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What Harvard Business School Can Teach Us About Web Design

by Crazy Egg Experts

Harvard University has graduated eight U.S. presidents and more Nobel Laureates than you can count on all of your fingers and toes.

It is also home of the largest academic library in the U.S.

Harvard University knows academics.

But it turns out they are no slouch when it comes to web design and marketing either.

We asked our Crazy Egg Design and Marketing Experts to give the braniacs at Harvard their opinion on the Harvard Business School home page.

Click image to enlarge:

Harvard Business School Website Design Critique Cesar Keller, Simple Flame

The content on each of the carousels is code for the most part.  In other words, the text is picked up by search engines.  This means some planning time was spent on creating beautiful stylesheets instead of taking the easy route and merely slapping photoshop composites on the site.  This helps with SEO efforts and organic search engine placement.  This also makes it possible to effectively manage fresh content in a highly dynamic area of the website.

If I were to provide some constructive criticism, I would mention that there are no static calls to action that might help them with some conversions.  Maybe some high level conversion points that don’t move with the carousel would help with traffic.

~Cesar Keller, Simple Flame

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Robin Cannon, Shiny Toy Robots

If I have a criticism, it’s that it’s a little too generic in its approach. “Look, we’re showing diversity of men, women and ethnicity!” Nothing wrong with that in principle, but can be done in a slightly less corporate way.

~ Robin Cannon, Shiny Toy Robots

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Angela Jones, Design By Ange.la

The typographic treatment to the “O” in voices is not well done. I realize it’s supposed to be a speech bubble, but it looks more like it’s pointing to something below it – like a place marker on a map. There is a disconnect for me in the look and feel of this page. The bright colors and group of icons don’t immediately say higher education or business to me. There are a lot of icons at the bottom and I only know what a few of them represent. Overall, the design of this page isn’t immediately recognizable as Harvard Business School. In my opinion, this site needs a new, more Harvard-like color palette and fewer icons.

~ Angela Jones, Design By Ange.la

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~ Kristi Hines, Freelance Writer

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Sanj Sahayam, Unique Imprints

Given that HBS is known for its academic excellence, I would have expected to see a more interesting quote than the one provided. The faces down the bottom left seem to have an dark overlay, which makes it harder to make out the faces.

The HBS logo seems pixelated and out of focus. Also the search banner up the top seems a little dull when compared with all the colours used below it. The news|recuit|give menu seems a little out of place.

~ Sanj Sahayam, Unique Imprints

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Babar Suleman

I’m personally partial to a smart use of many different colors and the website’s bold- but weighed- combination of everything from blues and greens to oranges and yellows is a welcome choice. Too often schools tend to favor sombre palettes and end up looking washed out. Harvard kept the formal black and maroon for the header only and allowed the colors to come out and play for the rest of the page. The result is a web page that is as stately as a Harvard education and as alive as its MBA program.

~ Babar Suleman

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Sherice Jacob

My biggest concern is asking “what next?” After I read these, what’s the next step?  I don’t see any button to learn more about the program and what benefits it could offer me.

~ Sherice Jacob, iElectrify

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Naomi Niles, ShiftFWD

What I don’t like here, is that it’s unclear which action you need to take. I have the sense that this is a presentation, but where do I click? Perhaps the buttons below?

These buttons are also cryptic. There’s no way to know where each one goes and there are two many choices in general.

~ Naomi Niles, ShiftFWD

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Moving on from the visual aspect, this page could do a better job drawing attention to the key aspects of the site. I can’t tell which portion of the site deserves more attention than the rest, and which headline I should pay attention to more than others. The site looks great, but it doesn’t focus my attention on the key calls to action so I’m not sure where I’m supposed to look and what I’m supposed to do.

~ Joseph Putnam, BlogTweaks

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What about you?  What do you think about the web design and marketing aspects of the Harvard Business School home page?

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