Ozarks Technical Community College recently redesigned their home page based on statistical data collected from visitors. According to Inside Higher Ed, the school noticed that the majority of visitors were using search to navigate the site. The school simplified their home page and moved the search box to be front and center in the site design based on this data.
I like that Ozarks is willing to take a risk. Too many college web sites fall into the trap depicted in this XKCD cartoon. I also like that they borrowed heavily from Google’s site design. With that said, after visiting the Ozarks site, I wish that the home page was even simpler and that this philosophy went deeper than just this one page. From my outside perspective, I have a few minor pieces of constructive criticism.
The Ozarks home page is still cluttered across the bottom with social media links. The menu across the top of the site duplicates a number of the social media links at the bottom of the page and includes a link called “Start Here.” This link is redundant. The large search box, by nature of its placement on the page, tells the user that they should start there. Based on the page it links to, the “Start Here” link should probably be titled “New Students.” Clicking on any link in the top menu bar takes you to a pretty standard CMS-looking college web site. I really think the entire site should adopt a sparse design with lots of white space to match the new home page. You can get an idea of what I mean if you view any of these pages using Safari’s Reader option or a tool like the Instapaper Text Bookmarklet.
While I don’t think the Ozarks redesign is perfect I think it is moving in the right direction and I applaud them for trying something new. I would like to see more schools bringing innovative ideas to their site design. Designing and architecting a college web site is hard work.
(via Inside Higher Ed)
I realize that this bottom menu can be minimized but how many users will notice this? In Safari, on my computer, the bottom toolbar was maximized by default. ↩
I would love to see a college or department make their home page a blank wiki and let the internal and external constituents build the site. The school could maintain some level of editing and publishing authority. I’m curious to see if this would work. A college web site exists to serve a community, let the community build it. ↩