No-Nonsense Navigation for College Websites

No-Nonsense Navigation for College Websites

Think your page of the website deserves a spot in the main menu? Think again.

The UX, or “user experience” describes how it feels for a person who lands on your website to “use” it, find what they need, etc. It is arguably one of the most critical pieces in determining the success of your website. 

We’re here to talk specifically about one part of UX: navigation. Any website with effective navigation is built based on an information architecture that focuses on organizing, structuring and labeling content in an effective and sustainable way.” Ultimately, the goal is to help users find what they need in a way that makes the UX feel invisible – which we’ll discuss later. To understand the recipe for great navigation, let’s first dive into what some colleges are doing wrong.


The Nonsense (Bad 👎) Way

Within every institution, there are numerous departments – each of them working extremely hard to create and maintain courses, activities, resources and more to help engage their students. So why shouldn’t everyone deserve a spot in the main menu of the website?


Would you put 100 words on a billboard off the highway? Probably not, because people won’t have time to read it. Think of your website the same way: users will leave a web page if they can’t find what they need in 10-20 seconds. A clear navigation structure or value proposition is paramount to moving them further into the site. A general rule of thumb is to have seven or fewer links in your main menu.

Not enough focus on the student

While the college website should include information about all of your institution’s programs, services, and everything else it has to offer, these items have a proper place. A clean and simple navigation prioritizes the student’s needs, while also helping that student intuitively find that information that might need to live deeper on your site. Think of it as keeping a clean and organized space in your home or office, where you can easily find what you need, when you need it. Your college’s website is its most important marketing tool, and needs to act as such. When you fail to identify the main goals of your users, you are interrupting the enrollment funnel before they’ve even had a chance to apply.


The No-Nonsense (Good 👍) Way

While we’ve seen our fair share of poorly designed college websites, we’ve also seen some phenomenal ones with an exceptional navigation structure and overall user experience. You can probably guess that what makes them good is cutting out the nonsense – but we’ll explain.


As mentioned above, giving students too many options can cause them to feel overwhelmed, thus resulting in them leaving your website. To lower bounce and exit rates, try to keep the primary menu as concise as possible (this may mean moving some items to a secondary menu, but should be done so based on user research).

University of Dayton in Dayton, Ohio has a simple, concise primary menu, supplemented by a full-page main menu and a secondary menu towards the page fold. Everything a new student would need can be accessed with a single click.

Built with students top-of-mind

Behind every successful college website is a group of department heads, board members, faculty and other stakeholders that were all willing to step back and ask, “is this what our students need”? A great example of this is, BridgeValley Community and Technical College, who came to us with a main menu so extensive that it had spilled over onto a second line. They knew it needed to change, and our web team was able to make their site much more user-friendly, while still having places throughout the site that highlighted their departments.

BridgeValley Community and Technical College’s old website with a primary navigation consisting of ten pages.


25th Hour redesigned BridgeValley Community and Technical College’s website with an information architecture that prioritized new students. The main menu was reduced from ten pages to six.


Makes the UX feel invisible

We mentioned earlier that the ultimate goal of your website and its information architecture should be to help users find what they need in a way that makes the user experience feel invisible. So what exactly does that mean? Well, while the user interface is everything you can see (from button styles to student imagery) and can be critiqued subjectively, the user experience is so much more than just the menu. It consists of responsiveness, error handling, user-friendly forms, and everything else that you don’t think about until it doesn’t work right. These are objective properties of your website that either work or don’t, and great websites make sure these are constantly executed seamlessly, making them feel invisible.


When Should You Change Your Menu?

A lot of clients come to us with a concern that changing their entire website structure is going to confuse their students, so if this sounds like you – don’t worry, you’re not alone. An adjustment period to a new navigation is likely, unfortunately.  But when backed by user research, a new menu can do wonders for your enrollment and retention strategies.

There’s no right or wrong time to go through a website overhaul, and technically, your website should never be “done.” The worst thing you can do is create an information architecture that doesn’t leave room for new content because it will instantly give your site an expiration date. We recommend continuously user testing and reviewing analytics to see what is and isn’t working, then iterate. 

