Chapter 5: Analysis

Survey method

The survey method I used was derived mostly from the HandlistOfWebDesign. I divided the page into major elements found on most web-pages, as all of the BSU college landing pages adhere to a familiar, tried-and-true web layout. I described each element's features in the order that I noticed them, paying attention specifically to decisions related to web design, ie. choosing wide, empty margins instead of borders, using rollover links, etc.

Description of page

At first glance, the site is professional-looking and clean. The edges of each of the major elements of the page are rounded. The background color, a sort of tan, complements the other major color used in these pages, a fir green. Black is used for font and underlining to indicate some links, while red font and underlining is used to indicate others. Some links are not underlined, such as those in the right column (which are also gray) or those in the footer.


All three landing pages appear to have a pretty standard and intuitive design. Reading from top to bottom, a navigation bar containing the name of the university (which is a link to the landing page for the entire university) is first, followed to the right by a list of text links. These links include “Students” and “Faculty/Staff” followed by “myBSU” in bold font and two colors: red and black. “Search,” “Directory,” and “Contact” complete the list. Beneath the name of the university is a fully-linked site hierarchy: It begins with “Home” on the left, and “»” symbols to indicate further branches down the tree. Each of these landing pages is located at the same height in the hierarchy, under Home » Academics » Colleges.

Beneath this top bar, which remains unchanged apart from the unique name of the landing page in the site hierarchy, is a large image. These images differ from site to site. All of these images show people of some kind who are not posing for the camera, but appear to be working.

Catches the eye
Human faces
Supposedly related to particular college

Content Area

Beneath this is the content area of the site, which begins with the name of the college, “College of Arts & Sciences” for instance, in large, colored font. It appears to be the largest font size on the page. Beneath this, the page breaks into a three-column design. The content area does not divide its columns with vertical lines, but uses a good deal of spacing between columns.
Left Column
The left column of each begins with a non-linking picture of a person and colored text beneath which names the person in the photo and links to their individual site. Beneath that, in discreet gray text, they are identified by their positions as deans of each respective college. Further down on the left content column is a standard mailing address for the dean, a line break, and two links. The first is a link to “Colleges & Schools,” a step up in the hierarchy. The second link asks “Would you like to Give to the College of X?” Where X is the name of the particular college.
Center Column
The center column is directly centered and evenly spaced on the page. The content text is divided into one or two paragraph sections, each with a bold header. [Note the language of these.] The first paragraph of each text section is not indented, while the subsequent are, in those containing two or more paragraphs.
Characterization of Text

The bold headers for these short, one-to-two paragraph text blocks are catchphrases, definitely with a marketing tone: They sound like they're selling. There is also language related to schools, as might be expected. It's all very well-groomed and packaged. Extremely professional-sounding, with a tendency to list things. These listed things, when related to departments or programs within BSU, are usually made into links.
Right Column
The rightmost column contains, notably, three filled-in green boxes labeled “Departments & Programs,” “Integrative Programs,” and “School of Graduate Studies,” in that order. The first two are followed by lists of links which, in the College of Arts and Sciences page only, is broken down hierarchically into a second tier of links. The link to the Biology department, for instance, has a bullet point beneath it linking to Aquatic Biology.


Beneath the tri-column content of the page is a tall footer which appears to contain a site map. There are six sections divided by faint gray vertical rules. Each of these sections is headed by a colored, bold, and all-capital link to a page within the second tier of the university website, ie. Home » Admissions, or Home » Offices. Beneath each of these links is a list of links to the third tier, including “Colleges & Schools,” under which these landing pages are located. Notably, the rightmost column contains two bi-color, bold links under NEWS & INFO. These are BSU Today and askBSU. [Related to myBSU at top of page?]

Beneath this is a bottom banner image showing the MNSCU logo and text indicating its affiliation to the university. On the right is a cursive-looking font which reads “Shaping Potential, Shaping Worlds.”
At the very, very bottom of the site is the site information, privacy, accessibility options and terms of use links as well as contact information and the address for BSU.

