Recently, I spent time doing some research for a project that consisted of re-designing a website for an educational institution. I wanted to see what some of the higher profile universities and colleges were doing with their sites, but my findings were that most of them were completely outdated from a design standpoint, and not overly usable. The most common things I found were homepages that were extremely wordy and navigation systems that were far too complex. With tuition prices always on the rise, and the ever-growing importance having a strong online identity, I really feel that an Institution's website should be a priority. Especially since it is often the first thing that people see (from all over the world) when researching their education. With that being said, I did come across a few diamonds in the rough. Here are the top 5 best. The most surprising thing to me is that Harvard, MIT, Yale and other notable institutions didn't make the list...not even close.
5) Northern Alberta Institute of Technology
Hometown bias aside, I really like the cleanliness of this site. The interface is user friendly, and the use of accent colors really gives an otherwise plain color scheme a lot of life.
4) University of Notre Dame
A very bold design that caught my attention right away. The deep blue and pale yellow work together to create a great 'academia' tone. I also love the cover-flow like widget front and center.
3) University of Phoenix
If this site didn't make the top 5 I would have been worried, as one of its main purposes is for online education.
2) Royal Roads University
While i'm not overly crazy about the balance of text, specifically in the programs area, this site still caught my eye. It has a great west coast 'cloudy day' color scheme. The header is given nice texture by the campus overlay. This site is elegant and calming.
1) University of Chicago
The University of Chicago has a wonderful site that is full of life and diversity. I looked through a 'top 100 universities in the world' list and this site was the best, hands down.
Honorable Mention - Ohio Northern University
Because it uses Drupal!
Making this top 5 was extremely difficult. Not because there were a tonne of great sites out there, but because there was a lack of them! My next post will have to be a top 10 worst.
There are way too many universities and college to ever sift through, so if you know of any sites that could crack this top 5 then please post a comment below!