Why It Matters

A clean, user-friendly website is critical. Your website is literally your college’s first impression, and if it isn’t navigable, it won’t be a good one. Much like walking onto a college campus for the first time, if there isn’t good navigational signage, students will easily get lost, frustrated, or worse – leave. Finding out what your website users are looking for and providing them with those options upfront will pay dividends.

Our team is always happy to answer any questions you may have about best practices for your website. Reach out to us at!


25th Hour Communications Awarded Gold for Web Design, Crisis…

25th Hour Communications Awarded Gold for Web Design, Crisis Communications in 17th Annual w3 Awards

Boston, Mass. – (November 3, 2022) – Twenty-fifth Hour Communications (25th Hour), one of the nation’s leading full-service education marketing and public relations agencies, is a 2022 w3 award winner, earning a coveted Gold designation for website design and development in the contest’s Crisis Communications category.

The w3 Awards illuminate creative excellence on the web and recognizes the creative and marketing professionals behind award-winning websites, video, marketing, mobile, social and podcasts. Receiving more than 3,000 entries annually, it is considered the leading digital competition that recognizes the most prominent agencies, the smallest firms and everyone in between. Small firms are as likely to win as Fortune 500 companies and international agencies.

25th Hour took one of the top spots for its work on the San José-Evergreen Community College District’s (SJECCD) COVID-19 resource pages, which served as a critical, centralized information hub for employees and students of the two high-profile, large enrollment colleges in the district.

“The COVID-19 pandemic put an unprecedented strain on higher education organizations. Within our industry, it highlighted the essential connection between successful crisis communications and well-designed websites,” said Jennifer Aries, president of 25th Hour. “Our team pulled it off, coordinating with the client to develop a site that was not only able to communicate critical updates to the district’s students and employees, but to do so with grace and empathy that resonated with their audiences.”

The site was launched in October 2021. Designed to be agile and responsive, the site continues to allow seamless updates as the pandemic and its subsequent restrictions and regulations evolve at the south San Francisco Bay Area colleges.

The tight, engaging, brand-aligned design is the work of 25th Hour’s Communications and Design Manager, Maggie Morley. The Senior Director of Web Development, Grant Hubbell, handled the web development and Lauren McDermott, public relations and marketing manager, served as project manager.

“This award is the result of collaboration between our talented web and research teams,” Morley said. “We banded together to help SJECCD turn their collection of COVID-19 links, files and resources into a hub that students, staff and faculty alike could easily reference right from the district’s homepage. I’m proud to be a part of important projects at 25th Hour, such as this one, knowing that we are making a positive impact for our clients.”

“This was a fantastic project to be able to work on, and I’m so glad that it’s getting the recognition it deserves,” said Hubbell. “The design, usability, speed and optimization of this site are just all top-notch, and, more importantly, it’s providing a space for important information to a community who, until recently, didn’t have an easy way to access that information.”

The w3 Awards are sanctioned and judged by the Academy of Interactive and Visual Arts (AIVA), an invitation-only body consisting of top-tier professionals from a “Who’s Who” of acclaimed media, advertising and marketing firms.

For more information or to view a complete list of w3 Award Winners, please visit, email The w3 Awards at or call 212-675-3555.


25th Hour Contact:

Crystal Berry

Phone: (660) 988-2490


W3 Contact: 

Kari Gillenwater

Phone: (212) 675-3555


GA4: How to prepare for a completely different analytics…

GA4 Header

If you’re a marketer that manages your institution’s website, then you are probably familiar with Google Analytics. If you’re not, this short article should quickly familiarize you with the basics of Google Analytics Introduction to Google Analytics .

For those familiar with Google Analytics, you may have heard that a new version of Google Analytics is coming in July of 2023 called Google Analytics 4 (or GA4). Without doing any research, most people might assume that this new version is just an upgrade of the current Google Analytics system with maybe some changes to the interface and what data it collects. 

The truth is, GA4 couldn’t be more different than the current version of Google Analytics (also referred to as Universal Analytics or UA). Switching over will take some serious effort and know-how. But, if done correctly, the switch over to GA4 can provide you with much more valuable and intuitive data and visualizations to help you manage your website and get the most out of your marketing budget. Hear from 25th Hour’s Senior Director of Web Development, Grant Hubbell, who has over 10 years of experience in web development and marketing data analysis. Grant has worked with a variety of programming languages, content management systems and frameworks; as well as a number of different web analytics platforms. 


