review by

How did Nick DeNardis rate McGill University on our web experience? Website reviews don't happen very often, but Nick, the Associate Director of Web Communications at Wayne State University has taken on the task of reviewing higher education web experiences since 2008. With marketing, communications, web standards, and development under his belt, he provides an interesting perspective of the McGill website slotted at episode #320.

Recently the McGill team took on the project to redesign our 13 year-old homepage. It was a long process, with surveys, mood boards, wireframes, usability testing, and focus groups. We spent months in meetings, working with various groups honing the message and re-inventing the look and feel. We were sure to gather further feedback from our visitors after the launch, which seemed to go over well with most.

Nick's 20 minute review draws attention to our accomplishments and shares his ideas for improvements. The video review takes an unscripted approach which allows for his initial impressions to be presented informally. One of the first things he comments on is our search. He appreciates its prominence and feels other universities’ students and staff could benefit from this quick and handy tool.

"I've been toying with this, and wonder why institutions don't do this. Studies have shown current students and people that are familiar with the university know what they are looking for. - I like the search bar"

He also suggested we incorporate pre-emptive search, which is spot on, in my opinion.

The review continues on into our inside pages, which honestly need more attention due to design inconsistencies and noticeably our overwhelming, unorganized content.

"There is some inconsistencies that if they cleaned up could definitely be a 4 1/2 or 5 star site. Information is where they are going to get hit - on the old areas you couldn't get to specific information very easily"

Although I'm happy with our overall score, it was unfortunate that he missed our tablet display in the responsive design portion of the review. To be fair, he mentions that responsive design is a new addition to his review, which he currently tests by pulling the browser window. This is a quick way of testing responsiveness but can ignore other strategies; our tablet version is device only. You'll never see the adaptiveness by pulling the browser, but on an IPad it will have a tailored layout. Also, sites depending on user agents to handle responsiveness will not score well either. I would recommend using an emulator or getting a sponsorship deal with some free fancy merch'.

I was happily surprised how many of Nick’s acknowledgments were in line with our design team’s initial strategies. He provided a lot of constructive criticism and brought solutions and new ideas to improve the experience for our visitors. The fact that Nick has spent over four years reviewing higher ed websites says a lot of his understanding of educational institutions’ motives. I think he did a good job of bringing attention to our larger challenges without spending much of time on minute details.

A good review can help improve the work.

Is this meta, writing a review on a review? Yes, I guess it is. But I did want to thank Nick for taking the time to review our recent efforts.

Final Scores
  • Visual 94;
  • Information 87;
  • Code 93;
  • Overall 91;