design school web sites (was: In case you know anyone who might be interested...)

12 Jul 2007 - 1:19pm
7 years ago
15 replies
1939 reads
milan
2005

On Thu, 2007-07-12 at 11:07 -0700, Robert Hoekman, Jr. wrote:
> > http://www.ciid.dk/pilotcall/
>
> Interesting. Not sure I'd trust a design school, though, that put all
> the text about the program into a giant JPG.

If you would select your design school by looking at their web page or
the applied expertise that is presented there, you would have to sort
out a lot of them immediately. Even good schools with focus on
interactive media.

I always wondered why so many design schools produce web sites or send
emails that suck.

milan
--
||| | | |||| || |||||||| | || | ||
milan guenther * interaction design
p +49 173 2856689 * www.guenther.cx

Comments

12 Jul 2007 - 2:01pm
Robert Hoekman, Jr.
2005

> I always wondered why so many design schools produce web sites or send
> emails that suck.

Me too. I don't want to "learn" from someone who can't walk the walk,
you know? If I can do better on my own, it's hard to be confident
they're going to teach me anything of value.

I've seen way too many AI students, for example, walk out with a
diploma and no clue how to FTP a file to a web server. Scary.

-r-

12 Jul 2007 - 2:13pm
tdellaringa
2006

On 7/12/07, Robert Hoekman, Jr. <robert at rhjr.net> wrote:
>
> > I always wondered why so many design schools produce web sites or send
> > emails that suck.
>
> Me too. I don't want to "learn" from someone who can't walk the walk,
> you know? If I can do better on my own, it's hard to be confident
> they're going to teach me anything of value.

I think I can shed some light on this, I work at Career Education Corp. and
we have 80+ schools, including design campuses. I can tell you that the
design school has little to do with anything concerning the design of the
site. Other than their stakeholders saying we want x, y and z on the site.
Certainly no designer - student or otherwise - has any input to the site.

We have internal teams to handle the online education products as well as
the web sites. Many of the web sites have not been updated since they were
built years ago, it just has not been a priority. That seems to be changing
though, as we now have 30 to complete by year's end. However we will have
little time to deal with the redesign of the sites, it's more of a refacing
if anything.

Generally the schools are responsible for upkeep, but they are very busy.
That doesn't mean we don't have good designers internally to make the sites
more representative, we do. I expect the next round of updates to be nicer
sites and more reflective of the schools. But we won't have the amount of
time we'd like to really push design school sites to really have that punch.
We just don't have enough staff or time at the moment.

I've not been here long enough to gauge how much of an effect this has on
prospective students - but I do intend to find out! I've always felt the
same way you folks do about it, until I got here and saw the situation from
inside. Truth is, our biggest schools that get the most attention are not
the design schools either, so they are going to get less resources and
attention than the bigger schools.

In the end, my guess is students gauge how they can benefit by the
curriculum, who the faculty are and how current students are liking the
school rather than how the web site looks in the end.

Tom

12 Jul 2007 - 2:26pm
Robert Hoekman, Jr.
2005

> I think I can shed some light on this, I work at Career Education Corp. and
> we have 80+ schools, including design campuses. I can tell you that the
> design school has little to do with anything concerning the design of the
> site. Other than their stakeholders saying we want x, y and z on the site.
> Certainly no designer - student or otherwise - has any input to the site.

Well, the net sum of all the background noise with a lot of schools is
that it looks like the design school can't put out a good design. Just
like in softwar design, no one cares how the system works, they only
care if it works for them.

It's interesting that so many schools - who are typically able to
facilitate internships - can't put together something where they hire
interns from the design school each year to work on the site. College
credits, work experience, a better site for the school, cheap staff -
sounds pretty obvious to me.

-r-

12 Jul 2007 - 2:37pm
Peyush Agarwal
2007

This I feel compelled to respond to :)

Having worked on the inside of a large educational institution on websites, I can certainly identify with your experience, however, I can't claim to have sympathy with it (didn't find this situation acceptable when I was responsible on the inside either).

I mean, would you accept any excuse/reason from an IxD candidate with a lousy site, and consider them to be any better than the quality of their presentation? In my view, one is responsible for all the communication made on one's behalf, upon one's behest. I really would like to say in potential interviews that I wasn't able to make a better portfolio for lack of time and have it work. (please, not being snarky)

-Peyush

< We have internal teams to handle the online education products as well as
the web sites. Many of the web sites have not been updated since they were
built years ago, it just has not been a priority. That seems to be changing
though, as we now have 30 to complete by year's end. However we will have
little time to deal with the redesign of the sites, it's more of a refacing
if anything.

