Showcase of Academic and Higher Education Websites

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College and university websites have a lot of roles to fill. They need to provide information for prospective students (both new and transfer), parents of students and prospective students, current students, and alumni. In many cases, they’re also the gateway to the school’s intranet and the public face for both academics and athletics. They often need to include reams of information in a way that makes everything easy to find. It’s a huge challenge.

And the truth is: most college and university websites are horribly designed. Either they look like they were designed fifteen years ago and then forgotten about, or they’re so overloaded with information that it’s almost impossible to find what you’re looking for.

But not every college or university website is horrible. There are some excellent sites out there, and below are some of them. If you know others, please share them in the comments to this post!

General Colleges & Universities

Appalachian State University1
Appalachian State University has a simple color scheme and makes great use of icons in their header.

Screenshot2

Ball State University3
Ball State University uses a sophisticated color scheme and typography combined with plenty of negative space.

Screenshot4

Bates College5
The bold header and grid-based layout work well on the Bates College site.

Screenshot6

Bennington College7
Bennington College uses a unique layout and design.

Screenshot8

Berea College9
Berea College uses a clean layout, and the cutout in the navigation bar for the logo really sets it apart.

Screenshot10

Case Western Reserve University11
Case Western Reserve University uses a unique layout and color options.

Screenshot12

Champlain College13
Champlain College uses a sophisticated, muted color scheme and excellent typography.

Screenshot14

Colby-Sawyer College15
Colby-Sawyer College has a simple layout with plenty of negative space.

Screenshot16

William & Mary17
The bold header image and excellent typography set the William & Mary site apart.

Screenshot18

The College of Wooster19
The College of Wooster uses an interactive, animated header.

Screenshot20

Denison University21
Denison’s website makes great use of negative space and a simple layout.

Screenshot22

Dickinson College23
Dickinson College’s site has a great color scheme and a subtle background image.

Screenshot24

Elon University25
Elon University’s site includes a lot of details that make the site look really polished.

Screenshot26

Hamilton College27
Hamilton uses a simple color scheme and straight-forward navigation.

Screenshot28

Hampshire College29
Hampshire College uses a unique, sophisticated color scheme and typography.

Screenshot30

Lenoir-Rhyne University31
Lenoir-Rhyne University has a clean layout and bold header slideshow.

Screenshot32

Marlboro College33
Marlboro College makes good use of a simple layout and color scheme.

Screenshot34

Middlebury College35
Middlebury College has a completely unique layout with excellent typography.

Screenshot36

Minot State University37
Minot State University uses plenty of negative space and clean typography.

Screenshot38

Nebraska Wesleyan University39
Nebraska Wesleyan has one of the best-looking college sites out there, with a fantastic background image and excellent typography.

Screenshot40

Northland College41
Northland College uses unique typography and grunge elements to stand out.

Screenshot42

Oglethorpe University43
Oglethorpe University uses a modern color scheme and typography.

Screenshot44

Ohio Wesleyan University45
Ohio Wesleyan uses a bold color scheme and graphics.

Screenshot46

Simmons College47
Simmons College uses a clean, grid-based layout and sophisticated color scheme.

Screenshot48

Sweet Briar College49
Sweet Briar College steps outside of the norm for a college website and uses a more relaxed, feminine design (appropriate for a women’s college).

Screenshot50

Syracuse University51
Syracuse University has a fantastic grid layout and modern color scheme.

Screenshot52

Thomas Edison State College53
Thomas Edison State College has a great illustration in their header and a sophisticated color scheme.

Screenshot54

Tufts University55
Tufts has a unique layout and excellent typography.

Screenshot56

The University of Alabama57
The University of Alabama uses a grid layout and plenty of negative space.

Screenshot58

University of Connecticut59
The University of Connecticut’s site has a simple layout and navigation.

Screenshot60

University of Maine Farmington61
The University of Maine Farmington’s website uses a basic grid layout and great typography.

Screenshot62

University of Miami63
The University of Miami uses a muted color scheme and simple, horizontal navigation.

Screenshot64

University of Minnesota Morris65
The University of Minnesota Morris’s site incorporates a number of small details that give the site its polished look.

