Web Page Design Concepts Critique

Hello Everyone,

Thanks for all of your feedback so far. This is a challenging and exciting project and your input is a key part of the process.

For the past several weeks, the web redesign team has collaborated on three concepts for the homepage and a few landing pages. We are inviting you to critique our design sketches and offer suggestions. Concepts A, B, and C are works in progress, and with the help of this blog and several other focus groups we plan to narrow down a design direction by April 30.


It will help if your comments address design, content, and navigation. Keep in mind that our primary target audience (for the homepage) is prospective students and their parents. We look forward to your point of view.

Thanks for your time.

33 thoughts on “Web Page Design Concepts Critique”

  1. I like #3 best (just visually), although I thought the tweeting Cardinal in #1 was very clever — could this be used in #3 instead of the W symbol as a logo?

  2. just by looking at the homepage examples, concept C seems most appealing. first of all, it allows for one-click access to many things a prefrosh would want, such as Why Wes and Campus Life (dorms and food are important). the large WESLEYAN on the bottom with quick links is nice and separates the Wes site from peers. concept A is a little “off balance” and cluttered… there’s too much variation in the appearance of links. concept B is much too generic and does not stand out (i.e. isn’t memorable).

    concept C is clean and inviting, especially the Why Wes page. the homepage incorporates News, Events, and other important links that A and B either don’t do, or don’t do well.

    is the “sign in” link for e-portfolio? If not, an e-portfolio link really should be on the homepage.

  3. This is 7:11 again, with some additions to my comment:
    I also think that the clickable thumbnails (to change the background picture) should have the same image, or maybe a small cut-out of the same image, as the background image. Otherwise it’s not intuitively understood what the thumbnails are there for, and with so much else going on in the page, it would be good if things like that were clear.

    I agree with the description of concept A as “off balance”… It just doesn’t work, in my eyes. And B is definitely the most generic of the group, which I don’t think fits Wesleyan 😉

  4. Here’s my quick critique. Possibly I’ll get some time later to go back over, but maybe not.

    I’m going to discuss A C specifically. B would work, but I don’t think it’s really an idea worth pursuing. If you want the website to stand out, that’s not the direction you want to take it in. As for C, I don’t think it stands out, and I think it just focuses far too much on transparent boxes over the image. The links and news are not differentiated or obvious visually, box widths and positioning seems random and the images really lose a lot with so much floating over them.

    I think layout A has the most potential (and as I said at the meeting) the most problems. Right now the main problem is that the page is a mess. Things are jumping out of their boxes and it just makes very little sense. It’s not centered, and that looks extraordinarily awkward. The white background means I can’t even pay attention to the rest of the page until I force myself to do so. The large ‘WESLEYAN’ makes very little sense and is too visible on the black–it stands right out and really does nothing but distract from the rest of the page.

    Moving on more to the individual elements, the links on the left side look like they’re floating randomly. I’d really like them to be anchored somewhere or arranged more meaningfully. The Wesleyan university logo floating above them should also be moved into the box or moved somewhere else entirely. The search box in the right sidebar is an awkward width and it should really fill the space. Making the text box that wide would be awkward–why not put the search text/button on the same line and make the box a little wider? The tab box on the right sidebar also has major problems. It feels very weird having it come out of the sidebar. The tabs don’t fit in at all with the rest of the page, and the color is a grey I don’t find especially attractive. The twitter thing works, but the icons at the bottom really need to go. The semitransparent black bar at the bottom feels very empty. I don’t think it needs to be filled, but I do think that what’s in there needs to command that space better. The events/faculty/alumni/athletics box is really disruptive. It will draw attention without additional help.

    Just in general, there are several separate things providing current information and I’d really like to see those merged, because it’s not really necessarily clear why they’re separate.

    Here’s what I’d do with it:
    -Center it. It just looks too different on larger (and especially widescreen) monitors and those are becoming *much* more prevalent.
    -Switch to a light color scheme. I personally like the darker color of the page very much, but for it to work you really need the background to be a similar shade, and that’s going to be a bit much I think. If you make the whole page lighter then the darker elements will stand out (the picture, any surrounding content) rather than the other way around.
    -Drop the links box on the left and move the links into the right sidebar. The picture is a nice one, and it’ll look a lot nicer without things overlapping it. This also solves the floating box problem and simplifies the page.
    -Rework the sidebar and content completely. Links and search at the top, news can go below that. We discussed page content a lot at our last meeting, but how exactly that gets presented will need working over.
    -Move any links out of the black box at the bottom. They have the same problem as the links on the top with the current page. The main navigation is elsewhere and they are far too easy to miss. Possibly move the address elsewhere–I’m not really sure why it’s there right now.
    -Drop the large Wesleyan. It really serves no purpose other than distraction right now.

