I’ve always thought school and college websites should be the creme de la creme of websites. These places are oozing with talent, experience, creativity and free labour / people hungry for portfolio work. Whilst some of these sites are beautiful works of art, others are not… a website is quite often the first and last chance to make an impression, attract a new client / student.
There should be art mixed with science, mixed with phychology and good programming. After all, most of these colleges run those courses, so surely it would be relatively simple to tap in to all of that knowledge and form a team of people to create an ultimate website… not so. I’ve spent a good bit of time looking at all of these sites (all 13 IT’s and 7 universities in the country) and the main problem is inconsistency. Different departments seem to do their own thing (which is understandable) under the main domain name however it results in absolute chaos from a consistency point of view.
Take my own college / department. Here‘s the main site, here‘s my department’s site. To an outsider (i’m putting myself in outsider shoes) i really don’t give a damn about departments and research centers… they’re all part of the one college to me. I expect consistency. Yes, i expect there to be different areas or different subdomains, but I don’t expect completely different layouts and navigation structures for each department site. There should be consistency across them all so that the end user is never left wondering ‘where am i’, or ‘how did i get here’.
Having looked at all of these sites below, that’s the main problem. They’re all littered with inconsistency. Anyway, i’ve gone through them one by one and gave my own view on each, most of which was formed in the first few seconds of looking at the sites…
Cork Institute of Technology | http://www.cit.ie/
Is this a website that makes you go ‘wow’?
Didn’t think so. That’s CIT’s. Reminds me of some of those free templates you can get online where you just slap your logo on them.
Limerick Institute of Technology | http://www.lit.ie/
How about this effort from LIT?
Yeah, didn’t think so either 😉 Messy. Just messy.
Letterkenny Institute of Technology | http://www.lyit.ie/
lyit’s site is much better. More structure and it’s nice and chunky. Not keen on the top navigation placement / colour though. Doesn’t blend in well.
Athlone Institute of Technology | http://www.ait.ie/
This website really got my attention. I had to double take on it the first time i seen it – “is this the official college website? i asked myself”. It’s a little too playful and colourful for my liking, but at least they’re trying… being different… that’s good. If this was a social network or some kind of community site it would be perfect, but it loses a bit of respect from me because of the colour scheme.
Institute of Technology, Blanchardstown | http://www.itb.ie/
Nice site. Certainly not the worst of them. However, there is a lot of chopping and changing with font colours and sizes. Some elements look too big, some look too small. It’s not uniformed enough in that sense but it is nice and clean looking.
Institute of Technology, Carlow | http://www.itcarlow.ie/
Somebody should tell Carlow IT that size zero isn’t cool. It needs to widen itself out a bit. It has the meat there but it’s all being squashed in to that size zero dress. I can’t look beyond that because it’s so distracting / annoying / unnatural for my eyes.
DÃºn Laoghaire Institute of Art, Design and Technology | http://www.iadt.ie/en/
Ah, at last we have ourselves a nice simple, modern design where you can see the art and design working away. It gets docked some marks for the ‘go’ button on the search box which is chopped off in chrome and squashed in firefox. The images are also a little pixelated / poor quality which lets it down slightly.
Dundalk Institute of Technology | http://ww2.dkit.ie/
Like Carlow, it needs to fatten itself out a bit and also chop off it’s long legs. You need a lift to get down to the bottom of that homepage. It’s a site i’m on daily so i know all of it’s weaknesses. The main problems are the poor navigation and width / height issue i referred to at the start. Images are also pixelated and blocky and it’s just information overload on the homepage and the site in general. It’s like one of those never ending mazes where you come across routes you didn’t even know existed if you keep walking.
Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology | http://www.gmit.ie/
If Carlow & Dundalk are the size zero supermodels, GMIT is McDonald’s biggest customer. Please GMIT – shed some of your width to Carlow & Dundalk and we’ll all be happy. For those of you on netbooks or smaller screens, you won’t notice the 100% width GMIT is set at, but it doesn’t help the site any. There are some nice bits… it does have structure and ‘blocks’ but it’s like they’re stuck on with sellotape and not ‘built in’ like with the NUIG site for example.
Institute of Technology, Sligo | http://itsligo.ie/
I fell in love with this site at first and then gradually fell out of love with it (only a bit). It’s simple, chunky, colourful and has that touch of class about it. But again like with athlone IT, i’m not sure the colour scheme is fitting for a college. It is more surfing club than college. Also, it doesn’t need the long intro on the homepage – the site would look much better if it didn’t break the fold (if you didn’t have to scroll down). I just want to ditch the intro and shrink the sidebar and pull up that footer, then pimp out the footer a bit too. Frustrating, because the top half of the site has so much going for it. I noticed they’re using wordpress too which is interesting, not many college sites do.