Screenshot66

University of Nebraska-Lincoln67
A simple color scheme and clean, grid-based layout give the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s website a polished and sophisticated look.

Screenshot68

University of Portland69
The University of Portland uses a simple layout and color scheme with plenty of negative space.

Screenshot70

University of Rochester71
The large background image and non-standard navigation set the University of Rochester’s website apart.

Screenshot72

University of the Sciences in Philadelphia73
The University of Sciences in Philadelphia uses a fantastic bright color scheme and clean typography.

Screenshot74

Ursuline College75
Ursuline College has a simple layout, good typography, and lots of negative space.

Screenshot76

Vancouver Island University77
Vancouver Island University uses a grid layout and fantastic, monochromatic color scheme.

Screenshot78

Wake Forest University79
Wake Forest University’s site has clean typography and a simple layout.

Screenshot80

Wesleyan University81
Wesleyan University uses a grid layout and sophisticated color scheme.

Screenshot82

Westmont83
Westmont utilizes a slideshow header and great color scheme.

Screenshot84

University of Aberdeen85
The University of Aberdeen has a fantastic grid layout.

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Bournemouth University87
Bournemouth University uses bright accent colors and tabbed navigation.

Screenshot88

University of Bradford89
The University of Bradford uses bright accent colors and a grid layout to stand out.

Screenshot90

University of Chester91
The University of Chester uses an obvious grid layout, an animated header, and simple navigation.

Screenshot92

Edge Hill University93
Edge Hill University has a header slideshow, minimalist color palette, and lots of negative space.

Screenshot94

University of Hull95
The University of Hull has a unique layout, simple navigation, and great accessibility features.

Screenshot96

Kingston University London97
The Kingston University London’s website uses bright accent colors and simple navigation.

Screenshot98

University of Leeds99
The University of Leeds has a simple layout, minimalist aesthetic, and good typography. They also make excellent use of icons to simplify navigation.

Screenshot100

University of Oxford101
Oxford uses a simple color scheme and clean layout and makes good use of negative space.

Screenshot102

University of Southampton103
The University of Southampton has a bold header and simple color scheme.

Screenshot104

Community Colleges

Salt Lake Community College105
Salt Lake Community College uses photorealistic and grunge elements, combined with a unique layout.

Screenshot106

Passaic County Community College107
Passaic County Community college uses an obvious grid layout and a great color scheme.

Screenshot108

Anoka-Ramsey Community College109
Anoka-Ramsey Community College has a unique color scheme and a good use of negative space.

Screenshot110

Columbia State Community College111
Columbia State Community College has a simple layout and color scheme with clean typography.

Screenshot112

Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising113
FIDM uses an excellent bright color scheme and a prominent slideshow.

Screenshot114

Jamestown Community College115
Jamestown Community College’s site has a simple layout and navigation.

Screenshot116

Joliet Junior College117
Joliet Junior College has a simple layout with a good use of icons.

Screenshot118

Hagerstown Community College119
Hagerstown Community College has a good color scheme, clean typography, and simple navigation.

Screenshot120

Lone Star College System121
Lone Star College System makes good use of transparency.

Screenshot122

Washtenaw Community College123
Washtenaw Community College has great hand-drawn elements, and a unique layout and color scheme.

Screenshot124

Northland Community & Technical College125
Northland Community & Technical College has a sophisticated layout and color scheme.

Screenshot126

Northwest Iowa Community College127
The Northest Iowa Community College site uses a mix of collage, photorealistic, and hand-drawn elements.

Screenshot128

Art and Design Colleges & Universities

The Art Institute of Boston129
The Art Institute of Boston combines a simple layout with bold header graphics.

Screenshot130

Kansas City Art Institute131
The Kansas City Art Institute uses bright colors, a collage-style background, and loose grid layout.

Screenshot132

Memphis College of Art133
The Memphis College of Art site uses bright bright pink accents combined with a simple design and clean typography.

Screenshot134

Minneapolis College of Art & Design135
The patterned background, animated header, and clean typography set the site of the Minneapolis College of Art and Design apart.

Screenshot136

Moore College of Art & Design137
Bold graphics and a textured background makes the Moore College of Art & Design site stand out.