    Anyway, hopefully I’ll get more time later. I think concept A can work and work well, but there are a lot of jarring graphical elements preventing that from doing it right now. I would advise keeping things simpler than they are right now. Edgy is good, but this is way over the top.

  5. I did this a couple days ago and was going to wait to do a writeup, but I think that Sam (4:29) mostly echoed my points. I think that A is the most compelling, but visually unbalanced.

    Concept A, again.

  6. I think we should keep in mind that the image (the leaping red-clothed legs in concept A) is, I assume, temporary and will be periodically switched out with other photos. I think the “striking” aspect of Concept A is largely a result of that photo — the design itself is rather blocky and nondescript, in my opinion, though I completely trust the more experienced webdesigners to know what will look best 🙂

  7. Also (sorry) I did like the “Wesleyan” over top of the image in Concept A, there was just no need for it to be so huge and so shifted to the right.

  8. Echoing 6:01, it is important to remember that part of the visual coherence of A is the color scheme of the image, especially the all black background. It woulds be great to see what the design would look like with other proposed images that would not necessarily lend as much structure to the site as the black and red one currently used. Overall, I prefer A but like many of the elements of C. I will post more details soon.

  9. I support Concept b+ c. The navigation and the organization is just right. On the other hand, concept a is just blank

  10. Concept C is the cleanest and most appealing visually. The content is clearly organized and easy to find but not so organized that it looks boring.

  11. First, I think that you should have used the same photos in each of your design concepts so that people can respond to the design and layout rather than be influenced by the images. Overall, I like concept C the best. While I initially liked concept A, after reviewing it further, and navigating it, I found that there was TOO much information on each page and the viewer tends to get lost in all the competing sections. Concept B seems too traditional and almost boring (the phtograph used on the home page added to this perception). Concept C was graphically interesting but not too busy, so it struck the right balance for students and parents. As a design and business consultant, I think it’s a GREAT idea that you are collecting feedback and comments!

  12. Frankly, I’m disappointed in all three of these new directions. Concept C is the best but it is still not as good as what we have now.
    A website of this size is quite challenging and I do not mean to sound negative, but I do not think any of these is ready for implementation.
    Many current trends in web design are counterintuitive and I think that is a terrible idea. We don’t need to follow others’ mistakes; I question why we need to make any large change at all.
    Function is most important to our website–make sure everything works! Don’t succumb to the temptation of putting too much stuff on any one page, and never ever have music or other audio start up until the visitor clicks to ask for it.
    Navigation is extremely important; I like drop-down menus but there must not be too many levels. I like a landing page to be available even for top level menus, but if the submenu will remain expanded when the top is clicked that is an acceptable alternative. Those of us with aging eyes have trouble keeping the mouse aligned when we have to go 3 or 4 levels down expanding submenus, and it’s frustrating when we miss. This site must appeal to a wide and varied audience. Simpler is better.

  13. I just filled your web survey out form out and then was allowed to click through to the concept presentations. I would have preferred to have looked at your presentation first an then provided feedback.

  14. I think Concept A looks too complicated and overwhelming.
    I don’t like the white background in Concept B, and I don’t like the font used in the navigation links either. I really like the black background that Wesleyan’s website uses right now.
    Of the three, I like Concept C the best, but I like I said before, I highly dislike when college websites have too much white space. I think Concept C would look good with a black background

  15. I think concept A is the most engaging and dynamic. However, mouseover links are less desireable. They are more difficult to navigate for touchpad users and are near impossible for blackberry/ipod navigation.

  16. Concept A is quite striking; the challenge will be to find equally fitting images to rotate in. Concept B is utterly dull, I’m afraid. That site looks like it belongs to a regional bank or community hospital. As for C…I can’t remember what it looked like and it’s only been about two minutes since I checked it out. So I suppose it must be rather inoffensive.
    In short, concept A is by far the most “Wes.”

  17. I agree with #15… the background should be black. It looks more elegant and filling. Plus, red and black are Wesleyan’s colors. They should be featured. The black works well on the current site. Concept C with a black background!

  18. My votes: 1 and 3
    — 2 is dull as death (underating such passage);
    1 might be a little too abstract.
    Nice work, youngsters!

  19. It was a tough choice between A & C, but I definitely am leaning toward A.
    I like how clean C is, but it’s almost a little too clean in that nothing really stands out. All the links are the same weight, so my eye ends up not really reading anything. Nothing grabs it, or shows the hierarchy of importance. I do like the blocking though, and like how the Wesleyan logo sits above everything else. Maybe the main links on the left could be blocked per link instead of having one big block? I think that would show each one as being important and separate, compared to the news/events block on the right.

