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Erik RunyonErik Runyon, Technical Director at the University of Notre Dame, is one of the 12 presenters of the 2019 Higher Ed WEBSITES Conference.

In this 3-question interview, Erik tells us about the worst and best web trends in higher ed, a great tool and shares his favorite higher ed website.

1) What are the worst and best design trends used on higher ed websites?

The worst? Full-screen. Hero. Videos. (aka, we bought a drone).

The large videos found at the top of many higher ed homepages do extremely little to advance the story or mission of the universities using them. Most could simply be swapped with any other institution. Other than the branded clothing worn by the walking, smiling, arts-performing, and athletics playing students, you probably couldn’t tell one from the other. But, what’s worse is that they’re terrible for site speed and download size. I’m especially looking at the higher ed websites that load the videos on mobile, but don’t even show them.

The best trend? An increased focus on usability. This can encompass user experience, content, accessibility, and performance. We should all focus more in higher ed on improving the browsing and reading experience for our visitors.

2019 Higher Ed Websites Conference

2) What are your top 3 favorite higher ed websites?

I’ll be honest, I spend next to zero time looking at higher ed websites, other than from a performance perspective. So through that lens my favorite would have to be Grand Valley State University. The team at GVSU have done an excellent job of creating a high-performance website. And as an added bonus, if you enter the Konami Code on their homepage, you can play some retro games.

3) What’s your favorite tool for web work?

While neither is particularly “new”, the tools that I find indispensable when testing and building websites are:
Google Lighthouse

Both are great when setting and testing performance budgets, and the visual nature of WPT filmstrips are a fantastic way to show how your site performs in contrast with peers.

My honorable mention would go to Firefox Developer Edition. Its dev tools are a must when working with CSS Grid.

A conference focusing on higher ed WEBSITES?

The 2019 Higher Ed WEBSITES Conference is a must-attend event for higher ed web professionals and teams looking for inspiration, ideas and best practices to kick off their summer projects.

Read below what a few of your higher ed colleagues who attended the 1st edition of the Higher Ed WEBSITES Conference say about the experience.

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