Screenshot138

The Ontario College of Art & Design139
The Ontario College of Art & Design uses a grid layout and modern orange and white color scheme.

Screenshot140

Pennsylvania College of Art & Design141
The Pennsylvania College of Art & Design uses a modern color scheme and bold header.

Screenshot142

California College of the Arts143
The California College of Arts uses a unique color scheme and animated header.

Screenshot144

University College Falmouth145
University College Falmouth’s site has bright accent colors, lots of negative space, and simple layout and navigation.

Screenshot146

Maryland Institute College of Art147
MICA uses a grid layout, muted color scheme, and excellent typography.

Screenshot148

SCAD149
SCAD’s minimalist light-on-dark design sets it apart.

Screenshot150

Corcoran College of Art & Design151
Corcoran’s mix of minimalist grid design and bold colors is fantastic.

Screenshot152

Emily Carr University of Art & Design153
Emily Carr University of Art & Design has a wonderful minimalist layout and clean typography mixed with bold accent colors.

Screenshot154

Oregon College of Art & Craft155
Bold background, great typography, excellent navigation.

Screenshot156

Ringling College of Art & Design157
The grid layout and bold background give the website of Ringling College of Art & Design a unique look.

Screenshot158

Other Institutions, Colleges & Universities

Asian University for Women159
The Asian University for Women’s site has an excellent gold and maroon color scheme and plenty of negative space.

Screenshot160

California Institute of Integral Studies161
The bold typography and great color scheme of the California Institute of Integral Studies sets it apart.

Screenshot162

Rochester Institute of Technology163
The orange and cream color scheme, simple navigation and clean typography make the Rochester Institute of Technology’s site unique.

Screenshot164

Conclusion

While the vast majority of college and university websites out there are in need of serious overhaul, there are some fine examples of sites if you look hard enough. If designing a site for a college or university, remember that simplicity and negative space are both important, regardless of the amount of information a site needs to contain.