Characterization of page

The landing pages for BSU colleges stick closely to the overall design of the Bemidji State University site and to each other. They are professional-looking, all sporting a complementary color theme, extremely nice (apparently cameo) photo headers, rounded corners on major elements, and small, clean text areas divided by space or faint lines. These pages are all well-organized and show it, with hierarchical links available in the top, middle and bottom to allow the user to navigate the university site easily as well as delve deeper into the particular college. Contact information is forthcoming, through links and by appearing directly on the page, and a number of uniquely colored links allow easy access to deeper site features such as “myBSU.”

The main text content of each landing page is broken down by headers into easily-digestible blocks which list what the college has to offer and links to these resources, makes claims about how effective BSU is as a learning institution, and occasionally gives information about the particular college. The page’s layout is geared for efficient navigation, while the tone and language of the text seems to be selling the college on its merits.

Description of context

As a Website

The most significant context for these landing pages is that they are professionally-built websites on the Internet. The site's organization is a testament to this, in both its design and its deep hierarchy. It contains things commonly found on most professional websites, such as contact information, links to a 'home' page, and discreet copyright information.

As an Informational Website

These landing pages appear to have the purpose of a one-way information flow from rhetor to reader. Information is given in blocks of text and abundant links, within the text and in other navigation areas, allow the reader to peruse info on various topics. For contrast, this site is not a social networking site, which allows users to communicate with each other, nor is it a wiki, which allows for dynamic, user-controlled content. It is static and its users have no way to interact with the site itself or each other.

The Audience

The main audience that the site has to consider are prospective students, students’ parents, etc. These people will be coming to the BSU website with curiosities about the programs offered, about whether or not BSU is a good choice academically, socially, financially. They will be making serious life decisions and want to be sure that the college they choose is worth paying for.

BSU’s landing pages each go both up and down in the site hierarchy easily and allow for quick returns to the university portal and to resources such as a directory, search and contact information. It is optimized for easy navigation.

Since most of the site’s audience will be here to look around, interactivity beyond navigation is not necessary. There are other venues in which colleges and their audiences can communicate which almost always come from some sort of more direct contact than the site itself. (See contact link.)

The audience would want to know that the college they’re looking at is worthwhile, and may be unsettled by informal language anywhere on the site. This isn’t true for smaller, private schools.

Characterization of context

More context description needed.


Rhetorical Properties

First Approach

Before considering the rhetorical message, it might help to first consider the probable intention of the rhetor(s). While current students and faculty might find themselves on these landing sites, they are not designed for those already within the system. (A good contextual clue for this intended audience is that the site features used by students and faculty, such as the E-Services, e-mail login and event notifications, are linked to immediately and in a different color: they are external links.) The rhetor’s audience must be prospective students; the rhetor’s intention is to persuade people to contact the college and, eventually, apply for scholarship here.

The general idea circulating here is that the purpose of this rhetorical message is primarily in the deliberative mode, backed to different degrees by the forensic and epideictic modes. If the rhetor’s purpose is to persuade prospective students to apply, then the style and the delivery of this message will be tailored to best make this argument, and the invention will probably contain strong arguments from ethos (The credibility of the rhetor and the message is directly related to the rhetor’s goal—that is, this page reflects on the college and influences prospective students’ choices), followed by logos (in addition to credibility, arguments as to why BSU is the best choice) with discreet appeals from pathos (Mostly through patterns in design).

Because I've been in the shoes of a rhetor working within the context and constraints of web design, I find the choices of arrangement to be most interesting, and will focus on that area.

"Arrangement is putting the pieces gathered in invention into an order of presentation that makes the most sense to, and will have the most impact on, the audience" (Stoner & Perkins, 141).

Needless to say, back in Cicero's day, there was no such thing as the Internet. The patterns of arrangement mentioned in Chapter 9 refer to text alone; there is much, much more to consider when picking out the choices made in the rhetorical arrangement of a website. The rhetor has to pay specific attention to what kind of presentation the audience would expect and respond positively to. Everything from the layout to the media on (or off) the page to the style and location of hyperlinks is a part of the arrangement of this rhetorical message. Actually, arrangement and delivery overlap significantly here. They interact, as the audience is in control of which parts of the message to take in.

While a lot of the rhetorical properties I'm going to pick out belong to the delivery of the text as a message, they are just as much choices made in the arrangement of the website as a message.

