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

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!

New Service Alert – Call Center in a Box

In the age of COVID-19, just about everyone is missing genuine human interaction.

The college campus and your future students are no exception.

Stand above your competitors with our Call Center-in-a-Box. 25th Hour Communications has helped countless clients develop, implement, and maintain call center services. Having that personal touch will set your college apart from other institutions.

With the Call-Center-in-a-Box, potential students will know that your college or university cares about its students and will support them in their academic or career journeys while at your institution. Students have literally thousands of options now that many colleges are fully online — but few offer an accessible person to answer their questions when they need it most.

Currently, 25th Hour Communications offers two options: we offer the base plan, which allows your team the ability to track outreach to stop-out and applied but not registered students. You will also receive a trackable phone number, new number creation or use of a college number that forwards to a trackable number and supporting documents that will make it easy for the staff you hire to respond to questions and grow your enrollment.

Our upgraded plan includes all of the above plus regular monitoring of tool utilization, call center quality assurance audits, reporting to college, customizable intake form fields, and counsel on findings and optimization. 

Ready to get started? Schedule a consultation today!