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eduWEB: Higher Style for Higher Education Websites

August 4th, 2009 by mdmcginnis

Design and usability: that was the focus of the eduWeb conference session led by Stewart Foss, a former college webmaster and founder of edustyle, a showcase for the best higher education web designs.

Here are some of the thoughts I came away with:

  1. Research shows that visitors expect a search box in the top right section of the web page.
  2. Visitors need links to be recognizable as links. If they’re not always blue and underlined, they should at least become underlined when you hover over them
  3. Some designers prefer liquid layouts that fit any browser, others want to control every pixel through fixed layouts. But fixed layouts do enforce a more readable line length. Short lines are easier to scan without scrolling horizontally. On the other hand, even a fixed line length requires scrolling on a tiny mobile device, while a liquid layout doesn’t.
  4. Increase the space between lines. More white space makes your pages more readable, but browsers put lines too close together by default. It’s easy to fix that: add “body {line-height:1.5em}” to your cascading style sheet for more friendly line space.
  5. Add features only if you can maintain them. Don’t put a “Message from the Chairman” box on the home page unless the chairman promises to provide new messages regularly.
  6. Design should be communication, not merely decoration. Visitors aren’t judging your website by how many colors or details you can add. Monochromatic gradients and spot color can be used wisely to add interest and separate content.
  7. Limit related links. Too many options confuse your visitors.
  8. Lead with your strengths. Choose carefully the image for your home page, because it makes your opening statement. That honking big picture can be worth a thousand words, but only if it’s the right picture. Unless everyone already knows what you stand for, you’d do better to leave room for a tag line (better yet, a tag paragraph) that uniquely describes you.

Stewart Foss’s recommendations for web design inspiration:

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Tuesday, August 4th, 2009 CSS, HTML
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