How web design has evolved from 1995 to 2015

Best and Worst University Websites Designs

Probably in large part due to evolving technology, increased use of mobile devices, and higher resolution monitors; web design and the style of design continues to evolve.  Nowadays, a modern website needs to look as good or effective on an Android as it does on an iPad or a laptop computer plugged into a 23″ monitor.

1990’s style of web design

I can usually tell if a website is modern or outdated by how well or poorly is uses screen space.  For example, look at this 1995 style of web design that continues to represent the United States Air Force Academy.  Seems that it has hardly changed in 20 years.  We are in the second half of 2014 as I write this blog post and I took the screen shot below.  Looks like it was stuck in time, like a screenshot from Way Back Machine.

You would think that MIT, one of the institutions that formed the bedrock and foundation of the Internet back in 1962, would have a more modern and responsive design in 2014.  It’s been over 50 years since J.C.R. Licklider of MIT first proposed a global network of computers and MIT’s website still looks like it is from the stone age.  Look how it is designed and optimized for outdated and obsolete screen resolutions.

2000’s style of web design

Look at Columbia University‘s website.  It was obviously designed for smaller screens with lower levels of resolution.  While is it still functional and therefore not necessarily obsolete, it is clearly outdated and in need of a modern redesign with a mobile first approach.  There is a vertical navigation column to the left.  That left navigation (without a horizontal navbar) is so 1999.

2010 style of web design

By the mid- to late-2000’s, we start to see a horizontal navigation bar across the top of the screen, a sliding image (hero) just below the navbar, a secondary nav bar to the left or right of the hero, a three-column content section below the image slider, and a copyright / footer menu at the bottom.  We also started to see the website fill up the screen from top to bottom leaving little or no space below the home page.  Emory University has a very classical, yet modern design that reflects the 2010 style of web design.  2010 represents a blend and balance of images and text.  Below Emory’s website is Pepperdine, which has almost the exact same wire frame.

2015 style of web design (for colleges and universities)

As we approach 2015, a new style of design is emerging, which consumes or takes advantage of the entire screen.  The 2015 style of design often includes a high-impact image across the entire home page.  The University of Michigan website


Other modern, 2015 style web designs for colleges and universities.



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