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Making the Most of School Website Design Trends
Connor Gleason

Sure, design trends are partially about aesthetic choices, but an amazing school website design is about balancing innovation with functionality. The best designs create an engaging, accessible, and user-friendly experience that resonates with a school's audience.

By focusing on trends that offer a blend of visual appeal, ease of use, and relevance to your audience, your school can create a website that stands out and effectively serves its community. There's a lot to consider when it comes to website design trends...

What is a design trend?

A design trend is a new or emerging creative technique that helps us communicate online in a way that engages and speaks with our different audiences. It could be a visually engaging graphic style, a type of interactive functionality, or how you’re structuring and presenting content. It can be several things that help immerse your visitors into the school story.

These trends are compelling to website visitors because we all want to experience what's at the forefront of design and engage in the best experiences possible.

But it’s important to distinguish between “trends” and “fads.” Both represent new forms of creative thinking, but trends are techniques that stick around and evolve into relatively permanent changes online. Fads tend to be more short-lived.

You can normally spot a fad because while they might be flashy, they don't necessarily help you achieve your objectives or your visitor's objectives quite as effectively.

It's through understanding trends that we can work out how to shape them for a website design for your school and, in doing so, improve your school communications and your ability to connect with users.

Keep Reading: School Website Design Trends for 2024

What drives new design trends?

It comes down to three key factors:

  • Shifts in user behavior and changes in collective taste
  • Advances in technology
  • Inclusivity and ease of use

Shifts in user behavior and changes in collective taste

The expectations of our visitors determine what engages them. This can be shaped by their online experiences and other media such as TV, music, film, gaming, art, and other aspects of their lives, even culture and politics.

All these elements have an impact, and over time, these shape our audience's experience of the web, what they're drawn to, what excites them, and what feels easy to use. That’s why it’s important to consider your specific audience and their needs — the same trends don't always work for everyone.

Advances in technology

Technology moves so quickly online. New tools are released, which web designers and developers explore and try to incorporate into their processes. Things we didn't think possible three to five years ago are now becoming more efficient, practical to achieve, and mainstream, which creates a lot of new opportunities for high-quality web design.

Inclusivity and ease of use

For school websites, the trends that stick are those creating a better user experience. An intuitive user journey is as important as a “wow” factor. Accessibility is a growing focus, and by paying close attention to accessibility web design guidelines and best practices, we open the online experience to everyone.

Website Redesign Playbook

Making the Most of Design Trends

Pick trends that align with your school's goals. For instance, if increasing enrollment is a goal, consider a design highlighting your school's unique programs or achievements. If engagement is key, consider interactive elements like virtual tours or videos with student testimonies.

Make sure they’re the right one for your audience. For younger students, a colorful, vibrant site works well. For high schools, a more sophisticated, clean layout with accessible information about courses and extracurriculars is appropriate. Always ensure that the website is user-friendly and easy to navigate for all age groups.

  • Capture your school’s brand and culture authentically. Use colors, images, and language that resonate with your school's identity. Include real photos from school events, classrooms, and student life to give visitors a genuine feel of your school's atmosphere.
  • Embrace the mobile-first approach. Design your school's website with a mobile-first approach. This means making sure the site looks great and functions well on mobile devices. Simplify menus, ensure fast load times, and use responsive design so the website adjusts to different screen sizes but still prioritizes the mobile experience. More on the later!
  • Create an immersive journey. Guide visitors through your school's story. Use engaging content like videos, infographics, and interactive elements to keep them interested. Structure the website so visitors are naturally led from one section to another, like from academic achievements to extracurricular opportunities, forming a cohesive, engaging narrative about your school.

School Website Design Ideas to Consider

With increased mobile traffic and steeper competition, your school's website experience is more important than ever.

Parallax Scrolling

Nike coined this type of design treatment way back in 2011, and since then, it has become more popular with industry-leading sites. Parallax scrolling is a special type of design treatment where the background moves slower than the foreground, creating a 3D effect as you scroll down the page.

