Rating the Websites of the Nation’s Top Technology Universities


I started in computers in 1970, got a B.S. degree in computer science,  and a masters later, was a member of an IBM/DEC effort to computerize the college campus. That was in the mid-1980s. Afterwards, at another job where I was a project manager, my instructions to my web designers were simple: always make whatever you put on a web page “painfully obvious.” The user should never have to guess where to find something and going between a subpage and the home page should always be one click away.

Graphics are great where graphics are called for. But in the first 10 universities I reviewed, all of which either have the word technology in their name or pride themselves in the technology acumen, too many were overburdened with graphics. Worse, some of the graphics seemed like an inside joke, something a person working or attending the university would understand but which an outsider would be made to feel like an outsider.

My next review will be of the Ivy schools, except Cornell which I reviewed here, plus a few other top rated universities.

MASSACHUSETTS INSTITUTE OF TECHNOLOGY

Home Page – “A”. A single frame page with links to every part of the university you are looking for.

Second level pages – “A” equally fine with a single frame, for the most part, but all the important highlights a potential or incoming student may desire.

Overall, the M.I.T. webpage is a model for all schools.

CARNAGIE-MELLON UNIVERSITY

Home Page – “B+”. Scrolling required. Should have stopped at “the fold.” That is, everything below the first frame belongs on another page.

Second Level Pages – “A”. Well organized, no scrolling, and links off to areas potential student would want to see.

Overall, not a bad look. A few fixes here and there on the home page and the site would easily get an A overall.

UNIVERSITY OF MIGHIGAN

Home Page – “C+”. Multiple scrolls require on home page. Would have been perfect if they had stopped at the bottom of the first frame. Everything below the first frame belongs on a different page.

Second Level Pages – “C-“. Does not look like much thought was put into these pages. Way too much blank space. The “Prospective Students” section, for example, has many redundancies which easily leads to confusion.

Overall, is the Big Blue trying to show just how pretentious is can be or is it a lack of engineering oversight? Either way, it is not a good look for such a great university.

CALIFORNIA INSTITUTE OF TECHNOLOGY

Home Page – “C-”. The slide show banner has got to go! It is very unprofessional. This page is in desperate need of re-engineering. Funny I should have to say that about an engineering school. Kids today love the acronym TMI, too much information and that exactly describes this, the worst of the best technology schools in the nation.

Second Level Pages – A great improvement over the home page.

Overall, I recommend that Cal Tech take a look at the Cal Poly home page to see how it’s done right.

RENSELLEAR POLYTECHNIC INSTITUTE

Home Page “D+”. A slideshow at the top?   Why? The most valuable information appears all the way at the bottom of the page: Admissions, academics, schools, resources, etc. This page is easily the biggest waste of space of all the technical colleges.

Second level pages – “B-“. Some were good with all information contained within a single frame while others looked like the home page all over again. The Lally Business School page, for example, would be better served with much small fonts and elimination of the “Lally News & Events,” at least from that second level page.

Overall, this site desperately needs to be reworked. It is poorly laid out and is too concerned with past accomplishments rather than future students.

WENTWORTH INSTITUTE OF TECHNOLOGY

Home Page “A-“. I would have given them an A” but a listing of current “events” simply does not belong on a home page.

Second level pages – “B+”. Not bad although a couple of pages were a bit long. Top in a prospective student’s mind, and his parents, is the cost of attendance. This showed up under admissions as a tertiary page. It should have been on the second level.

STANFORD UNIVERSITY

Home Page “C-“. A college/university president is not the most important person in education. His picture needs to go! Ongoing college events does not belong on a home page. The things most important to the prospective student look like an afterthought sitting at the very bottom of the page. Shame on you!

Second level Pages – These pages are well-organized and a vast improvement over the home page. Were it not for these pages I probably would have given Stanford a “D-“ overall.

I thought Stanford was better than this, guess I was wrong.

GEORGIA INSTITUTE OF TECHNOLOGY

Home Page “C+”. The graphic presentation which takes up the entire first frame needs to go, or at least be put into the background. Flashy is not always good and here it is just bad. The next screen down belongs on a separate page or pages. The third frame needs to be moved to the top in a place of prominence in which it belongs. And with it, most of what is in the second screen could be incorporated there.

Second level Pages – “C+” Same problem as with the home page, the information is spread out over many scrolled screens.   Most of these pages need to have the information which currently resides at the bottom of the page pushed to the top of the page where it belongs.

Those persons responsible for this site desperate need a heavy dose of logic and reasoning. The most important information an educational site offers consistently sits at the bottom of the page on Georgia Tech’s site.

CORNELL UNIVERSITY

Home Page “C-“. I counted five full frames from top to bottom. Here’s a thought, do it in one! Sadly, much of what presently exists on Cornell’s home page is pure eye wash. Everything the prospective student needs already exists in the first frame. The following four frames should have been placed elsewhere on the site or simply eliminated.

Secondary level Pages – “F”. Someone at Cornell is really proud of his graphics. Is that what Cornell is all about?   My first click at the top level was on academics which took me to a page that told me, nothing! Once again, lots of graphics about, who knows what, and I found myself in a position of having to descend yet another level to find anything about academics. And there, at the third level, was all the information I expected to find at the second level.

Overall, I hope Cornell teaches its students better engineers than that which they did on their site.

VIRGINIA TECH

Home Page “A”. Compact and complete. One of the best reviewed.

Second level Pages “A.” I am finishing as I started, a college with a good grasp on what a good website looks like. It is easy to maneuver and very complete with information offered.

Overall, VT site is right up there with M.I.T. as one of the best.

 

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