Picking Out Rhetorical Properties / Elements of Arrangement

The Layout

Of all the possible layouts available, going with a vertical three-column design with a header and footer was the most immediate arrangement choice made by the rhetor. This format puts three distinct content areas right out in front, appearing sandwiched between two constant, anchoring presences: the header and footer. This layout might be considered advantageous for a college site landing page because it puts an emphasis on navigation (almost always the exclusive purposes of the left and right columns), and because it maintains a constant connection with the overarching institution through the header and footer, which also tend to serve as ways for users to navigate the site. Another aspect of this layout arrangement choice is that the most central area of the page is dominated by text. Having the informational content front and center in this fashion shows that there is substance to this site and it's being freely and conveniently offered up. This also speaks for the site's professionalism—similar layouts can be seen being used by many businesses, government organizations and other schools.

The Color Scheme

The choice of colors is also important when considering how to assemble a college landing page which will meet the audience's expectations and, true to its deliberative mode, convince the audience to see BSU as an upstanding, exemplary institution and perhaps apply for scholarship. Contrast in particular is important. It's worth noting that the rhetor chose a light background and dark text, as opposed to a dark background and light text. It seems that large blocks of dark colors, especially black, communicate a more artistically-focused website while lighter background colors and dark text indicate a more businesslike site. Indeed, the colors here (not including images, which are distinctly separate) are muted and light enough to leave the black text in the middle of the page to pop out as the starkest contrast. Text is central. Blue-green and dark red are major colors on the page. The former matches the school colors (more unity = more professionalism) while the red contrasts with the greens and seems to show where the user can interact with the page.

Text and Links

This is perhaps the most important rhetorical element of the website. The framework points to the text, as do the colors, as do the expectations of any visitor familiar with the context. It draws the eye as the real meat and potatoes of the message. While the arrangement of the page itself is a message and one big appeal to ethos, the text is the actual voice of the rhetor. The rhetor chose a small, sans-serif font.
"Sans-serif fonts have become the de facto standard for body text on-screen, especially online. This is partly because interlaced displays may show twittering on the fine details of the horizontal serifs. However, the resolution of digital displays in general can make fine details like serifs disappear or appear too large" (Wikipedia, as of 12 February 2009, 00:21).
Some insights into that choice are on the right. In addition to choosing a standard color and font for the page, the rhetor broke the textual message into chunks familiar to the Internet: Paragraphs are not adjacent, but separated from each other by a line of white space. (Strange stuff here: Indents appear, contrary to the norm and clashing with unindented first paragraphs.) Each block of text is preceded by a header in bold, which typically only takes a single line. (Another exception here, on the CA&S page, third paragraph down.)

In considering the choice of font size, the rhetorical style of the textual message comes into play: The rhetor often uses long, polysyllabic, Latin-derived words. For example, "...graduates to become responsible citizens, environmental stewards and future leaders in a multicultural society." That's an average of about seven letters, and three syllables a word, including articles. Because of the three-column design, the central column is too narrow to fit any decent number of these long words on a single line. The smaller font size was chosen with this in mind—really, all that just boils down to ease of reading, again affirming the centrality of the text.

While the text is central, the entire textual message of the university doesn't exist on one page, but is hierarchically categorized and spans many pages. Because the text is central, getting the audience to that text is equally important. Links are used to accomplish this and they appear liberally on the page. While there are stylistic differences in the header and footer, and even in the right column, the left column and content area generally stick to a single arrangement for links: They are red and underlined by default, and the underline disappears when moused over. Having links that change on hover is very common with these kinds of websites, and the underline is a good visual clue, especially since the color of the link and color of the text are so similar. There is no color difference for visited links.

Dynamic Header Image

This is probably the most prominent element of the webpage at first glance. It's a big part of the unspoken message of the website. It's large for a header image and is very much a photograph which doesn't appear to have been edited. Notably, the image changes every time to page is reloaded. Each of these images is a cameo photograph of unidentified people, presumably BSU faculty, who appear to be engaged in one academic activity or another. Because the image changes and there can't be much information gleaned from these photographs, they serve as decoration above all else. This is very much a part of the presentation of the message: The rhetor is communicating (since the shots are cameo) that this is the kind of stuff that happens at BSU every day. The people here are hard at work.

