Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Perfect Home Page Photos - Part 2

An excruciating examination of each of the photos I chose for my mock up site.

In Perfect Home Page Photos - Part 1, I discussed tips to effective home page photos and provided a link to a mock up home page where you could view a variety of different photos.

Please view the Hypothetical State University mockup to see the photos in action.

In this post, I'm going to discuss the choice of photos in a bit more detail. First, I'd like to break down the photos into several categories:
  • Scenic Photos
    • Campus Buildings & Environment
    • Campus - Past & Future
    • Local Natural Environment
  • People-oriented Photos
    • Local Community & Activities
    • Academic Programs
    • Faculty Accomplishments
    • Student Accomplishments
    • Sports
    • Students Engaged in Activities
    • Diversity
I was able to find effective, high quality examples of most of these types of photos.

Scenic Photos

Campus Buildings & Environment
Effective photos of campus buildings and the natural environment of the campus serve the purpose of highlighting the beauty of the campus setting and the uniqueness of its buildings. Many campuses have outstanding old buildings in park-like settings, and this can be exploited to communicate a beautiful and secluded academic environment.

Text associated with such photos should stress the outstanding characteristics of the campus plant, such as the number of acres the campus comprises, the age of the buildings, the age of the plantings, any awards or recognition the campus or its buildings have received, notable architects, unique buildings or building characteristics, etc.

This photo shows off the nice architectural detail of the campus. Coming up with a story to link to might be difficult, but a page of photos of the building wouldn't be inappropriate.

This photo shows off the beauty of the campus's natural environment. Linking to a story about Big Hypo Creek would be appropriate.

This photo gives a wider view of a campus building. This isn't my favorite photo, but it was the best I had. Linking to a story on the history of the campus wouldn't be completely inappropriate.

Campus - Past and Future
Past and future images of the campus can serve to place it in context. Older campuses in particular can benefit from highlighting their illustrious past. Photos of original buildings, the first graduating class, etc., can be effective. However, students tend to be less interested in the past and more interested in the future. Computer-generated images of planned buildings, if of high quality, can be effective in communicating how future-oriented the campus is.

Text associated with photos of the past should focus on generalities like how long the campus has been in existence rather than on specific past events (which may be of little interest to anyone).

I'm not very fond of this photo, but it was one of the few that I could find that would fit into the photo space. A link to a history of the campus would be appropriate.

This high quality 3D CGI works well on the home page and shows the future direction of the campus. Linking to a story about the new building or to a web cam showing the construction of the building would be appropriate.

Local Natural Environment
Almost all students are interested in the local natural environment of their potential new home. Images of state and national parks, unique natural features, rivers, mountains, forests, etc., can give them an idea of the beauty of the area.

Text associated with the photos should focus on the outstanding characteristics of the local natural environment, such as national parks, acres of public forest and recreation facilities, outdoor activities, etc.

This photo shows off the natural beauty of the region. Linking to an article about the preserve would be appropriate.

Another photo highlighting the natural beauty of the region. Linking to an article on the National Park would be appropriate.

Yet another photo. Linking to a photo essay on local wildflowers would be appropriate.

People-Oriented Photos

Local Community and Activities
As with the local natural environment, students are very interested in the local community where their prospective school is located. Photos of local events and locales such as art galleries, arts performances, farmers markets, city scenes, nightlife, etc. can be effective tools for communicating a lively and involved community offering lots of activities to students. Rural campuses may need to stress more outdoor activities instead of nightlife and arts.

Text associated with the photos should stress the number of activities available in the community and any unique activities that may exist.

This photo shows a scene of a community activity. Linking to an article on the farmer's market would be appropriate.

Academic Programs
It's perfectly acceptable to try to stress the outstanding nature of a university's academic programs, but unfortunately, it's a subject that does not lend itself easily to dramatic or interesting photos. Most photos will tend to be rather generic images of faculty teaching or students looking on intently.

As a result, most of the interest will have to be generated by the text. Focusing on specific programs that have received some sort of recognition, or that have some unique characteristic is probably the best approach. Generic references to a university's program will garner little interest from students (e.g., "HSU's outstanding academic programs are known throughout the country."), instead focus on specific, quantifiable measurements of academic quality (e.g., "Forty-seven percent of HSU graduates go on to pursue post-graduate degrees.").

Though this photo doesn't include people, it does have the potential to generate interest, partly by being so unusual for a university home page. A link to a story about the program would be appropriate.

This photo generates interest primarily because the people in the photo are attractive, smiling young women, looking directly at the camera. The story is mostly an excuse to include "smiling women" type photos. Obviously, a link to a story about the post-graduate educational habits of students would be appropriate.

Faculty Accomplishments
Highlighting faculty accomplishments, research, awards, and publications can be an effective tool for highlighting academic excellence on campus. Of course, research universities are more likely to have a lot of faculty accomplishments to focus on. Internal awards, such as "Faculty of the Year" should be avoided. Students are comparing your school against others, and as a result, internal awards become meaningless.

As with academic programs, the photos themselves may tend to be rather bland - photos of faculty staring at the camera or engaged in their research. Again, most of the interest will have to be generated by the text. Text should focus on specific accomplishments (e.g., "Professor Tom Jones received a $5.5 million grant from the Centers for Disease Control to study the spread of West Nile virus", not general statements like "Professor Tom Jones is one of the most published faculty on campus".

I had a difficult time finding faculty photos that were interesting and that would fit in the space. This is a location photo, showing the faculty member in class, is probably more interesting than a straight studio shot. A link to the American Studies program or a link to a story about the program would be appropriate.

This photo, though a studio shot, is interesting because of the pose and the fact that the person is looking directly at the camera. A link to an article on the faculty member would be appropriate.

Student Accomplishments
Student accomplishments are plentiful at virtually every university, but too often go overlooked. Everything from academic achievements (prestigious scholarships) to competitions are good subjects for photos. Of course, action-oriented subject like solar car races are preferable, but that isn't always possible.

So again, the text may have to generate the interest in the topic. And, as usual, the subject should focus on specific, quantifiable accomplishments like "Student newspaper received Best of Show award at the 2006 National College Media Convention".

Another smiling coed shot. Smiling students are always a plus, as long as you can tie the photo to something specific. In this case, a story about the sorority and its award would be appropriate.

A somewhat nice studio shot - oops! - cut someone out of the photo. Oh well. I would prefer a different kind of photo than this, but once again, smiling students looking at the camera are effective. A link to a story about the "Weekly Potato Bug" staff and their award would be appropriate.

This was the only photo I actually stole from the Internet. I like this one because the abstract is so dynamic, high tech-looking and attention-getting. And it fits well with the story. Dynamic, interesting photos like this are the key to getting people's attention. And, yes a story about the solar car would be appropriate.

For some universities sports provides a fertile ground for showcases the campus's accomplishments. As with other areas, sports photos should focus on specific, measurable accomplishments, such as winning a regional or national championship, breaking specific records, etc.

I didn't have access to many good sports photos, but this one is dynamic and effective. Sports are popular, but shouldn't be over done.

Students Engaged in Activities
These could be anything, from on-campus life to off-campus recreation (hiking, rafting, etc.). The point is that these should be action-oriented photos of active students.

I didn't have any good photos of students engaged in activities, but you can find several on the Humboldt State University home page.

Racial and cultural diversity are important issues at many universities, and some make sure to display that diversity on their home page.

I didn't have access to any good photos showing racial or cultural diversity.

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