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InquilineKea

As you're evaluating graduate schools, which universities do you feel have the best user interfaces and site design?

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After looking around the webpages of so many universities, I can appreciate my own university (University of Washington) a lot more. Many at UW are pretty liberal about putting class webpages up online, and the site design is usually quite slick across departments. Professors also have a lot of independence over their own webpages (rather than borrowing the department's awkward interface, which rarely meshes well with what the professor puts up). It's not MIT (MIT still wins), but even then, it beats MIT in that it doesn't paywall most of its course content behind Kerbedos (sure MIT has OCW, but OCW is practically useless compared to a good course website).

I can't even believe how many Ivy League universities don't even list course webpages on their departmental webpage.When it comes to information that's helpful to applicants, many universities show practically nothing.

Not only that, but it's one of the very few universities where departments often archive class webpages across multiple years. Want to see how a CS course looked 5 years ago? Then check this out: http://www.cs.washin...courses/cse473/. I've never seen a parallel like that anywhere else for any other school or department. But at the UW, this applies for not only CS courses, but also Atmospheric Science ones, and others too.

Edited by InquilineKea

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I can only speak for humanities. Chicago, Berkeley, Harvard (in that order) had the smoothest application interfaces and website design this time around.

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I can't even believe how many Ivy League universities don't even list course webpages on their departmental webpage.When it comes to information that's helpful to applicants, many universities show practically nothing.

These universities aren't really teaching institutions, so why bother?

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Oh man, this stuff drives me crazy. Some schools' sites it takes me a full half hour to find the information I'm looking for.

I'm almost starting to judge schools based on their websites.

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I know I was shocked by how poorly designed may of the school web sites and/or department pages are. I think I spent more time trying to navigate some of the sites to find basic information than I spent on my application. One school I looked into didn't have any contact info for the department listed anywhere and the dates for application submission were for 2010.

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Oh man, this stuff drives me crazy. Some schools' sites it takes me a full half hour to find the information I'm looking for.

I'm almost starting to judge schools based on their websites.

I know I was shocked by how poorly designed may of the school web sites and/or department pages are. I think I spent more time trying to navigate some of the sites to find basic information than I spent on my application. One school I looked into didn't have any contact info for the department listed anywhere and the dates for application submission were for 2010.

Judging academic institutions by their websites makes as much sense as admissions committees assessing applicants by the font they use in their SOPs. In both cases, who shoulders the burden for such snap judgements: the institutions in question or the aspiring graduate student?

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Judging academic institutions by their websites makes as much sense as admissions committees assessing applicants by the font they use in their SOPs. In both cases, who shoulders the burden for such snap judgements: the institutions in question or the aspiring graduate student?

Its a shame that tone of voice can't be conveyed over the internet.

That was a joke.

I was using an absurdity to poke fun at both myself (for not being the most computer savvy) and, to some extent, the school for not making their websites very use-friendly... and I suppose to genuinely express my exasperation.

I'm not actually judging institutions based on their websites. Promise.

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Judging academic institutions by their websites makes as much sense as admissions committees assessing applicants by the font they use in their SOPs. In both cases, who shoulders the burden for such snap judgements: the institutions in question or the aspiring graduate student?

Not that is should be the be-all-and-end-all, but a remarkably poor website would indicate to me a lack of pride in presentation and/or a poor understanding of professional communication standards, just as a SoP typed up in purple comic sans might indicate the same. To each his own, though. I'm sure this view could close doors for me but I'm willing to risk that.

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Not that is should be the be-all-and-end-all, but a remarkably poor website would indicate to me a lack of pride in presentation and/or a poor understanding of professional communication standards, just as a SoP typed up in purple comic sans might indicate the same. To each his own, though. I'm sure this view could close doors for me but I'm willing to risk that.

IME in the private sector (which includes working at a multinational consumer and business electronics company's R&D lab) It takes a lot of time, effort, expertise, and money to design, to build, and to test a very good website. While we as end users are increasingly used to user friendly websites that are intuitive, useful, and aesthetically pleasing, not all institutions are going to make their websites a priority. In some cases, this decision can reflect a lack of vision. In others, it can reflect focus on other goals--such as keeping overhead costs down so a firm can avoid raising the cost of its products to its consumers. (In other words, what would you rather have: a program with a great website but one or two fewer financial aid packages to offer graduate students, or a program with a crappy website but more money for graduate students?)

Moreover, IME (as a graduate student but also from working for a consultancy and having a small private college as a client), getting stakeholders on board to support an imitative to improve an institution's 'marketability' can be a tremendously complicated and time consuming process. Getting the interested parties into the same room long enough to debate one issue among many is a task unto itself. Getting them to agree on a solution and to hold to that agreement over time can be equally time consuming. And after that, the discussions will start all over again over the specific solution to implement.

My point here is that when one is on the outside looking in, it is very easy to talk about the way things ought to be, especially when it comes to something like an institution's website. However, I think it is important for one to balance that perspective with some understanding that a lot is going on behind the curtain.

Edited by Sigaba

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Sigaba~

I totally agree! I really only get judgy about it when the uder interface is REALLY poor and ligitimately hard to understand/navigate. A website doesn't have to be pretty or fancy to adequately fulfill its purpose...in fact, I can't even think of a university webpage that I've found so poorly done as to be a real turnoff.

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Not that is should be the be-all-and-end-all, but a remarkably poor website would indicate to me a lack of pride in presentation and/or a poor understanding of professional communication standards, just as a SoP typed up in purple comic sans might indicate the same. To each his own, though. I'm sure this view could close doors for me but I'm willing to risk that.

A university and department's web page isn't designed by the faculty, but by a staff of public relations and communications people. The strength of the faculty isn't going to be affected by or is correlated to the web site's presentation.

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A university and department's web page isn't designed by the faculty, but by a staff of public relations and communications people. The strength of the faculty isn't going to be affected by or is correlated to the web site's presentation.

I have looked at a few universities where the different department pages look significantly different, even the banner they use to link back to the university's official page. Some departments have great pages (usually computer sci), while others are awful. I think most universities do as you said above, but there's definitely a few out there where it must be left up to each department to work on their web page. I found the uni pages where each department page was very different were the ones with the poorest quality pages, at least for the departments I was interested in.

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A university and department's web page isn't designed by the faculty, but by a staff of public relations and communications people. The strength of the faculty isn't going to be affected by or is correlated to the web site's presentation.

I know, but when it comes down to it an organization's website in this day and age is their public face. It MATTERS that it's done with at least a minimum of thought and skill. That's all I'm saying.

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Maryland and Auburn have, by far, the worst websites I've looked at for schools.

South Carolina's is fairly user-friendly. I think Catholic University of America has been the most user-friendly.

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When you say course webpages, do you mean like Courseworks pages or something? I don't see how that would be useful information...

At my Ivy League we do have short course descriptions up on the webpage and all the classes for the next year are already listed up there. But sadly, I have to agree with waddle. The professors here don't focus on teaching, and quite frankly their teaching is kinda bad and the classes are just meh. They expect most of their learning to happen outside of the classroom, which goes to explain why I only took one social psychology seminar in my actual department (I had to go to a nearby university to satisfy the requirement without taking a cognition or neuroscience class I was likely to fail).

Our departmental webpage is meh.

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