Higher Education Websites: A Few of the Best

Colleges and universities are in the business of attracting new students, maintaining their current student population and faculty, recruiting talented faculty and support staff,  and perhaps most importantly, fundraising to ensure their institution has the resources to provide their constituents with a first-rate education and experience. A key outlet to address all these parties is through a website. Unfortunately,  many colleges and universities lack powerful websites (which is absurd considering their own faculty teach web design and online communication). Therefore, I’ve compiled a list of what I believe are the leading higher education websites today, and have highlighted their strengths in the caption boxes.


The College of William & Mary. What I like: simple layout, vivid imagery, straightforward navigation bars, uncluttered, and easy on the eyes


Bates College. What I like: beautiful imagery, large image, white space, many quick links, and clear navigation bar


Hampshire College. What I like: ample white space, easy on the eye, straight to the point, non-busy, and simple


McGill University. What I like: unusually placed navigation bar, list of popular pages and tools, succinct list of news and events, and background imagery on the footer


University of Alberta. What I like: prominent “apply now”, “careers”, and “give back” buttons, and interesting button navigation bar


New York University. What I like: minimalist design, lots of white space, extensive list of links, and color balance


Warner Pacific College. What I like: tailored to student users, tabs for faculty and parents, non-busy design, even balance between the header and the main content (news, links, and events)


Oregon State University. What I like: extensive footer with relevant links and easy-to-absorb events list


DePauw University. What I like: header and footers are balanced, simple design, lots of white space, listing of key stats, and beautiful imagery

Loyola_accepted students page

Loyola University Maryland’s page for accepted students. What I like about this: innovative way to engage with students before they even step on campus, fresh colors, inviting, clear layout, big buttons, and lots of white space

Tufts_virtual tour

Tufts University’s virtual tour page. What I like about this: innovative idea (let’s face it, few prospective students can afford the road trips/flights required to visit schools), and eye-catching landing page


The Beauty of Web Design Patterns

An example of a customer-centered pattern.

As a third semester student in a web design graduate program, you would think I’d have heard of customer-centered web design patterns by now. Actually, I haven’t, and it’s an extremely fascinating subject and the topic of an entire course I’m taking this fall semester. Basically, any webpage can be categorized into a design pattern (assuming it’s designed properly and for a purpose). For example, there are webpages that feature cross-selling patterns to news mosaic patterns, and everything in between. Essentially, each pattern addresses an issue. So for instance, if a company identifies that its problem is that clients are buying just one product, rather than many related ones, they can pinpoint, and then implement, the appropriate pattern. In this can, the pattern would be among “Pattern Group G”, entitled Cross-Selling and Up-Selling. These patterns are available in brief online and in-depth in the textbook, The Design of Sites: Patterns for Creating Winning Web Sites, which I’m required to read for class. Although this topic is a bit complex, I think it would have been beneficial to have been introduced it a few semesters earlier. Indeed, being armed with a collection of customer-centered web design patterns that are tried and tested is useful to any designer, especially a novice web designer like me!

I looked at a few websites and noted that Kohl’s uses the Recommendation Community Pattern.

The Cross-Selling and Up-Selling Pattern is used by Williams-Sonoma.

Sephora’s homepage employs the Featured Products Pattern.