2019 Web Design Trends


With web design evolving at an exponential pace, are you scrambling to keep up? We’ve crystallized our best advice to put you at the vanguard of the newest trends and to help you apply these principles in the distinct framework of higher ed marketing. In a previous post we gave you our Top Five Web Design Trends for 2017. The trends noted there have progressed to even more robust usage, and the opportunity for creativity continues to escalate. Here’s what’s even better in 2019.

1. The global navigation tipping point
The hamburger menu isn’t just a mobile design convention any longer. With an increased comfort level of this feature, leading sites are using the single-column menu for the desktop, too. While this isn’t new to 2019, it’s an application that is evolving into new variations of the menu beyond the single column.

For the Mississippi College homepage, one click on the iconic three-line graphic displays a dynamic, but simply organized, list of navigation options. Flagler College moves the exhaustive menu to the left and—with a variation of the sandwich in the prime right-side location—directs users to three hot spots on the site. The University of Dayton presents a two-line graphic which instantly opens a full-page menu.

2. Scroll-triggered animation
With this approach, elements appear or move as the user navigates down the page. Not only does this give visual flair by bringing static features to life, but it adds functional value, too. Used well, scroll animation provides directional cues and signals to the user about what’s important on the page. It helps the user stay focused and can highlight a call-to-action. This will be increasingly applied in a mobile-first environment.

Take note of how Concordia College masterfully customizes the user experience through animation. Messiah College uses the technique to create visual interest and to focus attention on one feature at a time.

3. Overlapping layers
Think outside the grid. The technique of overlapping layers is a way that designs will continue to break the traditional wireframes to create microdesigns for grouping related content. Subtle layers pull design elements together for connectedness and visual appeal.

Johns Hopkins University uses overlapping layers to create a stand-out effect with scrolling banners. Biola University distinguishes blocks of content and enhances variety by layering.

4. Inclusive design (AKA Accessibility)
You’re appealing to a diverse audience, and you want to make the experience positive for everyone. While the idea of web accessibility in mainstream usage relates to the important principle of accommodating people with disabilities (such as hand impairments or ADD), we also encourage you to think of the idea even more broadly.

What about distracted users? (Think: a high schooler swiping a smartphone with one hand and shifting books in and out of a locker with the other hand, or a teenager walking along a busy sidewalk with eyes fixed on a handheld screen.) In those cases, complex navigation will make your site less accessible.

Another application is to consider the varied personas of those searching your site. The next gen of college students is incredibly diverse. Does your site exclude any demographic segments? (Think minority students or older, non-traditional students who may have different expectations or preferences when approaching the web.) While there’s no magic design that will appeal to everyone, avoid designing your site to appeal only to one targeted group.

5. Storytelling will always be of utmost importance.
Finally, don’t lose sight of this fundamental: You have a story that sets your school apart from every other school. Across your website, tell that story in a way that captivates the imagination and creates an unforgettable impression. The way you design your website, along with the content you include, has powerful potential to reflect your one-of-a-kind identity.

An engaging web experience not only provides important information and gives users a glimpse of what it’s like to be a student at your school—It draws them in so that they begin to see themselves as part of the story.

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