What’s changing

GA4 is different in just about every possible way from UA. Broadly, UA has a lot of preconfigured reports and data collection, whereas GA4 is a custom system that encourages you to customize your dashboard to see the data relevant to your site, audience and goals. 

UA is basically a plug-and-play system. You create a UA account and property (analytics-speak for the website you’re tracking), install the tag on your site, and data begins to feed into your UA interface. This interface has many pre-built reports, graphs and visualizations (more on these later) to show you some basic information on your users and how they’re interacting with your website.

On the other hand, GA4 takes an entirely different approach. The setup process is somewhat similar; you log into the Google Analytics dashboard, create a property, install the GA4 tag on your website, and start collecting data. The main differences lie in what data is collected, how it’s collected and what reports you have access to in GA4.



Let’s start with reporting. By default, UA gives you roughly 40 reports already preconfigured and populated with data (after your tag is installed). GA4 gives you roughly 15 preconfigured reports found in the “Reports” section. Most of the reports you’ve become accustomed to in UA don’t exist by default in GA4. And this is where the new “Data Exploration” section of GA4 comes into play. In this new area of Google Analytics, you can customize reports to see exactly the data that is relevant to you. 

For example, suppose you’re a community college marketer and would like to see how your Application Funnel is functioning on your website. In that case, you can configure a “Funnel” report to show how many users on your website are moving through that Application Funnel (going from your homepage to your programs page to your apply page, for example) and how many of them are dropping off at different steps in your funnel. This can tell you if you might need to run a marketing campaign to drive traffic to a specific page, if a page needs a redesign, or if you need to take a broader look at how you’re defining your funnel on your website. 

Another example of the benefits of this report customization would be if you’re running an e-commerce website and would like to see the steps users take to land on your checkout or cart pages. In this instance, you can set up a “Reverse Path Exploration” report, which allows you to start with where your traffic ends up and backtrack to where your users are coming from within your site (such as a cart page, homepage, etc.). This can show you website trends that you would never be able to see in the UA system, as this is a brand new report type exclusive to GA4.


Data Collection

In UA, data collection is straightforward. By default, once you install a tag on your site, you are all set up to collect “Session Data.” If you’ve used GA-UA before, this is all the data you’re familiar with: Pageviews, Unique Pageviews, Session Duration, Bounce Rate, Exit Rate, etc. In UA, you can also set yourself up to collect “Event” data. Event data includes clicks, scroll depth, form fills, video views, etc. Event data tells you how users interact with your page, rather than just statistics about the page more broadly (session data).

In GA4, rather than having session data and event data differentiated, all data is now collected as event data. When you set up GA4, it will automatically configure some event data for you (like pageviews). Still, you also have the ability with Google Tag Manager to configure custom events, like click tracking, scroll depth, form fills, video views, etc. In addition to collecting that event data, GA4 also allows you to feed additional information into the system every time an event occurs by using parameters.

For example, you can configure a click event to fire every time a button a user clicks a button and then use the parameters to report the button’s text, the page URL, and where the user went afterward. This allows you to collect a much richer dataset associated with the different actions performed on your site than you were ever able to accumulate with UA.


Get Ready 

So, with the differences between UA and GA4 now explained, what can you do right now? And what should you plan to do in the future?

