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First Impressions Friday: Portland State

by | Apr 14, 2017 | First Impressions, Thinking | 0 comments

It’s First Impressions Friday! Time to take a look at a higher education home page and ask ourselves if this is really the message that institution was trying to make.

Today’s example: Portland State University in Portland, OR.

Three-Second Judgement

First off, I love the domain name. is the best combination of succinct and meta. Using your airport code rather than the abbreviation of your name is uniquely Portland. And as we know, Portland likes to keep it weird.

Unfortunately, everything falls apart after that.

Where do I click first?

At first glance, I count five different typefaces. The primary navigation is the smallest text on the page.

The action steps navigation (“Follow Us, Visit, Apply” et al) is somehow too big and too hard to find at the same time.

As a user, I don’t really know where to begin my journey.

Content Drill Down

On a messaging level, this page is a mixed bag. While there are several stories and photos about the work the college does, the page doesn’t project a sense of place. There are not a lot of context clues about the campus environment, the size of the student body, the academic emphasis, or the institution’s place in the city.

I get what they are trying to do here. But boy, work on your copy a little more! “Colleges throughout?” Throughout what?

Which is more important: “sign up” or “Transfer Open House”?

Overall Grade:

High Points:

  • The domain name is cool.
  • The color palette, while uninspired, is at least consistent.

Low Points:

  • Does not use a responsive layout. BIG problem for accessibility.
  • No clear hierarchy of information. Everything is splattered across the layout with no logical flow.
  • Lack of compelling imagery

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