I have previously in this blog suggested that, on the whole, universities do not understand what use to make of their websites. Most of these are poorly designed, are excessively busy, confuse the visitor with complex navigation, and contain information unlikely to be of even passing interest to the average reader. The latter category most particularly includes so-called ‘news’ items.
It is evidently believed in many universities that the latest achievements of faculty and forthcoming events are hugely exciting and eagerly awaited by all. Often they dominate the university’s home page, not least because they are frequently accompanied by excessively large photographs, as in this case. Some universities give so much space to news, announcements and events that almost no room is left for the real links that most visitors are likely to want.
So here is a message for those who determine the content of university websites: though this may be hard to accept, in reality nobody is interested in your news. I suspect that often these items are published as a form of recognition for those colleagues mentioned in them, but that is a misguided use of valuable online real estate. It is perfectly appropriate to have, somewhere in the links, a path to university news items, but they should not themselves be displayed on the home page. The latter should be clean, with plenty of white space, and with logical and easy to follow navigation links.
Most universities still do not seem to understand what use they can and should make of the internet. But a start would be to avoid excessive self-promotion; it doesn’t work as a PR tool, and it satisfies no other objectives.