10 Most Common Headers in #HigherEd Main Menus

This is an excerpt from my piece Redesigning a Higher Ed Primary Nav.

In the course of redesigning the menus for Jacksonville University recently, I decided to see how other universities were handling their navigation. Given that our prospective students are almost certainly exploring other university websites, too, it only makes sense to know what usability patterns they’re becoming accustomed to.

I wanted to come up with a sample size that would give me a good mix of schools that were either highly visible or especially likely to be visited by JU’s prospective students. Naturally, that means these results could be a bit skewed by the inclusion of those custom schools, but I think the size of the sample lends some relevance to the results.

In total, I analyzed the home page menus of 49 universities, which included:

  • 11 top national universities according to U.S. News
  • 11 top national liberal arts colleges according to U.S. News
  • 10 universities with highest application rates according to U.S. News
  • 10 competitor schools identified by the JU Chief Communications Officer
  • 7 CASE Circle of Excellence: Institutional Website winners

I broke the menus down into primary and secondary navs based on visual priority, i.e. the biggest, most distinct collections of links were primary navs, and I inventoried the items in each one. When I analyzed the results of the content analysis, I found that the most common headers in the main menu were:

  • Admissions (included in 89.8% of sites’ primary navs)
  • Academics (85.7%)
  • About (79.6%)
  • Campus Life (49.0%)
  • Research (44.9%)
  • Athletics (34.7%)
  • Support/Give (30.6%)
  • Alumni (24.5%)
  • News & Events (18.4%)
  • The Arts (18.4%)

For the top 25, see below. To read about the full redesign process for the JU navigation, check out Redesigning a #HigherEd Primary Nav.

The top results of my analysis of other universities’ primary navs.