Kolowich, S. (2010) No laughing matter Inside Higher Education, August 4

In case, like me, you missed this gem during the holidays, it is well worth looking up. Randall Munroe did a cartoon on his popular Web comic xkcd. The cartoon shows a Venn diagram with two overlapping circles — one labeled “Things On The Front Page Of a University Website,” and the other labeled “Things People Go To The Site Looking For.” The only thing in common between the two circles was the name of the university.

The Kolowich article gives an in-depth analysis of the problems with the home web sites of many universities, and the reasons why they are so poorly designed. Just one quote to give you a flavour of the article:

When universities first built websites, … the home page would include maybe six or eight links on a toolbar; a modern site is more likely to have 15 or 20, and …as many as 32 — not because visitors want or need them, but because of “internal bragging rights.” This may say more about the priorities of an institution than its stakeholders might like. “Personally, I think an institution’s website is a reflection of the organization,” says Terry Calhoun, director of media relations at the Society for College and University Planning.

All I can do is to concur completely with the criticism. I spend a great deal of time searching for information from different universities. Even simple stuff, such as the e-mail address of a faculty member, or what degree programs are offered, is often difficult or impossible to locate. I often try to find out how many courses are online – well, good luck with that one, yet surely this is critical information for students, especially lifelong learners, who are becoming a majority these days.


  1. Universities sites are made just for the university management. Instead sites should be created for the visitors only. Usability study should be done on each university site.


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