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Elizabeth GrayElizabeth Gray, Web Developer at Purdue University, is one of the 12 presenters of the 2019 Higher Ed WEBSITES Conference.

In this 3-question interview, Elizabeth 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?

I believe one of the worst design trends going around is the resurgence of carousels.
Although carousels are often requested and used in higher ed, the idea of switching content automatically often repels me. On a personal level, carousels leave me feeling frustrated that I have missed content or that the content I wanted just disappeared.
On a more professional level, carousels are difficult to make fully accessible and can dilute branding. Sometimes less is more!

Universal Design is one of my favorite design trends. The idea that in order to design for UX, accessibility, mobile responsiveness, etc. we should not think of one sub-group of people, but rather design for everyone.

Think of a door to a building: the door is too heavy for young children to push or the handle may be too small for those with arthritis to turn. In these cases, we use a button to open the doors automatically. We have then designed for accessibility for a specific sub-group. However, if instead we made the door lighter with an easy push and pull handle, we have now created a universal door design. Universal Design says instead of the afterthought of adding something, go in thinking “What are some of the limitations to our users, and how can we correct them to make the experience better for everyone?”

2019 Higher Ed Websites Conference

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

University of North Carolina School of the Arts
It is absolutely gorgeous. It not only has beautiful photography, it keeps things interesting by showing a new selection of imagery on each refresh. The text choices and colors are bold and clear without distracting from the content.

I enjoy IUPUI’s simple and direct pages. They have just enough imagery to remain engaging and relevant (in today’s increasingly visual world) while still remaining simple and to the point. They also use their rich red color sparingly, with bold white text for an easy browsing experience.

Yale School of Art
Yale School of Art is unapologetically not a good website. It’s one of the reasons that this website is my absolute favorite among higher ed. I love that this site shows what the Yale School of Art is. Although not a website I would ever say to look for great development, to me, it is a great reminder that brand and voice can be just as important as form and function.

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

Although this isn’t a new tool, I love how versatile Siteimprove is. Siteimprove offers a variety of different tools to help find and fix everything from broken links to the hardest of accessibility issues. It also allows you to customize your own set of requirements so you can find content that might not follow your institution’s personal web guidelines.

However, what I really love about Siteimprove is that it has resources for both the veteran web developer and those just starting out in their web journey. I use Siteimprove as a means to quickly diagnose simple accessibility issues and quality issues. By creating a quick dashboard and providing access, I can then ask a student or staff member to go through the highlighted areas for improvements they can make.

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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