Institute of Technology, Tallaght | http://www.it-tallaght.ie/
Different and they get respect for that but it just doesn’t do anything for me. It’s slightly too cluttered, small and ‘fidly’ for my liking. I want to blow it up / zoom in and get rid of the strange background / bar thing going on.
Institute of Technology, Tralee | http://www.ittralee.ie/
Another site that nearly gets it right. Tries to be simple but just doesn’t do it with elegance. There are a few face palm elements in terms of design like the prospectus image on the left (green text on a red background! i’m blind, i’m blind!!!) and the logo which you can see is a square image thanks to the background on the logo image not being the same colour as the background on the site itself.
Waterford Institute of Technology | http://www2.wit.ie/
Do you have a magnifying glass? You’ll need it to read the menu on the left side of this site. In fact the font size overall is quite small on the site. Not that that’s a bad thing, but again it’s just not consistent enough and that’s the real problem. I just get a general impression of ‘cheap and cheerful’. Loads of little problems with this site like the logo / header not linking back to homepage or the fact that the background header colour disappears when you go to another page. Schoolboy stuff.
National University of Ireland, Galway | http://www.nuigalway.ie/
This was the one website that my eyes immediately said ‘yes’ to. It’s what you call classy, intentional simplicity. You can almost ‘see’ the thought gone in to the design. The image below also doesn’t really do it justice, you need to check out the site itself to appreciate it.
Dublin City University | http://www.dcu.ie/
Again tries to be simple but it’s not perfect. The news / rotating carousal on the homepage is often not inline with the borders which makes it look a tad unprofessional. The images are also pretty poor quality (what is it with colleges and poor quality images?!). Overall it’s just not consistent enough for me. Loads of information but i just can’t get to it all quickly and easily. Too many options / menus.
University College Cork – National University of Ireland, Cork | http://www.ucc.ie/en/
For starters, the site should be center aligned… there’s nothing more frustrating than a left aligned site. The search button is squashed / missing and the text in the ‘spotlight on’ box is rammed right up against the borders. Apart from that it’s actually a nice site. Lacks any class, but it’s simple and easy to navigate through. It does suffer from inconsistency though… for example this and this are links on the main site’s menu. Almost completely different sites. What’s with the inconsistency?!
University College Dublin – National University of Ireland, Dublin | http://www.ucd.ie/
Homepage a little too cluttered for my liking but it’s all nicely spaced out – just too much content. Delve deeper in to the site and the inconsistency is visible. Left aligned pages, page widths narrowing… the usual story with college websites as i’m beginning to find out. It seems different departments / areas all seem to do their own thing which means the overall consistency of the site (for an end user like me) is compromised.
National University of Ireland, Maynooth | http://www.nuim.ie/
Information overload. That’s my first impression. There’s 3 columns. One has too much in it whilst the others are blank. towards the end. Looks really poor on a homepage. Text and columns also seem to be crammed in together at times. No spacing and that’s because it’s pretty narrow too so they have to squash 3 columns in together when really it should be 2. An average site in my eyes.
Trinity College, Dublin | http://www.tcd.ie/
Ireland’s version of Harvard or Oxford. You’d expect their site to be decent and in fairness, it is. Probably one of the best. It is a little inconsistent though again in terms of navigation and style. Some pages have two columns, some have one, some have nice images in place of text navigation… the homepage also breaks the fold and there’s no real need for it. There’s a lot of white / wasted space towards the bottom of the homepage. Some of the pages have a nice chunky, colourful look though which looks really well.
University of Limerick | http://www.ul.ie/
A little too artistic for my liking on the homepage. Some ‘boxes’ do nothing, others are links to pages. Figure that one out. The menu is quite simple to use but again it’s full or redirects to sites on the ul.ie domain, but completely different in terms of design and layout which is incredibly frustrating.
Just to keep them all together and for future reference, here’s a full list of IT websites in Ireland & their official sites, followed by all the University websites.
- Athlone Institute of Technology
- Institute of Technology, Blanchardstown
- Institute of Technology, Carlow
- Cork Institute of Technology
- DÃºn Laoghaire Institute of Art, Design and Technology
- Dundalk Institute of Technology
- Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology
- Letterkenny Institute of Technology
- Limerick Institute of Technology
- Institute of Technology, Sligo
- Institute of Technology, Tallaght
- Institute of Technology, Tralee
- Waterford Institute of Technology
- Dublin City University
- University College Cork – National University of Ireland, Cork
- University College Dublin – National University of Ireland, Dublin
- National University of Ireland, Galway
- National University of Ireland, Maynooth
- Trinity College, Dublin
- University of Limerick
Update: By pure coincidence smashing magazine published an article titled “Showcase of academic and higher education websites” the same day i posted this article. It’s well worth a read. The examples in that article crush most Irish college websites.