The beauty, grace, and practicality behind the online school experience
By Greg Waldock, Bitter Student
Greg: Hi, Chuck. Take us through your design philosophy—what drives the website layouts?
Chuck: Hey, great question. I really wanted college websites to capture the art and elegance of school bureaucracy. First, we looked at what students want. After all, they are the people we’re building this for.
G: What do students want the most?
C: Stock photos of people in white shirts throwing a Frisbee on the quad. Underneath that, we have a link to the alumni donation page, a picture of volleyball players mid-jump, and exam cancellation alerts from two years ago. The stuff real students care about.
G: What about course listings? Tuition fees? Clubs?
C: Oh right, those. I don’t know why anybody would care about that kind of thing, but we had to add them. Course listings are behind three drop-down menus with vague names and organized by department. There is no convenient search engine, and course summaries are as brief and unclear as possible.
Tuition fees really aren’t a priority. People only pay those once a semester, so obviously we don’t need to clearly and openly show the many different expenses colleges tend to have. Clubs are to never, ever be listed, anywhere, under any circumstances. We don’t want to accidentally start a school community.
G: How else do you decide what to put on a college website?
C: We like to use key phrases students enjoy reading over and over again. “Small classrooms,” “one-on-one instruction,” “active campus life,” and “orientation week volunteer opportunities” are the best ones. Throw any number of them into every single page of the website and you’ve got yourself a winner. We never go into actual detail, though, like explaining the realistic class sizes for each course, or what kind of activities the campus has. It’s not the website’s job to accurately display relevant information—lazy students can hunt it down for themselves.
G: What do you do on your downtime?
C: When I’m not designing college websites, I skin endangered animals for fur coats and sell ecstasy to high schoolers. It’s so important to have hobbies.