Generally the schools are responsible for upkeep, but they are very busy.
That doesn't mean we don't have good designers internally to make the sites
more representative, we do. I expect the next round of updates to be nicer
sites and more reflective of the schools. But we won't have the amount of
time we'd like to really push design school sites to really have that punch.
We just don't have enough staff or time at the moment.>

-Peyush

12 Jul 2007 - 2:39pm
tdellaringa
2006

On 7/12/07, Robert Hoekman, Jr. <robert at rhjr.net> wrote:
>
> Well, the net sum of all the background noise with a lot of schools is
> that it looks like the design school can't put out a good design. Just
> like in softwar design, no one cares how the system works, they only
> care if it works for them.

While I agree with your first point there on perception, it's not that
nobody cares. It's a matter of where to put the business resources you have.
There is a design side and a business side and the two need to meet up. If
the design schools are a small fraction of revenue, logically they won't get
as much attention. They want the sites to look nice and work, but it has to
be within the constraints of the business. There are people here trying to
improve on that, but you can't do everything overnight.

It's interesting that so many schools - who are typically able to
> facilitate internships - can't put together something where they hire
> interns from the design school each year to work on the site. College
> credits, work experience, a better site for the school, cheap staff -
> sounds pretty obvious to me.

Honestly, that's a fairly shallow view of reality. Do interns have the depth
and level of design skill to really put together the site you need? Maybe,
maybe not. Depends on the school and the students. We have fairly
sophisticated back end applications and such going on in the background -
it's a stretch to think interns or students can deal with skillfully. Are
you going to redesign the site each semester? Give each student a chance?
There's a whole huge can of worms there.

Besides the fact that their are corporation issues to consider - compliance,
business rules, branding guidelines, etc. Having the students design the
site is not the answer it seems to be. Plus, these sites don't live in a
vacuum. They interact with other sites, they may be in a group of 6-7
schools. There are overarching brand issues to deal with. And while the
schools have input and even may make changes to their sites, ultimately the
corporation calls the shots on the sites - corporate marketing has a big
say, rightly so, of what goes on.

Yes, many design schools can do a better job. Schools are generally big
institutions that move slowly, be assured most of them are aware of the
problem.

Tom

12 Jul 2007 - 2:46pm
tdellaringa
2006

n 7/12/07, Peyush Agarwal <peyush.agarwal at oracle.com> wrote:
>
> Having worked on the inside of a large educational institution on
> websites, I can certainly identify with your experience, however, I can't
> claim to have sympathy with it (didn't find this situation acceptable when I
> was responsible on the inside either).

I'm not necessarily saying I have a lot of sympathy for it, as I said I am
new here. I'm explaining to you what I see going on here. There is a system
in place that deals with the corporation web sites. The schools cannot go
off and do their own thing, it's as simple as that. Some of our design
school sites are actually not that bad either, having been done in the last
couple years.

I mean, would you accept any excuse/reason from an IxD candidate with a
> lousy site, and consider them to be any better than the quality of their
> presentation? In my view, one is responsible for all the communication made
> on one's behalf, upon one's behest. I really would like to say in potential
> interviews that I wasn't able to make a better portfolio for lack of time
> and have it work. (please, not being snarky)

You can't compare an individual to a corporation. It's apples and oranges.
There are many more forces at work here than you would have in your personal
life. There is no one person on the hook.

Tom

12 Jul 2007 - 2:58pm
Loren Baxter
2007

While I agree that any final selection of a design school wouldn't be
based entirely on their website, I can definitely say that the intial
"weeding" out of unappealing schools has a lot to do with the
website.

Unless I have some outside reason for researching a school, such as a
reccommendation or a well known faculty, upon arriving at a poorly
designed site for a school teaching design... why even look further?
There are plenty of other candidates that have at least gotten that
initial communication right. The portfolio/resume comparison is dead
on, Peyush.

If this is in any way representative of a segment of the market,
schools may stand to benefit quite a lot from a design touchup.
It's definitely worth some research.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Posted from the new ixda.org
http://beta.ixda.org/discuss?post=18197

12 Jul 2007 - 3:12pm
tdellaringa
2006

On 7/12/07, Loren Baxter <loren.baxter at gmail.com> wrote:
>
> Unless I have some outside reason for researching a school, such as a
> reccommendation or a well known faculty, upon arriving at a poorly
> designed site for a school teaching design... why even look further?
> There are plenty of other candidates that have at least gotten that
> initial communication right. The portfolio/resume comparison is dead
> on, Peyush.