  • Right now: Create a new basic GA4 instance and install the tag on your site
    1. This will ensure that you have some historical data in your GA4 instance before making the switch. 
    2. UA data will not migrate into GA4, so it’s crucial to have GA4 set up as early as possible, so you don’t lose any of your site usage data.
  • Right now: Do not switch over to only using GA4 until it is entirely out of its Beta phase
    1. Currently, GA4 is in what’s called a “public beta.” This means that Google believes the software to be good enough for users to start learning, testing and configuring but not good enough to replace UA yet. 
    2. Until GA4 is out of Beta and into Production, do not entirely switch over to GA4.
  • In the near term: Start discussing the types of data that will best serve your organization, and configure your GA4/Google Tag Manager instance to collect that data.
    1. Different institutions will find other data types more relevant, so it’s important to start discussing what data to collect. See below examples
      1. E-Commerce: For an E-Commerce website, pageviews, clicks, conversions and demographic information would be the most critical data to collect. These data points would tell how users interact with your website and how many are ending their visit with the purchase of a product or service. Whereas scroll depth and video view duration would be less critical as E-Commerce sites typically have shorter pages and fewer videos than other sites.
      2. Blogs: For a Blog website, pageviews, scroll depth and outbound clicks would be the most important data points to track. Scroll depth will tell you how deep into your different blog posts your users are reading, and outbound link clicks will tell you how many affiliate links or sales links your users are clicking. In this instance, conversions and demographic information might be less useful.
  • In the near term: Start discussing and playing with the different types of data visualization available in the GA4 Data Exploration section.
    1. This goes hand in hand with the data type discussion, as different data types are best understood when visualized differently. For example, user demographic information would be visualized differently from a user journey or page flow. 
    2. This step will take some trial and error if you’re trying to set it up yourself and will take several iterations until you end up with a set of reports that display the data in a way that’s easy to understand.

If this process sounds like an absolute monster of a project, you would be right. But it’s an essential process to undertake. GA4 is coming whether you are properly configured or not, and if you aren’t ready, you could lose all of your data and spend the next six months trying to configure your new environment. But we are here to help. Our GA experts can help you install, customize and configure your new GA4 instance easily; while ensuring that your organization is trained in accessing and interpreting your unique data points and reports. Let us handle it all for you so that you can maximize the utility of your website without burning weeks of your IT/Web department’s time.


25th Hour Communications recognized for marketing excellence from the…

(BOSTON, Mass.) – The Communicator Awards, one of the largest and most highly respected awards programs in the world, recently recognized 25th Hour Communications Inc. for excellence in marketing and communications in four different initiatives.

The Communicator Awards is the leading international awards program honoring creative excellence for marketing and communications professionals, celebrating the best digital, video, podcasts, marketing, mobile and print work the industry has to offer. 25th Hour Communications was recently notified that it was receiving awards for its work on the San Jose-Evergreen Community College District’s (SJECCD) COVID-19 website, Iowa Wesleyan University’s (IWU) Strategy Plan, Rochester Community and Technical College (RCTC) Integrated Marketing Campaign (“We Have That”) and the refresh of the Region III Workforce Development brand.

25th Hour Communications President Jennifer Aries said the agency, which proudly represents more than 160 clients across the United States, is “truly honored by this recognition.”

“I’m so proud of our team,” Aries said. “The people who make up 25th Hour Communications show up every day and put in their very best to support education organizations. I see how hard they work and it is no surprise to me that their talent and hard work have clearly resonated with the judges of The Communicator Awards. My sincere congratulations to the team.”

25th Hour Communications is recognized for the following awards:

  • 2022 COMMUNICATOR AWARDS EXCELLENCE- Features-Visual Appeal – Aesthetic for Websites (SJECCD – COVID-19 Vaccination & Information-2022)
  • 2022 COMMUNICATOR AWARDS EXCELLENCE- General-Social Responsibility for Websites (SJECCD – COVID-19 Vaccination & Information)
  • 2022 COMMUNICATOR AWARDS EXCELLENCE- General-Educational Institution for Corporate Communications (Iowa Wesleyan University – Annual Report)
  • 2022 COMMUNICATOR AWARDS EXCELLENCE- Campaign-Branding for Integrated Campaign (RCTC – “We Have That Advertising” Campaign)
  • 2022 COMMUNICATOR AWARDS EXCELLENCE – Campaign-Promotional for Integrated Campaign (RCTC – “We Have That Advertising” Campaign)
  • 2022 COMMUNICATOR AWARDS DISTINCTION- Individual-Public Service for Online Video (Region III Workforce Development Board – Community Video)
  • 2022 COMMUNICATOR AWARDS DISTINCTION- Campaigns & Series-Educational & Instructional for Social (Region III Workforce Development Board – Community Video)

Graphic design at 25th Hour Communications is led by Communications and Design Manager Maggie Morley and Multimedia and Design Manager Gregg Wood.

