Top 10 admissions websites (not)

Mary Beth Marklein is a great reporter on the college communication scene for USA Today but I am not impressed with the NRCCUA list she shared recently:

  1. Lawrence University
  2. Pennsylvania College of Technology
  3. LeTourneau University
  4. University of New England
  5. Bellarmine University
  6. Wayne State University
  7. Gonzaga University
  8. Saint Vincent College and Seminary
  9. Lakeland College
  10. Newberry College

Admissions usability? Design? Use of media? I didn’t see a single site on this list that felt strong to me in these areas.

Here are my top 3 at the moment:

1. Keck Graduate Institute – “Hybrid” microsite – Congratulations to Lipman Hearne for putting together a fast-loading, well-designed, site that integrates video effectively using Flash technology. Intuitive to navigate, very hip look, and consistently invites alums and student advisors to leave their friends’ name and email address.

2. Whitman College – terrific college website with great variety but unity of design. Lots of flash, very responsive, though there is little to no video. Excellent photography and goes a long way toward establishing the feel of a rich intellectual community.

3. Rice University – just released new university website with very nice interactive flash interface leading to interesting tie-ins between Rice history and current trends. Dock them for using Windows media and a clunky html interface for the archival video clips they show.

I looked at a couple of dozen sites in the last few days and could not find one beside the Keck Graduate Institute site that used basic Flash video, integrated into the page, to show video clips. My own informal search supports what Mary Beth reports, that according to the National Research Center for College & University Admissions, “the level of student satisfaction has been declining”. Students want more interactivity, including contact with both admissions people and students already on campus. Ease of communication with real people in the admissions office via IM is another hot button.

Of the minority of college sites that I found to offer rich media, most have long wait times, multiple formats to choose from, and clunky interfaces. It’s not that hard! My guess is we’re looking at a pattern of IT sluggishness here. Often, this seems to manifest itself in movies that require downloading, require Real or WMV plugins, or are hosted by separate servers. It’s actually quite easy to have flash movies begin streaming with 5 seconds, playable through any browser or on any computer, and integrated into the design of the page. For example, a really cool iPhone jukebox interface is as easy as falling off a log.

What college sites have you found that look great, are responsive, and use flash or video effectively?

Please comment with your nominations!

No Responses to Top 10 admissions websites (not)
  1. Lipman Hearne
    January 14, 2008 | 6:36 pm

    Owen,

    Thanks for your review of the site we designed for Keck Graduate Institute. We’re very pleased with how it turned out and hope to put out more innovative sites in the new year.

    Cheers,
    Lipman Hearne

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