Dean Image

The only other image on the landing pages, the photograph of a person in the left column, serves a completely different purpose from the header image. For one, this image is recognized by relevant text nearby which identifies the person as the dean of the particular page, while there is no reference to the header image or its contents anywhere on the site. This is the kind of image which might appear in a newspaper article: An illustration as opposed to a decoration.

Footer Images

These two footer images are unique from the other types of image on the page because neither are overt images. Both are actually pictures of text and, while the MNSCU image contains a symbol, it is certainly no photograph. Having these images here may have been an arrangement choice related to layout, as they may counterbalance the non-text weight of the header. There's a kind of balance, actually, between the title of the landing page and the slogan, "Shaping Potential, Shaping Worlds," which appears in one of the footer images. (If considered to be text, it is in cursive, which doesn't appear anywhere else on the page. Anomaly, ho!)


I think I have derailed here - I'm having a hard time differentiating rhetorical elements from rhetorical patterns, for one, and I'm afraid that I've been moving from analysis to interpretation and evaluation. For example, when I said that the font size for the body content was smaller because of the long words chosen, I think I was probably pointing out a pattern of relationship (between delivery/arrangement and style) rather than a rhetorical element of text, and I think that my focus on what the rhetor chose might not be appropriate for analysis, but if I focus on what's there, I revert back to description. I'm stuck!

Patterns of Rhetorical Properties

patterns of repetition
patterns of sequencing
patterns of omission
anomalies to patterns
patterns of relationships



Deliberative – future-focused – used when people want to deliberate
Forensic – past-focused – used to discuss facts, legal
Epideictic – present-focused – praise or blame

Style –
Not the same as personal style. This means the certain shaping of prose to fit certain situations. Irony, personification, visual imagery, simile, metaphor, parallelism (sets that stick together), kind of adjectives and verbs being used, sentences.

Arrangement –visual arrangement
Delivery – We’re in a new delivery system: The Internet.
Memory –
Invention –
Ethos – credibility, convincing of the character of the author, respect
Pathos – appeal to an emotion !! Emotion itself cannot persuade
Logos – logic, the persuasion of reasoning.

5 Types of Rhetorical Patterns:

Sequence. From page to page, from chunk to chunk, order.
Omission. What’s not there.
Anomalies. Things that break the pattern.
Relationships. How the elements connect to one another.


» Within the prose, or ‘content blocks.’

This text conforms to professional English writing standards. Capital letters, punctuation, the works. (With the strange exception of first-paragraph indentation.)
Organizationally, the text is divided into chunks of one or two paragraphs apiece, each paragraph consisting of one or two long sentences. Each chunk follows a short, slogan-esque header. Each of these chunks is stylistically independent from the others; there is no introduction or conclusion or continuation between one chunk and another.
Almost every word in the prose of these pages is Latin-derived rather than Germanic, is polysyllabic and many are words and phrases commonly used in describing higher education and business. Some of these appear to be necessary to represent complex concepts, such as “post-baccalaureate professional study,” while others seem chosen in spite of other, ‘simpler’ words, such as ‘linkages’ being chosen rather than ‘bonds,’ or even ‘connections.’

» In the rest of the page. [This may all belong under ‘Delivery’ or ‘Arrangement']

The text that appears in the rest of the page is mostly in the form of various titles and links. As in the content blocks, these links almost all conform to professional English writing standards.
Link text: Self-explanatory, formatted like titles, sorted into related groups. Some links to major categories are in all-caps, are colored differently, or are bold. (Is this delivery?)
Tool links: Some links are specially formatted: askBSU, BSU Today and myBSU (categorized under NEWS & INFO or in the title bar) As prose, theses are bizarre: they’re half-acronym compound words that are common on websites and are frequently associated with tools and user interaction. They are indecipherable to outsiders. [Anomaly] & [Relationship] & [Repetition]
Title text: These exist in two places and stand out for their formatting and their prominence. The first is “Bemidji State University,” in the unchanging portion of the header, in all-caps. The second is the phrase, found in the footer and uniquely formatted in cursive, reading “Shaping Potential, Shaping Worlds,” which is capitalized, punctuated, and repetitive—it is a slogan.

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