I definitely think page 1 is better than page 2 of your PDF. It looks more refined and professional. A couple suggestions I have on it: The grey text in the Alumni Profile Box gets a little lost on top of that background image. Either darken up the grey, or fade the background a bit more.
Also, the content area (the stuff below the Alumni Profile) is really boring. Maybe add some color or something. The headlines could be made larger, and in the green used in the page's background. The area just needs something more to help each grouping of links stand on their own and not all blend together.
Actually I like the 2nd page better, it feels more balanced to me. :) I think your main content on that first page is too far down - I'd consider moving the alumni profile to a sidebar, or maybe make it smaller, so that your main content is higher up on the page. I also agree with the comments so far about styling the text in the main content, and about the text in the alumni profile needing more contrast.
I also think pg. 1 is a much more up to date look. Yes, color to differentiate the menu items from the menu-headings. And I don't know if it's just a mock up thing, but the hyphenated words as primary menu items doesn't sit well with me.
I've taken a look at the test site. I do think the "look" is fine, but a couple of comments:
-the homepage is left aligned, while inner pages are centered...should be consistent
-I don't know if you're in control of the actual content on the pages or not, but whoever it is might look at re-writing some of the content. A great place to read up on how to write for the web would be to check out Jakob Nielson's site or Bob Johnson's Blog
This also goes for the text with the alumni profile. Too many words. :-)
-I agree that the Alumni profile is rather large (to be in the prime real estate of your page).
-Might add a "future students" link to the top navigation area (you have the other constituencies listed).
Again, I think the design looks nice, just needs some tweaks.
I'm a big fan of links being clearly defined - that means underlined.
Using the web developer toolbar for firefox and switching to 800x600 cuts off all content - although I would check your current analytics to see how many people are using that resolution before worrying about that.
I dunno - I'm sure your faculty and staff all love the idea of large images and profiles of faculty but is that large image fulfilling any student needs?
I like the layout of #2 but not so much the purple. I found it to be distracting and it drew my eyes towards it - which means it was drawing my eyes away from the content.
The content section is easy to read, there's a lot of white space, the links are nicely spaced, and I like the larger font.
By contrast the header (and footer) uses a small font that's harder to read and doesn't fit as well with the rest of the design. If the width of the container was a bit wider (150, 200 pixels?), you could make the header text a touch larger, justify that section to the width of the container and space them enough to increase font size of the pop up subnavigation.
It's a good start but I would start with the Purdue University template (from the homepage) and then make little changes to make it your own (such as changing the background, colors, images, removing extraneous navigation but keeping the framework and fonts) . That way you still feel like you are at the University site but it has its own unique flare that's hip and makes the college of technology stand out amongst all the other programs.
Since you are the College of Technology you need to think about who your audience is and being "technology" you have the bar set higher for you. You should do things on your version of the template that the rest of the Purdue web team may look at later and say "hey, we should do that on all our pages"
Example: I like what MTV.com does where the background changes every time you reload the page: http://www.mtv.com
It's those little things that will make your site stand out even though it's using the same template as your university homepage. You'll just do it better =)
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