In the last post, I talked about the “inspiration board” I generated after reviewing over 1,000 college and university homepages. In addition to learning that there is a lot out there that looks the same, I also found some homepages to file under the “Stuff I Like” category: homepages that were clean, easy to wrap your head around and navigate, and immediately compelling.
California Baptist University
You know me: I’m all about the big photos. And Cal Baptist sure runs some biiiiiig photos. I also like trying to create a look of layering and depth in a design, and Cal Baptist handles this in an interesting way, too. The main navigation elements are pretty simple (though some of the dropdowns get a little long). There are a few too many boxes and buttons on the page for my liking, but I really like the overall approach.
Another big photo and another approach to creating layering and depth. There are not one, not two, but four horizontal menus, which may be pushing it a bit, but graphically they are treated in such distinct ways that I don’t think I mind it so much.
Thompson Rivers University
“Hey, what happened to the big photo?” you ask. Well, I’ll tell you. I like this site for a very different reason: its sparsity. Remember the movie Moscow on the Hudson? (Those of you under age 21, ask your parents). Remember the scene where Robin Williams, playing a Russian who recently defected to New York City, is sent to the store to buy coffee? Having spent his whole life in the Soviet Union with only one type of coffee available, he’s now confronted with an entire aisle of coffee. Faced with so much choice, he’s paralyzed into inactivity and proceeds to flip out (this is a Robin Williams movie we’re talking about).
This movie moment — and the Thompson Rivers homepage — serve as useful examples of Mike’s earlier design mantra: less is more. By providing too much of everything right away, you can actually make things harder to find, not easier. If you don’t believe me, check out the one element on the Thompson Rivers page that does not fall under the “Stuff I Like” category: the Quicklinks dropdown. If you can find anything quickly in that coffee aisle of a list, you’re a smarter bear than me.