First go and take a look at their webpages siu.edu and siuc.edu. Simply, the current websites both stink. The design is bad, the layout is bad, the color choices are bad, way to much text, no focus on that is important, they are just terrible. I haven't gone out and done a bunch of research on university webpages, but here is the Santa Fe Institute's page. See how much better it is on the overall look and feel?
SIU is trying to tell a complicated story, multiple campuses, multiple audiences, lots of text, lots of "constituency groups." First and foremost the webpage should be an advertising center for current and future customers, only then should you worry about all the internal crappola for everyone else. At BoundlessGallery.com we have a problem that is almost the same, we need artists to signup and list their art, but the homepage needs to be for buyers of art. We have just one link on the homepage for artists and that takes them into the artist sign up land.
Time Magazine says that their "Person of the Year" is You! SIU's webpage should have a user signup account and a reason to sign up. People should be signing up for information, contests and other junk that will allow SIU to harvest their email addresses and build an email marketing campaign based on that information. We have a direct email company in town that is run by the super smart Amy McMorrow called Innucopia. I know they are using her services out at Dunn-Richman. Someone from SIU should hire her to work on the SIU webpage, her work is so much better then SIU can do by itself.
The main goal of the webpage should be to attract students, parents and alumni to SIU and the SIU story. First, the story needs to be told with pictures and design, and not with text. The students and parents want to understand what their life will be like at SIU and after they graduate.
Some ideas for things to add -
A mashup of Google Maps that shows everything on the SIU campus and how to navigate (pictures of every building and every entrance for example). Imagine you are coming to SIU for your first time to register, attend classes, see a concert or see a ball game; it is really hard to figure out how to get around. SIU could easily create a Google Map system that would tell people where to park, how to walk to where they are going, show the outside of the building with a picture.
I can see creating a section that helps students understand what kind of classes they would take in each major and what kind of jobs they might get. You could easily put great classes in there, alumni who made good with that degree, that sort of stuff. This would be best if you could incorporate it into a little gameplay somehow.
When you get right down to it the graphic design stinks and there is just to much text on the SIU page. Give the whole site a text-ectomy. There is so much visual clutter, it is very hard to see what is important on any page. Our graphic designer Annie Karayiannis (SIUC grad of course and looking for more freelance work. Drop me an email if you want contact info) reworked BoundlessGallery.com using color to define how the eye should move around the page. I ask myself why a little company should have a webpage that is so much better designed then SIU.
The templates for the SIUC page is particularly bad, it is impressive. I know the story that Sue Davis wouldn't let the designers do their jobs and kept changing everything irrationally. Maybe it is time to change those templates?
The main SIU homepage is a mess. It is so bad that it should be tossed and redone. Gold pillars? Little tiny menu boxes distributed around the page? Please, blow it up and start again.
One of the problems with kids design your webpages is they always make the text to small. Not only should the text be bigger almost everywhere on SIU's webpage, but there should be a control for people to make the text even bigger. Check out Wired.com for an example.
At the end of the day, SIU's webpage was designed by college students, managed by people with no taste and judgment, no technical skills and little marketing skill. It stinks and needs to be redone with vigor and panache. As I have written before, SIU would be well served to outsource most of the brain work on the site to someone outside the university. Someone that isn't picked because they are related to someone important and instead is chosen because they do good work. The payback for a better website would be almost instant, because the current site really stinks.
In summary, the SIU webpage could ge worse, but it would be difficult.
It is likely I will write more about this in the future, but I wanted to get started and let anyone else weigh in if they wanted to.
Your comments are welcome.