Wow, I had no idea there were so many first-round games.
On to the last eight matchups; let’s see who’s homepage is the top seed, and who’s is at the bottom of the bracket.
Marquette v Washington
Kudos to Marquette for having a link to “Majors and Programs” right in their top navigation. However, that top navigation is locked inside graphic buttons. And the bottom two thirds of the page are very text-heavy, including one of the more wordy presentations of a calendar I’ve seen. The U-Dub page also links to their departments from the homepage and also has lots of text-y news , but features a nice student-friendly photo essay up high as well.
Montana v New Mexico
Both homepages are oddly similar: they both have a very narrow photo near the top, with menus above and below. In both cases, the presentation feels a bit wimpy. I’ve never been to either campus, but I have to believe they must be gorgeous being, as they are, in Montana and New Mexico. New Mexico’s site though has an audience-focused navigation with the Future Students tab on top and easy links to Admissions. Montana’s site features a link to something called “Enrollment Management;” I have no idea what that is.
Clemson v Missouri
This is going to be a tough one as both sites are instantly impressive. Mizzou has the best of the rotating feature sliders I’ve seen yet, with clever art and headline writing. It also validates XHTML 1.0 Strict. Clemson presents lots of information while still feeling airy and graphically interesting. And I like the clever use of little factoids in the footer.
West Virginia v Morgan State
Morgan State’s site has its issues, I think. Chief among them being that I found it a bit challenging to find what felt like the correct “front door” for the undergraduate admissions process. You’re also dropped into a login screen pretty quickly. West Virginia does have a link to Majors and Programs on the homepage, though it’s buried in the Quick Links dropdown. The West Virginia site also makes better use of photography, though neither site comes close to validating.
Winner: West Virginia
Duke v University of Arkansas Pine Bluff
Arkansas’ site has one of the more creatively presented rotating feature sliders, all with a student focus, plus a link to majors right in the Academics dropdown. But it’s also pretty densely packed with text that manages to take up a lot of space without actually explaining much. Duke recently underwent a redesign (I think) and it is definitely “on trend” — clean, WordPress-y, magazine-syle layout; top-image slider. Unfortunately, the Admissions site looks like it’s been left behind.
California v Louisville
Louisville’s site is lovely: simple photography and a pretty complete set of grid-based headings and links, followed by more details on news, events, and video. Plus — sing it with me! — a link to majors in right on the homepage. The Cal site is looking a little long in the tooth, I’m afraid. It presents less information in a more cramped package.
Texas A&M v Utah State
The Texas A&M site has a rather squished looking slideshow at the top and some uninspiring news and events below. However, Utah State has three columns of links headed “Welcome,” ”Information,” and “Featured Links.” Umm…
Winner: Texas A&M
Purdue v Siena
Siena College continues the trend of simple columns of text links to great effect. Purdue also presents a ton of links, but in crammed dropdowns that are a little harder to scan. Both Purdue and Siena have a top rotating slider, but Siena’s is a little more polished. And Purdue has a link to a President’s Message and something called “Sustaining New Synergies.” Umm…
So that’s it for the first round! Next, we’ll see how the second round shakes out.