Why it Works:
Since parallax scrolling is typically associated with top-tier companies, your school's image will see a boost. Plus, it gives you a way to share more of your school's story with photos and text without making your homepage feel cluttered. Canterbury’s homepage and interior pages feature a stunning full-width parallax image panel.

Canterbury homepage screenshot

Full Page Vertical Scroll

These designs fill up your browser window horizontally and invite you to scroll vertically, allowing your website user to engage with a lot of content without a lot of clicks — perfect! With the goal of answering all website users' questions instantly, these designs are packed with page-width photos, infographics, news, calendars, excellent navigation, social media links, and more to inform and engage the user.

Why it Works:

With these homepages, there is something for everyone, meaning you'll have higher click-through and conversion rates.

iowa site screenshot

Iowa City Community School District features a vertical scroll for its calendar.

Cardinal Gibbons homepage screenshot

Cardinal Gibbons High School’s homepage delivers a lot of information with each scroll, but the UX seems to keep you planted within the same frame of the page.


These can be tricky. You've been told that you only have a few seconds to capture your website users' attention. While many design trends incorporate using text and images, many of our schools have been opting for minimalist designs that require the user to dig deeper to find the information they are looking for.

Keep in mind that for minimalist designs, it is essential to have an extremely organized navigation and page hierarchy.

Why it Works:

Visual content resonates with website users at a much higher rate than text content. These website designs serve as a "teaser" to the rest of your content and will result in higher engagement on sub-pages.

Pro Tip: Be sure to include your school's mission statement or a general statement that describes who you are. If website visitors don't know who you are, they may feel more compelled to leave than to explore.

St pauls homepage screenshot

St. Paul’s Episcopal School's site is clean and simple, but still welcoming. You’ll also notice the vertical scrolling mentioned above.

Mobile-First Design

A mobile-first school web design means creating your school's website with a primary focus on how it will look and work on mobile devices like smartphones and, yes, tablets. This approach is important because the majority of parents and students use their mobile devices to access information online.

Why it Works:

  • Responsive Layout: The website automatically adjusts its layout to fit the screen size of the device being used.
  • Simplified Navigation: On a smaller screen, complex menus can be challenging to use. A mobile-first design often includes a simplified navigation menu that makes it easy to find key information like admission details, contact information, and school events.
  • Fast Loading Times: Optimizing your site's loading speed is crucial. This means using smaller image files, efficient coding, and considering technical aspects that affect how quickly your page loads on a mobile device.
  • Touch-Friendly Interfaces: Since mobile users navigate with their fingers, buttons and links should be easy to tap. This means making them large enough and spaced out to avoid accidental clicks.
  • Readable Content: The text should be easily readable on small screens without needing to zoom in. This involves using larger font sizes and contrasting colors for text and background.
RCDS site on a mobile device

The Rumson Country Day School looks great and functions smoothly on a mobile device. Large, expandable buttons help organize information, and images double as CTAs to learn more.

MPS site on a mobile mockup

Minnesota Public School offers a great mobile experience with large text, and easily accessible buttons, and colorful design elements. 

Personalized Experiences

Some schools are exploring personalized content, where the website displays information relevant to the specific visitor, like specific programs or updates based on their interests.

Why it Works:

As audiences want more authentic, personalized content, the trends aim to make school websites not just a source of information but an engaging, accessible, and valuable resource for them specifically. 

Durham Academy personalized homepage

As users explore Durham Academy’s site, they’re invited to “See Yourself at DA” and select an area of interest to bring up video clips from different areas of school activities.

Key Takeaway

Trends should align with the needs and behaviors of your visitors, ensuring that your website effectively communicates your school's story and values. Remember, a well-designed school website is a tool for information but also an extension of your school's identity and an important element in connecting with current and prospective families.

Meet With a Website Expert | Finalsite

Connor Gleason Headshot


Connor has spent the last decade within the field of marketing and communications, working with independent schools and colleges throughout New England. As Finalsite’s Senior Content Marketing Manager, Connor plans and executes marketing strategies and digital content across the web. A former photojournalist, he has a passion for digital media, storytelling, coffee, and creating content that connects.

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