Footnotes

  1. 1 http://www.appstate.edu/
  2. 2 http://www.appstate.edu/
  3. 3 http://cms.bsu.edu/
  4. 4 http://cms.bsu.edu/
  5. 5 http://www.bates.edu/
  6. 6 http://www.bates.edu/
  7. 7 http://www.bennington.edu/
  8. 8 http://www.bennington.edu/
  9. 9 http://www.berea.edu/
  10. 10 http://www.berea.edu/
  11. 11 http://www.cwru.edu/
  12. 12 http://www.cwru.edu/
  13. 13 http://www.champlain.edu/
  14. 14 http://www.champlain.edu/
  15. 15 http://www.colby-sawyer.edu/
  16. 16 http://www.colby-sawyer.edu/
  17. 17 http://www.wm.edu/
  18. 18 http://www.wm.edu/
  19. 19 http://www.wooster.edu/
  20. 20 http://www.wooster.edu/
  21. 21 http://www.denison.edu/
  22. 22 http://www.denison.edu/
  23. 23 http://www.dickinson.edu/
  24. 24 http://www.dickinson.edu/
  25. 25 http://www.elon.edu/home/
  26. 26 http://www.elon.edu/home/
  27. 27 http://www.hamilton.edu/
  28. 28 http://www.hamilton.edu/
  29. 29 http://www.hampshire.edu/
  30. 30 http://www.hampshire.edu/
  31. 31 http://www.lr.edu/
  32. 32 http://www.lr.edu/
  33. 33 http://www.marlboro.edu/
  34. 34 http://www.marlboro.edu/
  35. 35 http://www.middlebury.edu/#story196211
  36. 36 http://www.middlebury.edu/#story196211
  37. 37 http://www.minotstateu.edu/
  38. 38 http://www.minotstateu.edu/
  39. 39 http://www.nebrwesleyan.edu/
  40. 40 http://www.nebrwesleyan.edu/
  41. 41 http://www.northland.edu/
  42. 42 http://www.northland.edu/
  43. 43 http://www.oglethorpe.edu/
  44. 44 http://www.oglethorpe.edu/
  45. 45 http://www.owu.edu/
  46. 46 http://www.owu.edu/
  47. 47 http://www.simmons.edu/
  48. 48 http://www.simmons.edu/
  49. 49 http://www.sbc.edu/
  50. 50 http://www.sbc.edu/
  51. 51 http://www.syr.edu/
  52. 52 http://www.syr.edu/
  53. 53 http://www.tesc.edu/#
  54. 54 http://www.tesc.edu/#
  55. 55 http://www.tufts.edu/
  56. 56 http://www.tufts.edu/
  57. 57 http://www.ua.edu/
  58. 58 http://www.ua.edu/
  59. 59 http://www.uconn.edu/
  60. 60 http://www.uconn.edu/
  61. 61 http://www.umf.maine.edu/
  62. 62 http://www.umf.maine.edu/
  63. 63 http://www.miami.edu/
  64. 64 http://www.miami.edu/
  65. 65 http://www.morris.umn.edu/
  66. 66 http://www.morris.umn.edu/
  67. 67 http://www.unl.edu/
  68. 68 http://www.unl.edu/
  69. 69 http://www.up.edu/
  70. 70 http://www.up.edu/
  71. 71 http://www.rochester.edu/
  72. 72 http://www.rochester.edu/
  73. 73 http://www.usp.edu/
  74. 74 http://www.usp.edu/
  75. 75 http://www.ursuline.edu/
  76. 76 http://www.ursuline.edu/
  77. 77 http://www.viu.ca/
  78. 78 http://www.viu.ca/
  79. 79 http://www.wfu.edu/
  80. 80 http://www.wfu.edu/
  81. 81 http://www.wesleyan.edu/
  82. 82 http://www.wesleyan.edu/
  83. 83 http://www.westmont.edu/
  84. 84 http://www.westmont.edu/
  85. 85 http://www.abdn.ac.uk/
  86. 86 http://www.abdn.ac.uk/
  87. 87 http://home.bournemouth.ac.uk/
  88. 88 http://home.bournemouth.ac.uk/
  89. 89 http://www.brad.ac.uk/external/
  90. 90 http://www.brad.ac.uk/external/
  91. 91 http://www.chester.ac.uk/
  92. 92 http://www.chester.ac.uk/
  93. 93 http://www.edgehill.ac.uk/
  94. 94 http://www.edgehill.ac.uk/
  95. 95 http://www2.hull.ac.uk/default.aspx
  96. 96 http://www2.hull.ac.uk/default.aspx
  97. 97 http://www.kingston.ac.uk/
  98. 98 http://www.kingston.ac.uk/
  99. 99 http://www.leeds.ac.uk/
  100. 100 http://www.leeds.ac.uk/
  101. 101 http://www.ox.ac.uk/
  102. 102 http://www.ox.ac.uk/
  103. 103 http://www.soton.ac.uk/
  104. 104 http://www.soton.ac.uk/
  105. 105 http://www.slcc.edu/
  106. 106 http://www.slcc.edu/
  107. 107 http://www.pccc.edu/
  108. 108 http://www.pccc.edu/
  109. 109 http://www.anokaramsey.edu/
  110. 110 http://www.anokaramsey.edu/
  111. 111 http://www.columbiastate.edu/
  112. 112 http://www.columbiastate.edu/
  113. 113 http://fidm.edu/
  114. 114 http://fidm.edu/
  115. 115 http://www.sunyjcc.edu/
  116. 116 http://www.sunyjcc.edu/
  117. 117 http://www.jjc.edu/Pages/default.aspx?c=1
  118. 118 http://www.jjc.edu/Pages/default.aspx?c=1
  119. 119 http://www.hagerstowncc.edu/
  120. 120 http://www.hagerstowncc.edu/
  121. 121 http://www.lonestar.edu/
  122. 122 http://www.lonestar.edu/
  123. 123 http://www.wccnet.edu/
  124. 124 http://www.wccnet.edu/
  125. 125 http://www.northlandcollege.edu/
  126. 126 http://www.northlandcollege.edu/
  127. 127 http://www.nwicc.edu/
  128. 128 http://www.nwicc.edu/
  129. 129 http://web.lesley.edu/aib/default.asp
  130. 130 http://web.lesley.edu/aib/default.asp
  131. 131 http://www.kcai.edu/
  132. 132 http://www.kcai.edu/
  133. 133 http://www.mca.edu/
  134. 134 http://www.mca.edu/
  135. 135 http://www.mcad.edu/
  136. 136 http://www.mcad.edu/
  137. 137 http://www.moore.edu/
  138. 138 http://www.moore.edu/
  139. 139 http://www.ocad.ca/
  140. 140 http://www.ocad.ca/
  141. 141 http://www.pcad.edu/
  142. 142 http://www.pcad.edu/
  143. 143 http://www.cca.edu/
  144. 144 http://www.cca.edu/
  145. 145 http://www.falmouth.ac.uk/
  146. 146 http://www.falmouth.ac.uk/
  147. 147 http://www.mica.edu/
  148. 148 http://www.mica.edu/
  149. 149 http://www.scad.edu/
  150. 150 http://www.scad.edu/
  151. 151 http://www.corcoran.edu/
  152. 152 http://www.corcoran.edu/
  153. 153 http://www.ecuad.ca/
  154. 154 http://www.ecuad.ca/
  155. 155 http://www.ocac.edu/
  156. 156 http://www.ocac.edu/
  157. 157 http://www.ringling.edu/
  158. 158 http://www.ringling.edu/
  159. 159 http://www.asian-university.org/
  160. 160 http://www.asian-university.org/
  161. 161 http://www.ciis.edu/
  162. 162 http://www.ciis.edu/
  163. 163 http://www.rit.edu/
  164. 164 http://www.rit.edu/

