As a team leader of an upcoming redesign project, The eduStyle Guide to Usable Higher-Ed Homepage Design was very useful to me. My favorite section: Recommendations. I got more take aways and ideas of what to do (and what not to do) from that one section of every university’s review than anything else in the entire book. I don’t necessarily agree with all of their recommendations – but was convinced of their perspective and credence established based on most other comments. (Cornell – “groundbreaking design?”)

photo of the edustyle bookIt’s clever to break down universities with their pertinent stats to give their page a bit of context — the size of their internal community, where they physically reside in the country, who their primary competitors may be, etc.

Pet peeve throughout the book: URLs that end in .com/.edu, etc. should not have a trailing slash at the end.

A wide variety of design implementations are thoroughly reviewed and explored. It gave me a great synopsis of the types of features I’d like to incorporate into our redesign, and visual ideas of how to accomplish them. I was convinced of design styles to stay away from (low contrast links with the background color behind them) and that RSS icons can and should be incorporated (along with the being able to subscribe to the feed within the browser location bar – not just the icons).

Can you get most of this info on the site? Mostly. But, it wouldn’t be as concise as a 95 page handy guide at your finger tips with an easy to read/reference format – especially the Positives & Recommendations section after each home page screen shot. (Ok, so the site does that too – but not all of the comments are written with such care and professionalism, and sometimes turn into a conversation/debate.)

If you’re going through an upcoming redesign/refresh, are new to higher ed, or are looking for ammunition to clean up your home page and/or add new features, buy it. Read it. It’s worth it.


Fritz McDonald · March 11, 2009 at 11:39 am

Good post, Rachel. Question: do you think the book would be helpful for agencie that work with higher ed? We’re always looking to broaden our education at Stamats.

Rachel Reuben · March 11, 2009 at 12:01 pm

@Fritz: Absolutely for Stamats and other firms who design university Web pages. In fact, I e-mailed a link to this to Beatrice earlier this morning to share with the gang. 🙂

Fritz McDonald · March 11, 2009 at 2:40 pm

Thanks! We really appreciate what you’re doing here!

Howard · March 11, 2009 at 4:15 pm

I’m working on a site overhaul, but my range is limited. Our University as strict rules and my office is only allowed to stick to a specific template. I am only be able to work with basic aesthetic changes and content changes that can be made in contribute. Would it still be worth it?

Rachel Reuben · March 11, 2009 at 6:40 pm

@Howard I’d only recommend it if you would like to use it as ammunition for changing the template. But, without being a full-time employee (you’re graduating in May, right?), I’m not sure how much they’ll listen — totally depends on the culture in your department. I have no doubt you have the strength and smarts to convince them, though.

Seattle Architects · September 27, 2009 at 12:13 am

All the universities I lectured or taught at have constantly redone their websites. It seems every year they have a new design. This book would be helpful to get it right the first time, and have a format that can be expanded upon rather than reinvented.

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