    But with that said, I think A is more dramatic and interesting. I do agree with an earlier post though, that all of the concepts should have used the same photo, because I think that is definitely influencing me. I like the interactivity of the events/faculty, area. And I like the energy of how it juts into the picture. However, I don’t like how it falls off the other side. I think all the elements should at least be flush on the edges and work their way in. Not really sure why anything would hang off the other side. Also, while I do like the big WESLEYAN as a design element, I think it would need quite a bit of tweaking. Initially, it looks like it says WE. The S is hard to see on the gray, and then the L is the only other letter in the main box of the site (WESL?), until you scroll over to see the rest. Plus, looking at this website from home, I am on a widescreen laptop, and don’t even see that element until I scroll down.
    But if you wanted to save the concept, maybe there could be a large, but complete, ghosted logo at the top. Because right now, the current Wesleyan logo on the top left doesn’t stand out at all to me. While I’m an alum now, if I were a prospective student, I first of all, wouldn’t feel like this was a university website, and then wouldn’t feel the…prestige or pride of the Wesleyan name. Almost looks like it’s being played down, which shouldn’t be the case.
    So, those are my 2 cents. Good work! Can’t wait to see what you end up going with!

  20. Concept A leaves the center empty of information and throws all of the material necessary for navigation to cramped spaces on the sides.
    Concept B looks like a corporate website and, like the current website, feels cluttered.
    Concept C strikes a good balance between image and information.

  21. I agree that B should be ditched. Doesn’t bring anything fresh to the table. A and C are both compelling, though it’s probably accurate that much of the appeal of A is the photo used in the mock-up. The tweet concept and the links at the bottom right of the page on A could be implemented in C effectively. With such an extensive and deep site, the deeper navigation immediately available in C is, I think, necessary.

    As an alum, I still have to say that I feel the alumni section of the site feels buried under “communities”. I think I’m accurate in saying that alumni are the largest constituency . . . and the group with theoretically the most long-lasting connection to the university . . . and the group that we hope is doing the majority of supporting of the university from a financial standpoint on the donations side. For all of those reasons, I really think the alumni section should be more easily accessible and it’s own “section” (akin to Admission, Academics, etc.).

    Best of luck with the project!

  22. My preference is for Model C. Model A looks like the Wesleyan Magazine, which is not necessarily a good thing, since it invites curiosity rather than interaction. Furthermore, sufficient navigation would be very complex to fit in such an austere layout Model B simply looks busy and conventional. Tabs are nice, but not really more useful than a separate page for a new area. Model C looks like the best compromise. It is fresh, balanced, and it looks like a website I’d like to visit. I think it works in the best overall look to match the needs of new students as well as current members of the community. Great work…!

  23. Although it seems to defy several of the choices I made in the survey, I really find A very appealing. It is dynamic and engaging, and I quickly could see where I could go to find whatever I might be interested in. Liked the sliding photos display (“Alumni” etc.) in the lower corner, too.

  24. Concept C with a black background would look great, and I suggest reworking the whole color scheme to allow more red in the design too (maybe where it says WESLEYAN).
    Concept B is bland, as has been said.
    Concept A is weird and lopsided and I don’t like it much, at least not right now. I do like the image though 🙂

    I also agree with the suggestion to keep the photos/images constant among the designs, if you can, so they don’t affect our opinions.

    I like the current website too though, and am curious to know why a new one is being designed at all.

    PS I kind of love how there are Cardinals of every generation in this discussion.

  25. I LOVE LOVE LOVE concept A. Wesleyan has a picturesque landscape and to use that as a backdrop is very engaging. Concept C is also really good. Concept B looks like the design we have now, and not that there is anything wrong with it, but if the re-design is intended to have a dramatic impact, I would go with A.

  26. A and C…are both very nice…much better than your present site…B yuck!!no better than where you are now

  27. Concept A is the most innovative design.
    I just did the survey and opened a new window to try to find a great college website. Most look like your “C” prototype. And are very boring. They push the viewer back, they are deflective. Cooper Union’s website is less cookie cutter, as one would expect. But, I think, not as good as “A.”

    Concept “A” pulled me right in. I want to explore this site.
    The design conveys an appreciation of detail and nuance instantly.
    Isn’t that Wesleyan’s core strength?

  28. Concept C looks the best to me. Visually very appealing, very clear, and easy to navigate. It gets my vote.

  29. I work for a web design company in Louisville, KY called blackstonemedia.net. Although I am not a designer, I am user and I know what makes sense when I see it. I looked at all three of the designs in question and I also really like the bold and dramatic look that (A) has; however it has quite a few issues. The fact that my eyes are swept all over the page is the most obvious. I have read all the other posts and, like a few others, feel like (A) could be great with work, but in the end I really like the look, feel, and functionality of (C). This concept has a very good balance

  30. Agree that concept A is the most eye catching; however be careful not to be overly focused on how the site looks as opposed to how easy it is to use and to find the information you are communicating.
    Concept A will need a fair amount of work before it can be made into a usable, workable web site. Also don’t forget to consider issues of accessibility for impaired users! Well done on some wonderful design concepts.

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