Public and private school websites are catching up with the modern web and are starting to adopt some of the design elements from some of the most popular web designs. Increasingly, a focus has to be placed on marketing and branding on the web, something hardly considered in the past for many schools and districts. As the web has become the foremost medium for communication and information exchange, so too has the need for functional yet beautiful design that stands out.
This is a big one. School websites used to be riddled with clunky dropdown menus or worse: think single top-level items with long, complicated nested sidebars. Not anymore! Mega menus allow for fewer clicks and less confusion by organizing many navigation items into clearly organized, hierarchical and sectionalized drop-down menus. As the usability research firm Nielsen Norman Group reports, they reduce cognitive load by not requiring the user to rely on short-term memory as much and offer big increases in the speed of finding a specific page or document due to the ability to scan many options as once. Plus, they’re just more fun to use for the user, meaning a better overall experience with your site(s).
Now that we all carry around smartphones in our pockets everywhere we go, we have more opportunities than ever to capture and share amazing images. School administrators spend so much time, energy and funds into making sure schools are a vibrant place of learning, so why not share images of those spaces and the students, staff and faculty that make them all great places for education, recreation and more! Hero images can be used on the homepage and are frequently seen across the web on sites of all kinds. Only recently have we begun to see them appear on more school sites, however. As they say, a picture is worth a thousand words!
The average person may not realize it, but the type options available to web designers is better now than ever. Whereas sites built a decade ago were limited mostly to the fonts installed on someones computer, now there are thousands of fonts to choose from in a dizzying selection of weights and styles. A typeface can tell a lot about a brand or organization in a subtle way and this means that you can exude traits like professionalism, history, modernism, progressiveness and more all from the font(s) that your designer chooses for your website.
Is color a new trend? Absolutely not. However, our screens are now more vibrant than ever and the possibilities for crisp and dynamic color schemes are endless. Maybe you’ve always been a navy blue or amber red school. Don’t let that hold you back! The right website designer will take your school or district’s heritage colors and pair them up with complementary ones that make your site stand out and bring life to your institution. Just like we mentioned above under typography, subtle tweaks can make a HUGE impact in the look and feel of your site.
Just like photography, video as a medium has taken the web by storm, thanks to our now seamless access to video cameras and free, powerful editing software (iMovie, Windows Movie Maker, etc.). Sure, we have YouTube, Vimeo and plenty of other platforms to publish video to, but how about incorporting video into your website. There are many reasons why you would: maybe you want to showcase a promotional video, highlights from a recent athletics game, a student talent show, or anything else. We’re seeing a big trend towards featured videos used on homepages and throughout school websites, especially as powerful CMS’s like WordPress give you endless options for integrating video with no more than a click.
Are there any trends we missed? Let us know in the comments! If you’re interested in learning more about any of these trends, reach out to STACKR to receive a website evaluation and we’ll show you how you can improve the look of your website(s) with the helping hand of a qualified designer!