The two pages I analyzed were this one from AUM and this one from OCU.
Given my major, I found it most appropriate to compare the pages for each college’s Fine Arts Department, or the equivalent. What I found was rather interesting.
As far as who did a better job? Without a doubt it was OCU. And they achieved this by doing meerely one thing: understanding their audience. Fine Arts majors don’t want to read spreadsheets, charts, graphs, and deterrents like that. They want pictures. They want a clean, elegant interface. They want to read on their own time. They want to see what they’re getting into, not read it. OCU offers a massive photograph as it’s introductory portal, and only offers small tidbits of information under the headers “Inspire,”Prepare,” and “Discover.” The headers offer concise pillars upon which the arts education will stand, and does so elegantly and unobtrusively.
The AUM webpage did an absolutely dreadful job, on the other hand. The Fine Arts homepage is literally stifled with small text and hyperlinks, while providing almost no pictures. Travelling further into individual areas of Fine Arts, the reader is bombarded with statistics, course-plans, and none of which are balanced with informational illustrations or helpful pictures. The OCU page does none of these things. It stays concise and elegant, while offering more information with a link to the Art Department’s page, if you would like more information. And even there, a large picture dominates the page, and a clean UI makes the information pleasant, not daunting, to read.This illustrates that, clearly, OCU understands whom will be reading their page, while AUM does not.
With OCU being the clear victor, I’d like to take the moment to discuss the areas in which it did poorly, as well as where AUM succeeded.
The issue I had with OCU’s page was that it felt very isolated. In removing the clutter of links, they decided to only keep the ones related to the Art Department. Which, to an extend, is a good thing, but it almost gives the sense that the Department isn’t very cooperative with the rest of the school. It doesn’t mean it’s true, but we’re talking about rhetoric. We’re talking about how these design choices make a reader feel. And that’s what it does. It forces the prospective student to travel back to the homepage to continue his research.
With AUM, the page is absolutely littered with hyperlinks. That being said, they’re decently organized, and the student can browse not only the Fine Arts Department, but anywhere within the School of Liberal Arts. It gives a greater sense of connectedness, and makes the user feel more involved in a School of AUM rather than a single, small Department as OCU conveyed.
That being said, both sites had to tackle the same problem. And perhaps it is the same problem that most sites face. That problem is how to inform the user. Every site contains within it massive, stifling amounts of information, ideas, and communities. The job of each site, then, is to manage this, make it pretty, and dish it out on a hot platter to the reader.