It's dead on in respect to the user making a judgment based on a body of
work - I'll grant that much. But it's different in that it's an individual
who has complete control over that portfolio, vs. a school who doesn't.
Again, right or wrong, I'm just stating the fact of what I see.

Also, from what I have learned in my short time here, there is a lot of
research done before prospective students get to school web sites. They
often get to school sites via other avenues than organic search, they are
getting referred by school research sites, etc. So they have a certain
amount of info about the school before they get there. Again, I'm just
throwing this out there as something I've learned. So the site is not their
whole view of the school.

I'm not disagreeing that the best designed marketing site for a design
school is the best way to go. It's just not as simple as you might think to
get it done in a big corporation that has many schools and many concerns -
however right or wrong that is.

Tom

12 Jul 2007 - 3:14pm
Robert Hoekman, Jr.
2005

> They want the sites to look nice and work, but it has to
> be within the constraints of the business. There are people here trying to
> improve on that, but you can't do everything overnight.

You certainly can't do everything overnight, but someone with decent
CSS chops could have implemented the page that sarted this
conversation according to best practices in less time than it took for
us to have this conversation. Some things are more than worth the
effort. I just don't think it reflects well on the school to put out a
page like that, that so clearly breaks standard practices.

(Obviously, it was not your school that did this, so please don't take
offense. Unless, of course, your school did that too.)

> Honestly, that's a fairly shallow view of reality. Do interns have the depth
> and level of design skill to really put together the site you need? Maybe,
> maybe not. Depends on the school and the students. We have fairly
> sophisticated back end applications and such going on in the background -
> it's a stretch to think interns or students can deal with skillfully. Are
> you going to redesign the site each semester? Give each student a chance?
> There's a whole huge can of worms there.

Sorry, but these are not hard problems to solve. Not everything is as
complicated as it sounds. Sure - you'll have issues to sort out, but
they can all be sorted out with a little effort. Maybe each semester,
you interview qualified interns, hand-pick the best ones, and have
them maintain the site. Whatever comes up is what they do. Maybe they
focus purely on the front-end. Maybe you get programmer interns who
work under more experienced people on the back-end stuff.

> Besides the fact that their are corporation issues to consider - compliance,
> business rules, branding guidelines, etc. Having the students design the
> site is not the answer it seems to be. Plus, these sites don't live in a
> vacuum. They interact with other sites, they may be in a group of 6-7
> schools. There are overarching brand issues to deal with. And while the
> schools have input and even may make changes to their sites, ultimately the
> corporation calls the shots on the sites - corporate marketing has a big
> say, rightly so, of what goes on.

I didn't say you should give them free reign to do whatever they want.

These are constraints that every web designer faces. That would be the
whole *point* of having interns do it. That's why the internship would
be valuable to the students. They'd have to work within real-world
constraints.

Teaching hospitals don't prevent their grad students from suchering
people up. They hand them the thread and needle and watch over their
shoulders to guide the process and teach them. Same idea here. You'd
have someone (or several people) on staff who are the
"proferessionals", and your interns would learn a huge amount by
working under them on a real site.

It's a school that needs design work done, and has access to boatloads
of design students.

Contrary to popular opinion, 2 + 2 is actually still sometimes 4.

-r-

12 Jul 2007 - 3:24pm
tdellaringa
2006

On 7/12/07, Robert Hoekman, Jr. <robert at rhjr.net> wrote:
>
> Sorry, but these are not hard problems to solve. Not everything is as
> complicated as it sounds. Sure - you'll have issues to sort out, but
> they can all be sorted out with a little effort. Maybe each semester,
> you interview qualified interns,

Who does the interviewing? Who decides what the qualifications are? Who
submits the list and reviews those that are qualified? What if they are
qualified, but don't complete the work on time? Who finishes the site then?

hand-pick the best ones, and have
> them maintain the site.

What about when they leave? Who fills the gap in the summer?

Whatever comes up is what they do. Maybe they
> focus purely on the front-end.

But we can't ignore the back end. It has to be dealt with these sites that
feed all kinds of information to the schools. They use back end applications
to do certain things, they are marketing sites mostly, but there are some
things that have to be dealt with.

