Results Day Homepages

Last Thursday was A-Level results day for students in England and Wales and a big day for universities who get a boost in visitors to their website in the middle of an otherwise quite summer break.

Each university has its own way of dealing with their audience so I trawled through and took screenshots of many university and college homepages to compare. You can find all the images on Google+. Here’s a few that caught my eye…

 

 

 

Higher Education homepages in the snow

Over the last couple of days there’s been a bit of snow around the country and I’ve been keeping our homepage up to date. Yesterday morning in between making changes I did a quick scan around some websites to take screenshots of their homepages. It’s interesting to see the different approaches which often didn’t correspond to the severity – some had big banners saying, effectively, “we’re open!” while others had a standard news announcing closure of campus well below the fold.

I’ve uploaded the screenshots to my Flickr stream and highlighted the relevant areas or watch the slideshow below:

Our approach was to insert an additional notification area above the main feature. I think it’s obvious enough to be seen and appreciated as a temporary announcement while not being confused with, or detracting from, the main feature area. We also had announcements on the GO news area and posted updates to the Edge Hill Twitter account and Facebook “Fan” page

Brian Kelly posted this morning about his use of Twitter yesterday to find out that the University of Bath was closed for the day and of course we already know they’ve had experience of doing this before. On the Edge Hill account, I tried to blend news announcements with interesting things like a link to Andy’s photos but it’s hard to say how well used it was – we certainly added a few (real) followers to the account over the last 48 hours.

New Homepages for 2010


We’ve recently used heatmap software to get an impression of the way people use our homepage; disappointingly, the central area, which we use to promote university achievements, major news and events, is often bypassed. This indifference is largely down to everyday visitors using the homepage as an entry point to the GO portal, but we are concerned that major announcements are going unnoticed.

We’ve had some strong homepages over the past year, as yesterday’s blog post attests; but we seemed to have got stuck in a rut by using the same three story template time and time again. It is clear that the single story homepages with the dedicated background images have far more visual impact, and are harder to ignore as a consequence.

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The obvious step was to add some interaction, so that we can navigate between stories, therefore individual stories can fill the whole area making a greater impression. Also by adding a random element we can ensure some freshness for each visit.

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Typography

We’ve been using uppercase Futura Bold for our homepage headlines since the 2008 redesign; the justification for this was simple, that I felt it had more impact. Over time I’ve noticed that the blocks of text have a solidity, that consumes too much of the negative space around the letters; as a consequence the headlines are less readable.

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So I’ve opted for lowercase Futura Book instead, as it seems to create more breathing space, but still has enough oomph for a headline.

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Navigation

The coloured bar on the right will be used to flip between screens, there will be a colour association based on tints in the image itself, or as a direct contrast to the background colour; and this will also be used as the highlight colour in the headlines.

There will be sub navigation across the bottom where applicable: the links will have titles if the sections are different, or can be generic circles if you are flipping through a gallery.

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The new homepage style will make its debut for Edge Hill’s 125th anniversary celebrations, which begin in January 2010.

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