Web cartoon nails it

University Web Site Comic

Randall Munroe/xkcd

A Web designer’s nightmare

My thanks to Professor Bill Gleason of The Periodic Table for pointing out that Monday’s comic — which pokes fun at useless college Web sites — is causing a stir in academic circles.

Education journalists have groaned about this privately for years. The article nails this part:

The xkcd cartoon was particularly apt in skewering three useless but nevertheless common features on a college’s home page …  Specifically: the statement of philosophy, the letter from the president or provost, and the campus news feed.

Having those up there might seem like a good idea to the administrative committees that tend to dictate website content, Greenfield said, but they are rarely useful to the website’s most strategically important kind of visitor: the prospective student.

The problem, of course, isn’t limited to the United States. I went crazy in London trying to navigate my grad school’s site. The latest revamp has improved things, but it’s still heavy on self-promotion and is confusing for students.

I just tried to dig in and look for the school map before realizing it’s the small link buried among the fancy graphics on the home page.

Makes me think of college sites as TV remotes — where the most important button is always the smallest.