focus on the functional benefits of animation design, and think of delightfulness as a secondary objective. Animation should never be treated as just and embellished detail.

With this in mind, if you are going to animate, always consider the properties of animation — velocity, timing and easing — when working on your school.

The points I listed are meant to serve as a reference to turn to for design advice. They also point to a bigger message - process matters. It’s something you can reliably turn to when you or someone else questions the decisions you’ve made.

If your process is air tight, you can comfortably respond to criticism and appreciate valuable feedback. So, rely on the wisdom of good process and continually work to improve it. When you put careful thought into design, it starts to become pretty easy.



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