Wood said these awards help to validate the hard work that he and his teammates put in every day at the marketing and public relations agency.

“Being recognized by our peers for a job well done is a win for us as an agency, me as an artist and the clients themselves who put their faith in us to give them exceptional creative solutions,” Wood said.

“Our team is thrilled to have won 2022 Communicator Awards for some of our newer services – web and video – as well as our tried and true branding and design services,” Morley said. “From helping SJECCD reorganize important information related to COVID-19 and giving it a place to live and grow within their website, to documenting heartwarming testimonials for Region III and giving the workforce board their own voice on social media, I couldn’t be more proud of the work we do here at 25th Hour.”

New AIVA managing director Lauren Angeloni said she was thrilled to be “greeted by such a high level of creativity amongst the submissions for the 28th season of The Communicator Awards.’

“I want to congratulate all of the honorees for their well-deserved wins,” Angeloni said. “I also would like to extend deep and sincere thanks to our jurors, who have devoted a massive amount of time to give back to their communities in the evaluation of so much amazing and powerful work.”


So you wanna be a copywriter, huh?

So you wanna be a copywriter, huh?


“Copy” is the marketing, public relations, and advertising term for any and all words in an article, ad, or webpage. A copywriter is someone who…well, writes copy! But not all text is created equal. Here are some tips and tricks that will help you put your ideas to paper.

Write to your audience.

The most important part of copy is getting your point across. Sometimes folks get hung-up on trying to sound clever or smart — those things are nice to have in your writing, but they’re not more important than being clear and readable. If you’re writing for lay people, avoid using jargon. Consider your word choice carefully given who will be reading your work. Clarity is the number one most crucial component of writing. Read it, believe it, internalize it!

Write how you would talk.

You’ve probably heard it a thousand times, but the seemingly trite adage is true — just be yourself, including in the way you write. Your writing is, literally, your voice and your unique perspective. When you try to emulate another author’s style, you may end up sounding phony or inauthentic, and most people can see right through that. Imagine you’re telling a story to a friend — that’s the best way to simplify your thoughts and begin to get them to paper.

Another added benefit? You will probably find it much easier to write well once you shake yourself free of the idea that some people can write, and some folks can’t. It’s simply not true — you just have to find your voice.

Don’t stress too much.

It’s really easy to freeze up when you’ve finally sat down to write. Your fingers are poised above the keyboard, you’ve got the outline in your head of what you want to say and yet….nothing seems to come out.

When writer’s block strikes, it’s often a case of nerves. The voice inside your head might be getting you down and making judgments about the quality of your writing before you even start putting the pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard). In this case, many writers will simply start writing, unbothered by the fact that it isn’t perfect. The point is to just get writing, and everything else will fall into place (with a good amount of editing after the fact, but we digress). Think of it like warming up before a workout.

Thesauruses are your friend.

This is a small thing that actually makes a gigantic impact in your writing. Using the same word over and over gets boring. Make sure you use varied and diverse language to make your copy interesting and fun to read. Just be sure that the synonym you choose really does mean the same thing as the word you’re trying to replace.

Vary your sentence structure and length.

Writing the same length of sentence gets old. You will bore your readers to death. Here is another sentence of the same length. Here is another sentence of the same structure. Are you asleep yet?

In all seriousness, including a diverse set of sentence structures and lengths makes for much more interesting reading. You’re much more likely to grab their attention and keep it if you’re able to create nice sounding copy.

Edit, edit, and edit! (And then edit again!) 

Once you’ve gotten your initial draft done, go back and edit. This is when you can start to nitpick your writing. It’s been said that there are no great writers, only great editors. 


There are several ways of doing this, but some of the best ways of proofing we’ve found are 1) reading your draft out loud and 2) reading it backwards. For some reason, these two methods make those dropped words and punctuation marks pop!

If at all possible, have at least one but preferably two people proofread your copy, too. Having an outside person take a look will help give you a fresh perspective that you may not have considered before.

Follow these rules the next time you need to get writing, and you’re bound to produce clean, fun-to-read copy that gets your point across. Of course, you could always use 25th Hour Communication Inc’s copywriting services and save yourself the trouble!