The lifespan of a website is a short two years and seven months (source). This very brief lifespan is being driven by new web design trends that are emerging faster than ever before — influenced by shifts in user behavior and collective taste, advances in web technologies, and the focus on inclusivity and ease of use.
Many of these shifts have been put in overdrive by the dramatic increase in time spent online since the beginning of the pandemic. Accessibility, user experience, design, and ease of use are at the forefront of school website design. And if your website misses the mark? Families will be hitting the “back” button — and industry reports prove it:
- 94% of first impressions relate to your site’s web design (source)
- 75% of website credibility comes from design (source)
- 89% of consumers shop with a competitor after a poor user experience (source)
Whether your school’s site is approaching the end of its predicted lifespan or you’re just looking to make some minor updates, here are the top six school web design trends to consider for 2022:
- Goal-Driven Approach
- Mobile-First Philosophy
- Bolder Layouts and Color Schemes
- Creativity with Character
- Storytelling Beyond the Homepage
- Purposeful and Engaging Content
Watch the on-demand webinar below, or keep reading about this year's top web design trends for schools.
1. Goal-Driven Approach
“There is one unbreakable rule to creating any high quality piece of work, and that’s to always be sure it’s fit for purpose” said UK Production Manager Kealan Duffy. “It’s absolutely vital to know what you’re trying to achieve and center the experience around that.”
Great design is purposeful and solves problems — and this is the driving force behind the most successful websites. “The best designs are different, but they are different for a clear reason,” said Kealan.
Goal-driven websites have clearly defined:
- Aims and objectives
- Target audiences
- Value proposition
- Brand and voice
This goal will influence the overall design, but also the site’s navigation, media, testimonials, layouts, content, calls-to-action, and more.
Bavarian International School
Bavarian International School in Germany wanted a website that showcased their new brand, highlighted their academics, and most importantly, told the story of their friendly and vibrant community. That’s a lot to accomplish, but their design does it eloquently. Land on BIS’s website, and the first thing you’ll notice is a bold and vibrant color scheme, giving the site energy that reflects the community. The colors and photography are intentionally inviting, encouraging you to scroll and learn about the school’s academics. Geared toward prospective families, the site’s content, navigation, and calls-to-action are built to engage and convert.
Richfield Public Schools
For Richfield Public Schools, the primary goal of their new website was to make information easy to find. “We wanted to keep everything one click from the main page,” said Jennifer Valley, Director of Marketing & Communications at Richfield Public schools. This was first achieved through the website’s design, which doesn’t have long scrolling pages, where one can easily get lost. You’re, in a way, forced to make a click.
But, making that choice is easy through the site’s well-thought-out mega-navigation. Once you’re on an interior page, content is organized on each page using accordions, tabs, and section dividers to visually layout content to make it scannable. With a static toolbar on the left, users are always able to navigate to new sections without needing to hit the back button.
2. Mobile-First Philosophy
Seventy-three percent of web designers believe that a non-responsive design is a top reason why visitors leave a website (source). And their assumptions are likely true. Time spent on mobile devices is up exponentially year over year, and website visitors are expecting your mobile experience to be even better than your desktop one. (Source)
Websites that take into account the mobile experience and desktop experience simultaneously will be rewarded with increased website traffic and engagement. This means embracing the following best practice as you build your design and add content to your pages:
- Succinct, well-optimized content
- Large type and vibrant colors
- Bigger buttons for easier interactions
- Strategic use of white space to avoid visual clutter
Powered by one of Finalsite’s affordable theme websites designs, Hogan Prep’s website is a fantastic example of a seamless experience across desktop and mobile devices. Large calls-to-action, bold fonts, vivid photography, and a mobile-friendly hamburger menu create a simple and engaging experience on both the desktop and mobile devices.
Longview Public Schools
Longview Public Schools in Washington took a non-conventional approach to its website design — with a focus not on large images or videos, but on telling the school’s story through news. The site’s desktop and mobile sites offer nearly identical experiences, with content that’s easy to click, find, and explore no matter the device.
3. Bolder layouts and color schemes
When asked what visual elements they value on a company website, 40% of consumers said images, 39% said color, and 21% said video (source). With color taking precedence over video, it’s clear that the way your school’s brand comes to life online has never had a more significant impact on enrollment. The look and feel of your site really matters, which explains why schools across the globe are updating their brands to incorporate striking color combinations and bold color schemes to stand out online.
The farewell to “safe” color palettes has simultaneously welcomed layouts that move away from the traditional grid structure, strengthen contrast to deliver a dramatic impact, and overall offer a brighter, stronger visual identity.
