Monday, November 7, 2011

Local college websites: the whole gamut, from A to B

This website page would likely get students' attention (Image from HBO's True Blood)
     Nowadays, students are "digital natives," or so they always say during flex week. These students of ours live on the web in a way that we oldsters do not. And so one might suppose that colleges should make darned sure that their websites look snappy—or cool, or whatever it is that gets students' attention and maintains their interest. I mean, these youngsters have got the attention span of goldfish!
     Of course, when you're designing a college webpage, there are other considerations than marketing. College websites ought to do what they're supposed to do and do it well: giving directions, identifying programs, locating restrooms, etc.
     And since colleges teach such things as art and design, their websites really should be attractive and professional. They should exhibit the institution's high standards (if'n you got 'em).
     So I figured I'd scrutinize at least the "home" pages of some local colleges' websites. I'll offer my non-expert opinion. I'm hoping others, including experts, will join in!
     Who knows? Maybe somebody will listen!

     I'll start with my own college, IVC:

Grade: C+
     This webpage is kinda blue, isn't it? What is the college trying to say, blue-wise?
     The page looks reasonably classy, I guess. Does the job, I suppose.
     If college websites should have pizzazz, then IVC's is a quart or two low. 
     This page looks more like a place where you'd request copies of your transcripts. There's nothing fun or enticing here, unless you're into weird-ass towers or the color blue.

Grade: B
     Our sister college's website has more pizzazz, I think. Maybe that's only because the color red is hot and the color blue is not. Not sure. I think students prefer hot to cold/cool. They've never heard of jazz.
     Is it just me or are others annoyed by that Social{LIVE} business in the top half? I have no idea what such symbols signify. No doubt students know exactly what they signify. —Something about zombies, maybe.
     I like that they've got their info phone number right up front. I do hope the number works. Here at IVC, there've been times when callers got no answer—or they were sent spiraling into some kinda phone menu hell. 
     I think Glenn was trying to save 50 cents or something.

     This one seems tidy and nice, but, again, it's seriously short on pizzazzery. They've got their phone number out in front too, which is good, I think. But I'm not sure young people these days respond to tidy and nice. I think maybe they're positively repelled by it.
     I do admire the simple & straight to the point quality of this home page. I like that they keep the cluttery stuff off to the right side, where it does less harm.
     But there's no zing here. Even less zip. Possibly a hair of a smidgen of vim.
     Plus yellow is the color of urine. Usually.

     This is the website of a college that has enough students and doesn't want any more.

     I dunno. This one seems designed by people who deeply want their college to be quiet and conservative and nice but who fail to understand that, in fact, it is somewhat otherwise. Those Chapman students are no wallflowers, that's for sure, what with their occasional semi-nude adventures into the heart of the city.
     Plus ketchup thievery is a real problem there.

     White is such an uninteresting color, doncha think? This page looks dull and busy and haphazard to me. Appealing? Not. And that "myOCC" thing near the top looks like an ad for a public radio station. They give you some "quick links," but they're buried among all that other crap that overwhelms the page.
     The eye is not drawn anywhere in particular. This page is a mess, I think.
     On the other hand, the notoriously frolicsome students of OCC probably don't read anyway.

Let's turn to district websites:

     My guess is that students never visit the district websites, unless they're, like, lost or something. It seems like you'd only need this kind of website for "the taxpayer" and similarly staunch and sober characters, now beyond all hope. Am I wrong?
     With that in mind, I think that the South Orange County Community College District's website is pretty good. Very neat, dignified, utilitarian. It ain't fun, but then it isn't supposed to be (I guess). 
     It'd probably make the likes of Nancy Padberg feel all cozy-frosty. Plus it would inspire Hollywood to rent the place to double as the IRS or FBI.

     This is utilitarian, I guess. But it looks like it's straight out of the Yellow Pages.

     Simple, elegant, utilitarian. But those buttons along the bottom do make the page look a little like a magazine ad page. What's that guy down at the bottom right selling? Retirement planning? Help with your taxes?
     "Inspiration, Innovation, Graduation." —That's a bit apples-and-orangy, if you ask me. Why not, "Edification, Creativity, Cafeteria"? Or "Institution, Concatenation, Menstruation"?


Anonymous said...

Hello Prof Bauer, I did not realize that you were still a professor at IVC...! Especially since the contact information leads to a solar power company, I thought you had a change of occupation!

Anonymous said...

Go Saddleback with those blazing saddles in red on the mast head.

Bohrstein said...

My short attention span loathes almost all websites these days. The only site I can even remotely stand is the simple and elegant

These school sites have too much information, most of which is barely necessary. You only need to find the bathroom once, and after that? The information is in the way.

Looking at UCI's site, they feel the need to "fill" every inch of the home site with automatic news feeds to UCI news, UCI In the news, and a special kind of news called "Zot!Wire" Then there is news that is "of note." Then there is "events" and a lot of big pictures. There is also a menu on the left which never gets any easier to navigate despite my proficiency with these magic desk boxes with windows to the internet.

For a University that is supposed to have classes that concern themselves with this kind of thing we have a pretty shitty site. Don't even get me started on the "Faculty Search Engine" which can't find a professor directly by typing their name in, and in the rare chance it does it informs me that it is only 76% certain that it found the correct faculty member (why is that information even useful?). To be fair, there is the possibility that this stuff is mostly shoved off to undergraduates who are doing some intern work.

I would've analyzed IVC's site, but it looks like it is currently crashing (just a big ugly error message is showing; something about an exception being thrown and a stack trace).

Anonymous said...

Grading criteria should be based on is it easy to use on a mobile device?
Is the material easy to find?

Anonymous said...

Something is really wrong with the IVC website this morning. Really wrong.

This is the message I get this morning when i tried to pull it up:

Server Error in '/' Application.

The user does not exist or is not unique.0x81020054


There is something sad in that statement: "The user does not exist or is not unique."

Bohrstein said...

"The user does not exist or is not unique."

We graded it, so it graded us back :(

Anonymous said...


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