University of Hawaii Maui College

As our world has become increasingly digital, traditional educational institutions have had to adapt. Colleges and universities rely on their websites to attract new registrants, provide important services to existing students, and keep alumni engaged with the school. The University of Hawaii Maui College website handles all of these tasks and more, all while maintaining a user-friendly and visually compelling design.

In order to delve into the story behind the college’s website, we spoke to webmaster John Franks about his job, the school, and the site itself. Read on to find out what he had to say, and to learn about the key role our own Avada theme has played in the development and maintenance of the Maui College website!

University of Hawaii Maui College Logo

Introducing John Franks

Q: Hello John! Can you tell us a little about yourself and your involvement with Maui College?

Sure! I’m the webmaster at the University of Hawaii Maui College, and have been designing websites since high school in the late 90s. I grew up here in Maui, and a lot has changed over the years, as you can imagine!

In 2013, my family and I moved to Chicago so I could work with a web design company. It was quite an adventure! I gained a ton of experience working with a wide variety of clients and their teams – from skyscraper boardrooms in the heart of the city, to one of Chicago’s most iconic radio stations on the south side.

Shortly after, I was asked to come back to Maui to take a position at Maui College running their website.

It’s a great time to be working in the web industry, and I love drawing inspiration from both our local culture and the vibrant, worldwide designer and developer community. It’s exciting to see the techniques and ideas coming out of great design houses all over the world.

Q: The location of the college is in a stunning setting. Can you tell us a little about the history of both the area and Maui College?

The college began as an outgrowth of the Maui Vocational School, established in 1931. In 1958, the name was changed to the Maui Technical School, denoting an upgrade of vocational education to a technical level. In 1964, the Hawaii State Legislature enacted the Community College Act, which established a state-wide community college system under the University of Hawaii. The Maui Technical School was incorporated into this system in 1965, and transferred to the jurisdiction of the University of Hawaii.

In 1966, the College was conferred Associate in Arts and Associate in Science degrees, and changed its name to the Maui Community College. In September 1967, the first lower-division transfer courses were offered.

Up until 2009, Maui Community College was one of seven community colleges in the University of Hawaii system, spanning ten campuses. Finally, in spring of 2010 the Western Association of Schools and Colleges approved a name change to the University of Hawaii Maui College, which provided a more accurate reflection of the college’s three baccalaureate degrees.

Q: What’s your favorite part of the job, and do you have a story that encapsulates it?

When I first started here at Maui College, I was tasked with redesigning the website and implementing a more manageable system, along with reflecting the vibrant life and culture of the college as a whole. Within four months, we had launched a brand new design using WordPress Multisite and Avada.

We’ve gone through several iterations since then, each building on the strengths of the last. I love working with the team here; we’re a close-knit family and the administration really empowers us to do our best work.

Q: You have a lot of web design experience under your belt. What keeps you inspired with fresh ideas and perspectives for new projects?

I’m the fifth generation of my family to live here in Maui. My great great grandparents came to Maui from Japan, and my great grandfather was born in the sugarcane fields in Kihei while his mother worked. Later that night she cooked dinner for the family! It was a different world back then.

The culture here is incredibly deep and rich, a snapshot of which is depicted by a newly-painted mural on our Ka’a’ike building. For the next iteration of the website, we’re planning to draw inspiration from our vibrant past while using current web techniques to tell our story.

The University of Hawaii Maui College and Avada

Q: Avada is currently powering the Maui College website. What made you choose WordPress as a platform, and Avada as your theme solution?

WordPress Multisite seemed like a natural choice. It really empowers departments to take ownership of their content and sub-sites, while minimizing the barrier to entry.

We looked at a lot of themes, and ultimately chose Avada because of the dedication by its creative team. We wanted a theme with staying power so that two, three, or four years down the road we wouldn’t be forced to change themes due to a lack of support. Four years later, and Avada has become better and better.

Q: The Maui College website is impressive, and the home page in particular is a highlight. Can you tell us a little about the planning that went into it?

We really wanted to showcase the college and what it has to offer. Hawaii is the most remote island chain in the world, and even to hop from island to island requires a flight in most cases. To show more of our beautiful campus and setting, we’ve recently started using drone footage on our home page (you can even see the Ka’a’ike mural). We wanted to keep it simple and clean, with bite-sized chunks of information and ample opportunities to drill down into more detailed content.

There’s a lot of great content on the site showing the college’s amazing facilities. Plus, the website is very important with regard to the college’s overall enrollment strategy. In addition to being the face of the college online, it’s often the first source of information for prospective students.

Q: Your website has a rich selection of eye-catching visuals and clean typography. How does Avada help you showcase your content?

Avada’s Fusion Builder helps us keep everything organized and laid out cleanly. We can chunk content into sections and move them around quickly as needed, which really helps when working with the layout and getting everything just right.

Q: Is there a particular Avada feature that made it stand out to you?

How well the whole Avada ecosystem works together was a huge selling point!

Q: What was the biggest challenge you faced when constructing the Maui College website, and how did Avada help you?

The biggest challenge was organizing the content. When I stepped into this role, we had hundreds of pages that we needed to focus down and consolidate. Avada helped with that task tremendously. When combined with WordPress Multisite, we had the perfect system for building exactly what we needed.

Q: Would you recommend Avada to other educational institutions, and if so, what in particular makes it so appealing?

I would! The support is fantastic, as is the quality of the product. If an institution is looking for a rock-solid platform to build the next phase of their online identity, Avada is an excellent solution.

And Finally…

Q: If you could give one piece of advice to those developing websites for education, what would it be?

Look at your website from your students’ perspective. Engage with them, ask questions, hold workshops, and really get to understand what it is they’re looking for. Finally, stay humble, and design for your audience.


It’s clear John and his team have put a great deal of effort into developing a website that both represents the University of Hawaii Maui College’s best qualities, and serves a practical role. This is a site putting its student body, faculty, and alumni first, providing the information these audiences need in a convenient and streamlined manner. Plus, thanks to Avada’s ongoing development, the Maui College website can continue to grow and evolve along with the school itself.

Before we wrap up, we want to thank John for his time, and for sharing his thoughts and experiences with us. Plus, we’d like to express our gratitude to everyone at the University of Hawaii Maui College, for their continued support of our products!

University of Hawaii Maui College

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