Tuesday, January 9, 2007

Home Page Photos: Some Sites That I Like

A few sites that are using photography effectively on their home pages.

In my life outside of Chico State I'm a professional photographer. My work focuses on landscapes and some architecture, so obviously I have a bias toward scenics. But my work as a web developer and information architect forces me to look a little beyond that at not only the quality of the photography, but also at how well it is used and how appropriately it communicates.

In a previous post, I looked at the types of photography used on campus home pages. In this post, I'm just going to talk about what I like as both a photographer and as an information architect.

Humboldt State University
Humblodt State has done a great job on their home page photos, and I like them for several reasons.
  1. The photos are all of professional quality and very clean
  2. Many photos feature people in the environment and focus on the environment - a big draw at Humboldt
  3. All photos have captions/teasers that are designed more to pique the interest than to provide information
  4. All photos link to short stories building on the photo's teaser
  5. Each story has a link to display all photos and stories
What I don't like:
  1. No photos of the campus. I have no idea if the humboldt campus is great or a dump
  2. Some photos feel a bit generic since most photos aren't about specific people
University of Wisconsin
I like the University of Wisconsin home page for a number of reasons.
  1. The quality of the photos is superior
  2. The photo space is large enough to catch and hold the attention
  3. The photos are captioned, so you know what you're looking at
  4. The photos provide a good mix of environment, people and academics
  5. The photos give a great feel for the environment of the UWisc campus
  6. Most of the photos are unique and relevant, telling a bit of the story of the campus through the environment and the people
What I don't like:
  1. The photos don't link to stories about the photos
  2. Some of the photos (e.g., dorm life and graduating students) are too generic and could be from any university
University of Michigan
I like the University of Michigan for somewhat different reasons.
  1. The panoramic photo space almost becomes a graphic design element
  2. Quality of the photos is excellent
  3. The abstract quality of the images provides a strange sense of intimacy, like looking at the campus through a peephole.
  4. Most of the photos manage to convey a sense of uniqueness in the environment
What I don't like:
  1. Not enough photos
  2. No links to stories or links to a greater view
  3. No people in the environment
  4. No captions describing what we are looking at
Utah State University
I also like Utah State University, though at the time of this writing they've replaced their rotating photos with a single photo congratulating Fall graduates.
  1. Interesting photos on a variety of topics, from research (Cool! The space shuttle!), to students to the campus environment.
  2. Photos have captions/teasers and link to stories
  3. the photo space is large and prominent
  4. Most photos convey something unique about USU or its environment
What I don't like
  1. Photo quality varies
  2. Not enough different photos
University of Connecticut
The University of Connecticut has some great photos.
  1. Superior photo quality
  2. Photos have captions
  3. Most photos show something unique or tell a story about the school
  4. Nice mix of campus, and people photos
Things I don't like:
  1. Users have no control over the animation to stop, speed up or go back
  2. Photos aren't linked to stories
Here a few that are OK, but have specific things I don't like.
  • University of Montana: Incredible location, some great photos, but photo quality varies widely, photo space is a boring square that has not been integrated into the graphic design.
  • Washington State University: Good photos with captions, but too small; photos clash with bright colors in the design.
  • University of Wyoming: OK photo quality, good captions, but too small.
  • Vanderbilt University: Generic photos, indifferent photo quality, awkward boxy photo space.
  • New York University: Too many photos, mostly generic, no context or story with any photos.
  • Duke University: Boxy, generic photos of indifferent quality, and you don't know that there are actually captions until you click on them.
  • Cornell University: Superior quality photos, plenty big; the only problem is that clicking on any of them takes you to the university mission statement. Huh?

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