Rating the Web Sites of the Nations Top Universities With Particular Attention to the Ivy League


Now that I have gone through 10 of the top technical/engineering colleges in the United States rating their website, I think it only fair to continue on to the Ivy League colleges, except Cornell which got included in my previous post, plus four other prestigious colleges and see how they did.

So, why not start with my Alma Mata.

HARVARD UNIVERSITY

Home Page – “C-“ Well, Harvard beat the previous high of 5 frames, it has six! Things which do not belong on a home page which Harvard put there anyway: Social Media, News From Around Harvard, Multimedia and Events. Harvard is far from being alone in putting such errata on their home page but they really need to come to grips with the concept of less is more and in this case, a lot less. Every bit of information a prospective student needs access to can be found at the very top, in slightly small font, of Harvard’s home page.

Second Level Pages – “A-“. I would have given them an “A” however I think the most highly endowed University in the United States does not need to put two headings which alumni and other institutions have interest, “Give” and “Campaign.” Overall these second level pages are exactly what you want to see. Little to no scroll needed to find desirable information.

YALE UNIVERSITY

Home Page – “C+” If Yale would only remove all the graphics plus the “YaleNews” section it would be perfect. Oh, is YaleNews truly a single word or is there a missing space? But Yale beat Harvard in that it had only a 5 screen scroll on its home page. My big question is: Why did Yale find it necessary to put Martin Luther King, a graduate of Crozer Seminary and Boston University, at the top of the page? The picture seems incredibly out of context. A prospective student or parents must wonder why. Please trash this page and start over!

Second level Pages – “B+” I would have given Yale an A straight up but I had to see the “Admissions” page. What did it say to me? “Let’s show the world just how difficult we are to get into. We’re so good you probably should even consider us!” The rest of the pages were all business as they should be and very informative.

BROWN UNIVERSITY

Home Page — “A-“ If only Brown had left out the “events” and social media sections it would have been perfect! Otherwise, a very good page. Also, the font at the very top of the page is several sizes too small. They have some very important headings there which need to been more easily seen.

Second Level Pages – “A” Brown did it right, completely! Mostly single screen pages which are concise and quickly lead to lower levels as desired.

Overall, Brown has one of the best designed websites I have reviewed thus far. Kuddos!

DARTMOUTH UNIVERSITY

Home Page – “A” Dartmouth would have gotten my first A+ except it felt it necessary to include an “events” calendar on the home page. I would have a header called “events calendar” upon which someone would click and be taken to a lower level. One other thing, there is a row of items at the very top of the page in a very small font. Of the 7 items listed at least 2 are extremely important to the prospective student so why not bring them into better view.

Second Level Pages – “A+” There it is, my first A+ and well deserved. For everyone else who is trying to do it right, look at Dartmouth, they know how.

PRINCETON UNIVERSITY

Home Page – “A-“ I would have given Princeton an A+ if only because you cannot scroll their page plus all the necessary top level information exists there. But the layout itself leaves a lot to be desired. The home page looks like an undergraduate class project. Lose the “News at Princeton” and “Featured Events” first. They belong elsewhere. And the picture of four students look out the rear of a Land Rover left me saying “Huh?” This picture belongs in one of Princeton’s particular schools and not the home page. How about a picture of the campus? That always looks nice.

Second Level Pages – “A+” Very nicely done. I especially like that the left hand menu stays in place as you move through those pages. Good design!

COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY

Home Page – “A+” Wow! Talking about doing it all in a limited space, Columbia did it in spades! Perfect, what else is there to say?

Second Level Pages – “A+” The perfect website! What Columbia started on its home page it continued to its second level pages. Lots of information can be gathered with a minimal amount of clicks. This is absolutely as good as it gets!

UNIVERISTY OF PENNSYVANIA

Home Page – “A-“ I would have given Penn an A but I had to make a single scroll and if you have been reading what I have said previously, I hate scrolling on a home page. The W.E.B. DuBois picture bothered me only in that it reeks of political correctness of some sort. There is a place for such things, just not on college home pages. Otherwise, a very nice looking home page.

Second Level Pages – “A” A couple of the pages need a little refining but still each is very informative and easy to navigate. The “Academics” page could use a little tightening up but still, pretty good.

JOHNS HOPKINS UNIVERSITY

Home Page – “F” The only thing this home page did was say “look at how ingenious we are with the use of graphical presentation.” First screen is a whole lot of nothing. Second Screen, more of the same, lots of nothing. Third screen, so you do have a group of schools! Who knew? Fourth Screen, only the four blocks at the bottom hold any meaning. Fifth screen, this is how we brag. Sixth screen, and just to put a point on the 5th screen, here are our bragging rights. If JH paid an outside company for this they should demand their money back. If it was done in-house, shame followed by firings. This is by far the worst home page I have come across.

Second Level Pages – “F” When I first wrote code in the early 1980s we called these “stubs.” It was a place holder where additional information and coding would be grown. Why would there be a bunch of stubs at the second level? Beats me. I decided I wanted to see what the Krieger School had to offer and clicked on a “balloon?” And what to my wondering eyes should appear, two nursing programs! I thought I had seen a nursing school on the previous screen and upon further inspection, sure enough, there is was. What I wanted to see was things like history, social studies, psychology, etc. My mistake was I clicked on the first of two buttons and chose the wrong one.

Well, Johns Hopkins, you do wonderful research and turn out fabulous students, but is the first test for entrance the ability to navigate your website? Those lower levels are an absolute maze of disconnected thinking. Hey, don’t you have a program which studies exactly that?

UNIVERSITY OF CHICAGO

Home Page – “A” Nice layout, very well designed.

Second Level Pages – “A-“ I would have given Chicago an A here as well except that it put admissions and aid under the same header. Admissions is one thing, aid another, and each deserves its own page. These pages are very easy to navigate and are the epitome of obvious, which is exactly what you want in good web design.

DUKE UNIVERSITY

Home Page – “B-” Why is there a picture of the tobacco industry at the bottom of the home page? It needs to go! Wait a minute, you want Students Visitors Alumni Staff and Media to smoke Lucky Strike cigarettes! That is, after all, who you have listed in the light blue upper portion of that screen. Duke should have concluded its home page after the first 2/3 of the present page because everything the prospective student needs is right there. And everything after that belongs elsewhere, if anywhere at all. That Luck Strike picture just defies explanation.

Second Level Pages – “B+” Why do I have to go through a pull down menu to get to a second level page? Makes no sense! When I click on Academics I should be taken there. I should not have to make a second selection just to get to my first choice. However, upon arriving at the desired page I found them to be well-done and very informative.

Why do major universities find web design so difficult? Overall, the Ivy Colleges did very well, better than their technology counterparts. Must be that “attention to detail” they harp upon. But the rest, what a mess!   Too much glitz and glamour and not enough nuts and bolts.

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