Showcase of Academic and Higher Education Websites


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.


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


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


Bennington College7
Bennington College uses a unique layout and design.


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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).


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


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


Tufts University55
Tufts has a unique layout and excellent typography.


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


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


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


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


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


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.


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


Westmont utilizes a slideshow header and great color scheme.


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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.


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


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


Community Colleges

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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


Art and Design Colleges & Universities

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


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


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


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.


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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.


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


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


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.


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


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



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.


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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.

  1. 1

    You guys forgot about School of Visual Art’s Interaction site: courtesy of the Heads of State >

  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,

  3. 303

    Manzoor kottayil

    April 6, 2010 1:11 am

    Excellent review………Keep writing

  4. 454

    Another college website, but for a special education college in spain,

  5. 605

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

  6. 756

    Stockholm School of Economics in Sweden.

  7. 907

    thank you!

  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 See for yourself…

    The Luxury Collection

    Middlebury College

  9. 1209


    May 31, 2010 7:42 am

    A website i designed for an MBA school in Paris. hope you like it :)

  10. 1360

    Medical Justice

    May 31, 2010 7:25 pm

    I just encountered a unique navigation header in the website “The Wurtman Lab” at

    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.

  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.

  12. 1662

    Great resource! Well done Smashing!

  13. 1813

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

  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.

  15. 2115

    Wesley Theological Seminary just redid their website and it is quite nice

  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.

  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.

    • 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

      Also, that web site definitely does not look like it was designed “15 years ago at best”. Here was Yahoo!, 15 years ago:

      • 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.

  18. 2870

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

  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, and

  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) –

  21. 3323

    Sessions College has a simple yet effective design that’s based off the color scheme of their logo.

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

    Just my two cents ;)

  22. 3474

    Have you seen the Parsons liquid menu? I entered the school because of that menu.

  23. 3625

    You might add which was redesigned this year.

  24. 3776

    For those drupal designers out there I found some good CMS designed sites: and

  25. 3927

    Nice collections. Thank for posting it. I would like to add to this list.

  26. 4078

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

  27. 4229

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

  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

  29. 4531

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

  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.

  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


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