Western Michigan University: A Case Study

Western Michigan University was established as a teachers college in 1903. Over the course of 54 years the college expanded its offering as an institution of higher learning, and what was once Western Michigan College officially became Western Michigan University in 1957 1. The college is locally and internationally recognized as one of the best public colleges in the state of Michigan, offering a wide array of undergraduate and graduate programs.

Having been born and raised within 40 miles of the University, I am certainly familiar with the impact the University has in our region. It has become one of the primary destinations of students, due to its proximity and quality as an institution; because of its size and importance, access to information concerning a given program, tuition, or college should be readily available to prospective and current students, but it appears that information is prohibitively difficult to find on their current website.

Initial Impressions

You can take a look at a quick run down of this case study in my portfolio.

The organization of information is par for the course when it comes to university websites, but it could be improved. In terms of the user interface, it can be a little difficult to navigate the site easily (that is to say that the front page offers little in the way of jumping to certain actions that would be expected of prospective or current students), however it works quite well and is very simple in some regards; since you don’t want all options available all the time and in all possible combinations on the front page, this isn’t so bad.

The current Western Michigan University website.

The design is just about right for a site that was probably launched sometime around 2001 or so. It doesn’t look bad, just dated, and probably gives the impression of an organization that is not focused on technology–an impression that is neither true nor warranted.

My goal with this self‐directed case‐study is to see if I can improve the perception of the University on the web as a Top 100 university through the use of more modern design and typography to give the site some visual appeal and a more functional UI.

One Possible Solution

This is merely one possible solution among many. The color choices here may not appeal to many folks, but I am limited by the University’s colors, and chose one route that is unlikely to be selected; instead I hope that it would spur the appropriate people in a direction that would help to improve a site that needs a slight update.

The proposed Western Michigan University website.

Since colleges and universities are notorious for including a banner of various photographs of scenes in and around campus, I wanted to expand on that device and integrate that kind of imagery into a header that would highlight some aspect of the University. The photo and information would then rotate through a progression of different photos and text automatically, but could be navigated by a user if desired.

Below this section I wanted to ensure that certain areas were highlighted and organized in such a way as enable users to find these important sections quickly and easily. I specifically chose a few profiles to design for.

  1. For the prospective student researching institutions to attend; they may wish to know what undergraduate or graduate programs are offer, how much it will cost, and how to apply. Additionally, they may be interested in athletics or other extra‐curriculars.
  2. For the prospective student interested in research opportunities at the university
  3. And then for the combined profiles of current students and alumni.

Using these profiles, I organized the homepage in a way that might cater to each one of them.

Perhaps the decisions here won’t work, but it is a good place to get started. WMU, take a look and consider the possibilities.

  1. Profile of Western Michigan University. http://www.wmich.edu/about/profile/. Accessed 8/5/2010.