Maybe you get programmer interns who
> work under more experienced people on the back-end stuff.

But many of these design schools are visual schools only. You might be able
to qualified enough seniors, but you might not.

These are constraints that every web designer faces. That would be the
> whole *point* of having interns do it. That's why the internship would
> be valuable to the students. They'd have to work within real-world
> constraints.

But it has to be valuable to the business end too, and you can't ignore
that. People on this list know that building a good, solid web site that
meets business and marketing goals and satisfies users, converts leads, etc
is not a simple thing to do. The people on staff who build these sites have
decades of experience in their fields.

We're going to say it's a great idea to replace all of this experience with
some interns? How do I present that to the VP? How do I sell that value
proposition? And I guarantee you, I'd have to sell it were to I suggest such
a thing.

Honestly, I'm with all of you on the fact that design schools need to do a
better job. But this is about a lot more than pretty pictures and galleries
looking cool.

Tom

12 Jul 2007 - 3:48pm
Will Parker
2007

On Jul 12, 2007, at 1:24 PM, Tom Dell'Aringa wrote:

> On 7/12/07, Robert Hoekman, Jr. <robert at rhjr.net> wrote:
>
>> Maybe you get programmer interns who
>> work under more experienced people on the back-end stuff.
>
> But many of these design schools are visual schools only. You might
> be able
> to qualified enough seniors, but you might not.

Tom, I don't have time to address all the points in your exchange
with Robert, but this last one demands comment.

We're talking about schools presumably capable of turning interaction
and user interface designers. If they are "visual schools only",
they're not going to be useful in any meaningful way for the
profession(s) under discussion. Let's get that straight right now:
schools that teach ONLY visual design are not appropriate venues for
learning interaction design skills.

If a school has a truly committed IxD teaching staff, doing just as
Robert suggests is in fact an overriding business priority for the
school's IxD program. If it's not -- well, yeah, you let the IT
department interns do the work instead of your own, and tacitly admit
your students just aren't up to the challenge of working in the real
world.

- Will

Will Parker
wparker at ChannelingDesign.com

“I wish developing great products was as easy as writing a check. If
that were the case, then Microsoft would have great products.” -
Steve Jobs

12 Jul 2007 - 3:50pm
Helge Tennø
2007

I have to take a step back to the website that started the discussion
as I disagree with both Hoekmann and Guenther in this matter.

---

I often find it strange the granularity and details we as experts
find ourselves discussing. Totally removed from the realities of the
whimsical, not detail focused, scanning and muddling people we are
designing for.

First impressions are extremely important, I would guess most
applicants wont even stop to think that the text is inside an image,
they would see the image and identify (or not) with the visualization
before drawing a breath and moving on to the sub pages reading more
about the possibilities.

I%u2019m not saying that it%u2019s a good solution, but I think it
creates the necessary first impression that they are after with their
creative target group.

How positive is all the abiding to predetermined constructed rule
sets in creative education? Are we as experts not over focused on
details no one else would ever stop to think about? Is that the job
of an expert?

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Posted from the new ixda.org
http://beta.ixda.org/discuss?post=18197

12 Jul 2007 - 4:54pm
stauciuc
2006

I checked out this website/program a while ago - as I am interested in
attending a Master's program myself - so I am thinking I might be a good
'test subject'.
I'll quickly let you in my interaction with the website and thoughts about
the program at that time. Maybe it helps you reach a conclusion, maybe it
doesn't:

Found out about the program from this list. Went to the first page (don't
remember the layout crashing though - maybe they are working on it as we
speak). Saw 'Interaction Design'. Cool! Copenhagen. Cool!
Went to the 'Education <http://www.ciid.dk/education/>' section. Found out
it's their first year, and an experiment. 'Ok, I don't get a degree, but I
get a lot of practice, and maybe other opportunities.' And it's for free.
Still interested.
But I just remembered: Copenhagen is one of the most expensive cities in the
world (though also one of the most beautiful IMO). I would still have to
support myself. I check out the 'Jobs' section. Not much there. Still, I
could probably find something. But not too soon. And is it worth it?
Obviously, I won't get too much real mentorship there. And here (Finland) I
already have a job and connections. And there's a real degree program I can
apply to. Also free. Not to mention the program in Sweden...
So..not this time, at least for me.