Dana Hall School
Dana Hall School’s website is nothing short of show-stopping. The top-ranked all-girls school in Massachusetts provides an education that is “academically ambitious, rich with opportunity, and fiercely empowering.” This comes to life in the school's bold, bright — and dare we say, fierce — color scheme. The school’s traditional blues are beautifully accented by high contrast colors like gold, purple, and green. The colors aren’t random either — they are strategically used to highlight the school’s key differentiators and value proposition.
Madison Metropolitan School District
As the second largest school district in Wisconsin, Madison Metropolitan School District knows that a strong brand can unify the story of its 52 online and in-person schools. Like Dana Hall School, Madison Metropolitan School District uses color intentionally to guide website visitors to key content and pages in their website journey.
4. Creativity with character
We’re seeing communities come to life online in new ways. Audiences are craving warmth, authenticity, and personality in the brands they engage. To reflect this, we are seeing a rise in expressive gradients, typography, textures, graphic details, and unique photo treatments.
Hello texture! Canadian Academy, located in Japan, incorporates texture, animation, and bold fonts to bring its unique community to life online. As you explore the school’s homepage and interior pages it’s clear that each creative detail has a purpose in guiding you through their story online. From animations that draw your attention across panels, to creative font choices that highlight key words, the Canadian Academy website is one experience you need to explore for yourself.
Brockton Public Schools
Brockton Public Schools is a Massachusetts-based school district with an energetic community. Through the use of eye-catching typography, a bold red color palette, and geometric panels, the district’s lively community comes to life in this incredibly intentional design. Like Canadian Academy, Brockton Public School uses its creative elements to guide you through the district’s value proposition online.
5. Storytelling Beyond the Homepage
Your homepage is your digital front door, but what happens once they step inside? Many schools and districts spend a lot of time focusing on the homepage’s curb appeal, and then forget all about interior decorating.
Every page of your website is an opportunity to tell a different part of your story, make key messages more memorable, and inspire visitors to take action. This is more important than ever in 2022, as high-trafficked pages like tuition, faculty directories, careers, and even your school’s calendar, may be found before your homepage through search engines.
Located in the UK, Whitgift School is a spectacular example of what full-site storytelling looks like. Each interior page is carefully crafted with beautiful images, intentional content, and clear calls-to-action for website visitors to make the logical next step. Pages like “I am Whitgift” set the gold standard for interior user experience, while attention to detail exists sitewide.
Stafford Municipal School District
Districts often have hundreds — and maybe even thousands — of interior pages. And for Stafford Municipal School District, Texas, every single one has a purpose. Both district-level and individual school-level interior pages are clean, organized, and inviting. There’s no clutter, but only engaging content you want to see. And according to the district’s Communications and Marketing Coordinator, the interior pages are so important because they have the heart of the district’s story. “Stafford Municipal School District is the best little school district in Texas, so we needed a website to match that,” said Gracie Martinez. “We wanted our website to reflect the heart of our campus, our Stafford Spartans excelling in academics, arts, robotics, and athletics.”
6. Purposeful and Accessible Content
If you can believe it, attention spans are still getting shorter online. So, what’s the most important trend for 2022? Be focused, prioritize content, and ensure it is accessible to everyone, on every device, in every language. In 2022, it is no longer about just following WCAG 2.0 guidelines. It also means offering a language translation service like Weglot, or using personalization to serve different content to different audiences based on language or location.
Kansas City Public Schools
As one of the largest districts in Missouri, Kansas City Public Schools has a large and diverse audience visiting its website every day — and is the gold standard for content that is accessible, mobile-friendly, and available in multiple languages. Backed by an award-winning, accessible design crafted by Finalsite, the KCPS team keeps content accessible using Finalsite’s built-in accessibility functionality. Toggle the language translator at the bottom of the homepage for a full-website translation in the community’s top-spoken languages.
British International School
Land on British International School’s website, and nested perfectly adjacent to the site’s navigation is a language toggle for English and Spanish. The toggle does a full-site translation into each language, ensuring website visitors accessing the site in its top two languages have the best experience possible.
Web design trends are changing (almost) faster than we can track. As your school “gets older” each day, consider how you can use these web trends now to potentially extend the life of your current site. But, if this blog has you inspired about having a website that sets the bar, we should talk. Request a free website report card for expert feedback on your current site, or get in touch with us to discuss your website redesign project today.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
As Finalsite's Director of Demand Generation, Mia plans and executes a variety of inbound marketing and digital content strategies. As a former TV and news reporter, freelance cinematographer and certified inbound marketer, Mia specializes in helping schools find new ways to share their stories online through web design, social media, copywriting, photography and videography. She is the author of numerous blogs, eBooks, and reports, including Finalsite's Inbound Marketing Benchmark Report.