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Cameron Chapman is a professional Web and graphic designer with over 6 years of experience. She writes for a number of blogs, including her own, Cameron Chapman On Writing. She’s also the author of The Smashing Idea Book: From Inspiration to Application.

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  1. 1

    You guys forgot about School of Visual Art’s Interaction site: interactiondesign.sva.edu/ courtesy of the Heads of State > https://www.theheadsofstate.com.

    0
  2. 152

    This college’s website allows students to view classes, add them to a shopping chart and register for them. Check out San Jacinto College, http://www.sanjac.edu.

    0
  3. 303

    Manzoor kottayil

    April 6, 2010 1:11 am

    Excellent review………Keep writing

    0
  4. 454

    Another college website, but for a special education college in spain, http://www.lapanderola.com

    0
  5. 605

    “The University of Sciences in Philadelphia uses a fantastic bright color scheme and clean typography.” …. Are you really really sure ?! ;)

    0
  6. 756

    Stockholm School of Economics in Sweden. http://www.hhs.se

    0
  7. 907

    thank you!

    1
  8. 1058

    You guys need to do some homework before you post these articles and say things like Middlebury design called “a completely unique layout with excellent typography” by Smashing Magazine. You’re right that it was a complete unique layout when I designed it two years ago and it was called The Luxury Collection.com. See for yourself…

    The Luxury Collection
    https://www.starwoodhotels.com/luxury/search/explore_collection.html

    Middlebury College
    http://www.middlebury.edu/#story251166

    0
  9. 1209

    inyattawetrust

    May 31, 2010 7:42 am

    A website i designed for an MBA school in Paris. hope you like it :)
    http://www.enpcmbaparis.com

    0
  10. 1360

    Medical Justice

    May 31, 2010 7:25 pm

    I just encountered a unique navigation header in the website “The Wurtman Lab” at http://wurtmanlab.mit.edu/publications.php

    The actual lab, at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, does research in neuroscience. On their website, the navigation depicts a molecule crossing the blood-brain barrier. It is clever and fun, and reflects the subject matter of the site.

    0
  11. 1511

    I liked a handful of these sites, but felt many of them fell short. I would have enjoyed more of an explanation of what made these site so great and how the author came about to include them. Here are some from level8 design studio that I think killed it.
    http://www.hhi.harvard.edu/
    http://www.hunap.harvard.edu/
    http://www.ethics.harvard.edu/

    1
  12. 1662

    Great resource! Well done Smashing!

    0
  13. 1813

    This article is very useful for me, I’ve learn a lot from this article.

