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Courtnie RidgwayCourtnie Ridgway, Digital Media Strategist at Tarleton State University, is one of the 12 presenters of the 2019 Higher Ed WEBSITES Conference.

In this 3-question interview, Courtnie tells us about the worst and best web trends in higher ed, a great tool and shares a top 3 of favorite higher ed websites.

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

The worst design trend has to be the hamburger menu on desktop.
I am not a fan of the hamburger menu on mobile, but with limited space available it is a good compromise. I just can’t get behind the use of the hamburger menu on desktop. I am a big fan of quick links and making a website as easy to navigate as possible. The hamburger menu is often harder to access and takes away from the convenience of traditional navigation.

Great storytelling is the best trend on higher ed websites. The web is full of brands selling products. I love websites, specifically in higher education, that sell an experience through storytelling and conversational text. Colorado State’s admissions page is a great example of how a university can accomplish this. With text like, “You’re almost there. Here are the next steps on your road to becoming a Ram.” the content feels personalized and welcoming.

2019 Higher Ed Websites Conference

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

Texas A&M University Brand Guide
This comprehensive brand is the stuff of dreams. It’s user-friendly, easy to navigate and covers everything from tone of voice to a toolbox with templates galore. They have armed their community with the tools and guidelines needed to maintain consistency across both digital and print collateral. I also love that the opening page contains quick links to some of the most popular areas in the guide. It’s a one-stop shop for their marketers across the university.

Colorado State University
There is a lot to love about Colorado State’s Website. Both their homepage and admissions site are in my favorites list. Their homepage is crisp and easy to navigate, with plenty of white to balance out the dark green. I love the integration of accent colors to their admissions site. Higher ed websites are usually decked out in the school’s colors. It is nice to see the accents breaking up some of the green and gold. I also love the use of graphics and icons on both pages. We are seeing more and more photo backgrounds and I think this helps to balance some of the design features without compromising usability.

The Rocky Mountain College of Art and Design
It is a lot to look at, but then again it is an art school. When I first saw this site, several features really jumped out for me. I love how easy it is for a first time user (or even a frequent one) to find exactly what they are looking for using quick links for either areas of concentration or those that have been segmented by audience. Not only do they highlight student work on the homepage, but they have a great section about their alumni, including where they are working. That information is appealing to all audiences, and does a great job of showcasing the value of a RMCAD degree.

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

Wrike is my new best friend.
It is a project management software that has allowed our cross-functional team to collaborate, keep track of project progress, timelines and more in one place. The implementation of this process has allowed us to break web projects up by responsible party and add in dependencies to help streamline our conversation and new site builds. For example, if we are waiting on content from Creative Services they have an assigned task, once that task is complete I get a notification that I can begin working on the page build. We are in a central marketing office serving the entire university and are constantly balancing multiple projects. This helps us to visualize what is active, pending and delayed all in one place.

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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