Ever bought a bottle of wine just for the label?
Ever walked into a store because of the way the sign looked?
Ever read a book because of the cover?
Ok, the last one might be a little cliché, but these three examples all have something in common. We hate to say it but… looks do matter, especially when it comes to first impressions.
Your college’s website is no exception. Your website is the front door to your college and if your website doesn’t look great or isn’t user-friendly, the odds are you’re not going to get that potential student.
Right now, there are literally thousands of institutions of higher education, most of which now offer at least some form of virtual learning options. For a student, this means a college that is thousands of miles away isn’t off-limits to them anymore. For a college, this means your website must look modern, easy to navigate, and has got to be fast. It’s a buyer’s market now — and if your website isn’t top notch, a potential student might perceive your college as not-credible and not worth their time and hard-earned money.
25th Hour Communications Inc. has helped many colleges and organizations clean-up and revamp their sites, however, so we know a thing or two about how to make websites fast, functional, and even a little bit fun. Just recently our web development team worked their magic on a client’s site, increasing their site speed by 75 percent.
Want to know if your college website makes the cut? Scope out our checklist below, compiled by our web development and User Experience (UX) teams:
An effective college website must have:
- As little clicks as possible in all areas — keep the site “shallow.”
- Intuitive design (no ‘new’ or confusing navigation bar layouts)
- Just the right amount of modern interaction (hover effects, color changes, scroll animation, etc.). Too much can look amateurish.
- Keep copy to the essentials, anything super descriptive is better shown with an infographic or a picture
- Keep anything pertaining to active/current students in a student portal/landing page/microsite – Current students should not be using your main [college].edu site on a regular basis.
- Make sure the site is fast (under 1.5/2 seconds loading per page) and optimized for all screen sizes, especially mobile, which is more common among the under-25/traditional student age group. It is estimated that 80 percent or more of internet traffic will be coming from mobile devices or tablets in coming years.
- Proper and modern Search Engine Optimization (SEO) (SEO has moved way past meta tags and keywords nowadays, so staying on top of how Google/Bing/etc. rank pages is huge)
- Make sure all content is always up to date
- Provide easy access to Apply/Donate/Request Information
- Have a step-by-step guide for the application process
- Keep branding consistent throughout the site
- Have Calls To Action (CTAs) in multiple forms – buttons, underlined links, etc.
- Avoid clutter – less is more
- Avoid jargon that users unfamiliar with your site won’t understand
It all comes down to this: colleges must avoid any internal or external pressures to use the website as a place to store internal information. You must be vigilant about using your website as a marketing tool only. If you found yourself missing some of the above bullets, you might be missing potential students too. Give us a call and we will get you on the path to a website that will support your enrollment goals.