    0
  14. 1964

    Great & timely article for a project I’m working on –

    Berea College’s home page is great, but the design totally breaks down as soon as you click to see a subpage. They’ve lost that great color scheme and any of the unique design elements from the home page are gone – it almost looks like you’ve clicked somewhere you shouldn’t be, or like you’ve reached an intranet site.

    0
  15. 2115

    Wesley Theological Seminary just redid their website and it is quite nice http://www.wesleyseminary.edu

    0
  16. 2266

    Berea College’s recent redesign was actually led by a sophomore computer science student. Which is excellent, seeing as it was showcased here.

    0
  17. 2417

    I liked some of the designs but many of them were boring and uninspiring. Having said that, most of them are better than most.

    This is the website at my college which at best looks like it was designed 15 years ago and it looks like a student designed it. Pitiful. I almost cried when I saw it, and when I checked the source and found table-based code, I nearly had a fit. I would offer to design and build a complete new site for them but I wouldn’t have the time over the next 3 years that I’m there for. So sad. http://www.penwith.ac.uk/

    0
    • 2568

      I take offense to your comment: “it looks like a student designed it”. I’m currently a student, and I’ve designed many user-friendly and attractive web sites. And I’m definitely not the only one. I was the lead designer on http://www.berea.edu/

      Also, that web site definitely does not look like it was designed “15 years ago at best”. Here was Yahoo!, 15 years ago: http://web.archive.org/web/19961017235908/http://www2.yahoo.com/

      0
      • 2719

        It does look like designed 10 years ago maybe not 15( i wasn’t browsing 15 years ago… ). I think it’s rather ugly. On the other hand, your design is well formatted ( equally spaced and easy to read ) but not attractive yet. I can say you are on the right direction to be a good web designer.

        0
  18. 2870

    Does anybody know who designed the University of Leeds and University of Hull websites?
    Thanks!
    Marina

    0
  19. 3021

    This is a great resource. I work in the higher education marketing industry so I know how bad websites can be. They go from the early 2000s design to the overkill design. A lot of these sites are clean and progress the student to the next step quite well. I would like to submit, http://www.regisdegrees.com/ and http://www.online-lcu.com/.

    -1
  20. 3172

    I’ve been looking for a resource like this for a while. Thanks. In my search for well-designed college sites, one good one I found was Biola University) – watchmovieshindi.com

    1
  21. 3323

    Sessions College has a simple yet effective design that’s based off the color scheme of their logo. http://www.sessions.edu/

    I like websites that are aesthetically pleasing but I also enjoy a website that is user friendly and functions well.

    Just my two cents ;)

    0
  22. 3474

    Have you seen the Parsons liquid menu? I entered the school because of that menu.
    http://www.newschool.edu/parsons/

    0
  23. 3625

    You might add http://www.qcollege.ca which was redesigned this year.

    0
  24. 3776

    For those drupal designers out there I found some good CMS designed sites: onlinemsw.bu.edu and http://www.purdueonlineprograms.com.

    0
  25. 3927

    Nice collections. Thank for posting it. I would like to add http://www.educatenepal.com to this list.

    0
  26. 4078

    Great resource! Nice resourceful collection, good inspiration for future sites. thanks a lot for putting them at one place.

    0
  27. 4229

    I’m blown away by the SCA site. Anyone know what Interactive Agency designed it?

    0
  28. 4380

    I love the Hampshire College website, simple, clean and great use of colors. The Middlebury college one is kind of obnoxious. I definitely like strong colors on a website. Another college website I am a fan of is http://www.burlington.edu

    0
  29. 4531

    I’m a little biased, but I’m surprised College of the Atlantic didn’t make the list

    0
  30. 4682

    Thanks for the great collection of academic and higher education websites! There is a lot of talent out there creating these amazing sites.

    I would like to submit The University of the Arts in Philadelphia. Their site is frequently updated and currently has a great sliding background with student artwork.

    http://uarts.edu/

    0
  31. 4833

    Thanks for this excellent list!

    I’d like to add the recently relaunched site for Roger Williams University

    The site was designed and developed by OHO Interactive

    0

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