To be honest, usually I am very critical about websites, especially after I
find one annoying thing that gets me going. But for this one, I didn't even
notice the home page was an image. I saw the keywords, and I jumped to the
information.
But on the other hand, the impression I got defineteley wasn't: 'Here is the
place I would love most to do my Master's degree'...

I hope my thoughts weren't too confusing..

On 7/12/07, Helge Tennø <helgetenno at gmail.com> wrote:
>
> I have to take a step back to the website that started the discussion
> as I disagree with both Hoekmann and Guenther in this matter.
>
> ---
>
> I often find it strange the granularity and details we as experts
> find ourselves discussing. Totally removed from the realities of the
> whimsical, not detail focused, scanning and muddling people we are
> designing for.
>
> First impressions are extremely important, I would guess most
> applicants wont even stop to think that the text is inside an image,
> they would see the image and identify (or not) with the visualization
> before drawing a breath and moving on to the sub pages reading more
> about the possibilities.
>
> I%u2019m not saying that it%u2019s a good solution, but I think it
> creates the necessary first impression that they are after with their
> creative target group.
>
> How positive is all the abiding to predetermined constructed rule
> sets in creative education? Are we as experts not over focused on
> details no one else would ever stop to think about? Is that the job
> of an expert?
>
>
>
> . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
> Posted from the new ixda.org
> http://beta.ixda.org/discuss?post=18197
>
>
> ________________________________________________________________
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--
Sergiu Sebastian Tauciuc
http://www.sergiutauciuc.ro/en/

12 Jul 2007 - 5:06pm
Robert Hoekman, Jr.
2005

> Who does the interviewing? Who decides what the qualifications are? Who
> submits the list and reviews those that are qualified? What if they are
> qualified, but don't complete the work on time? Who finishes the site then?

Who does all this now? You obviously have an existing staff, so
someone is writing job descriptions and hiring people. What do you do
now when people leave or get fired? Who finishes the site then? I'm
not sure how this is any different.

> What about when they leave? Who fills the gap in the summer?

The full-time permanent staff.

> But we can't ignore the back end. It has to be dealt with these sites that
> feed all kinds of information to the schools. They use back end applications
> to do certain things, they are marketing sites mostly, but there are some
> things that have to be dealt with.

So leave that to the professionals.

My point is that it's in the best interest of the school to use its
resources, to teach in every way possible, and to put forth its best
effort on its web site. How you do that is up to you - I'm just
throwing out ideas.

> But many of these design schools are visual schools only. You might be able
> to qualified enough seniors, but you might not.

So use those people on the visual design, and leave the backend stuff
to the pros.

> The people on staff who build these sites have
> decades of experience in their fields.

Good. Then, in theory, they'll make better teachers.

At that other school, though, some "expert" decided to stick all the
copy for the page into an image, thereby creating an inaccessible,
unsearchable page on which users have no ability to copy/paste or use
via a screen reader. If your experts are anything like that guy, you
might actually be better off with interns. If nothing else, they'll be
more ambitious and less wary of obstacles.

> We're going to say it's a great idea to replace all of this experience with
> some interns?

For the record, I never said you should *replace* your staff with
interns. I said you should hire interns to be supervised by the
permanent staff of professionals. You need the professionals to guide
things along and to be experts, but you don't need your experts doing
things interns can do.

It's interesting to me that almost every paragraph in your email (at
least the ones where you replied to my points) started with the word
"but".

Our job as interaction designers, I think, is partly to find fault
with just about everything, so that it can be improved. But our jobs
are also to embrace business contraints, and to evangelize and
educate, and be excited about design. It's hard to do that when
leading every sentence with "but".

I completely understand that you feel the pressure of politics in your
environment. I've felt this pressure myself. I've had to wade through
serious amounts of crap to accomplish things on many occasions. But
that's what you do. You do the work because it's the work that needs
to be done.

-r-

12 Jul 2007 - 5:10pm
Robert Hoekman, Jr.
2005

> How positive is all the abiding to predetermined constructed rule
> sets in creative education? Are we as experts not over focused on
> details no one else would ever stop to think about? Is that the job
> of an expert?

You probably have a great point, but in this particular instance, I
was talking about a page made up of a giant JPG containing all the
text for a page. Can't search it, can't index it in a search engine,
can't copy and paste from it ... heck, you can barely *read* it in
some places. This was not the work of an expert.

For all I know, the school could be great at teaching creativity. But
creativity alone won't land you a job. You need a few (dozen) other
skills to back that up. You need to be able to put your creativity to
work.

-r-

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