Websites for universities compete heavily on the Internet for students’ attention, especially considering it is often the #1 influential source of information for students. Making a large, personal investment of time and money is not an easy decision for a student to make and higher education is one of those sectors that require many follow-ups and touch points with a potential alumn before they decide to apply, starting with your website.
While there are many general tips on good web design out there, because Optimum7 has 15 years of experience and we’ve worked with various, large universities, we can speak in detail on what universities, specifically, should include when re-designing their website.
All of these design decisions should effectively drive prospective students through your long-lead enrollment funnel. A well-designed university website can also automate many processes and reduce man hours.
Elements Of a University Website That Attract Students
- Potential students can find your programs easily and all of the information.
- Show them your fees up front. Universities with good reputations and relatively affordably-priced can afford to display all of their fees on each program page. These pages are highly visible since many human inquiries on search engines are price-related. Calculators are also a very popular resource to consider.
- Images. Many universities assume that because they have a beautiful campus that it should be the main image on the homepage and that it will draw students in. Much research and A/B testing has shown that faces have a much bigger initial impact even than a beautiful campus. While photos (especially virtual tours) of the campus are crucial in helping the student “imagine” themselves on your campus, it should not be the main photo on the home page.
- Automate a scheduling process on the university website. Make it easy for a student to schedule an appointment. Face-to-face time helps someone make a decision, so you need to make it easy for them to get on campus. Set up an automatic email with a point of contact, relevant information to their interests, parking instructions or public transport information, maps, etc. to make their visit seamless, ease their concerns and reduce the university’s administrative work
- Easy to follow and well-explained application process.
Twenty four percent of seniors get discouraged and claim they “rethink” applying if they cannot easily figure out the application process.
Average Increase in Website Traffic+97%
Average Increase in Conversion Rates+52%
Monthly Total Leads Generated3,000+
We become an indispensable resource for our clients to drive traffic and leads.
Search Engine Trends
At Optimum7, we’ve noticed a shift. Sure, a university site must have SEO-friendly text, varied content, including videos, infographics, easy navigation, good interaction, shareability, etc. However, search engines have been heavily rewarding university sites that feature:
- exceptionally good structure
- mobile-responsive sites
What Do We Mean By “Good Site Structure”
An example of establishing good structure can be organizing your blog posts into themes under proper “categories,” that the web designer sets up as part of the webpage’s framework. This will likely over time result in a boost in your page traffic.
Especially true for university website design, information should be organized in secondary, tertiary, etc. navigation.
Regardless of Your Demographic, a University Web Design Should Be Responsive.
You might argue that your demographic is older or from an area that spends more time researching on their desktop than mobile devices, but we can guarantee that because choosing a university is such a big decision, that your potential students will check the mobile site whenever they are inspired with a question while out and about.
Factoid: For the first time, 50% of the entire world’s population now has Internet access.
“Responsive design” is jargon for “the website adapts really well to a mobile device screen.” One obvious example of responsive design is when menu items running horizontally on a desktop version are hidden away (for a cleaner aesthetic) inside of the hamburger (three line icon) menu when the same page opens on a mobile device.
Build students’ trust in the quality of your university by offering a quality, responsive navigation experience on their mobile device. Users give a webpage 2.5 seconds to convince them that it has the information they are seeking and that the design is pleasant and user-friendly enough to warrant staying. As with any site, test different browsers and devices to see if the design is compatible. Use analytical tools to check loading speed, check bounce rates and adjust anything that might be slowing your university site down.)
Make a List of Elements that Work Well on Your Current Page
Let’s not throw out the baby with the bathwater. If there is something that is working well, alert your web designer in a written format and write it in to the project specifications. This will ensure they need to keep and, furthermore, enhance those elements.
Is Your University’s Site 508 Compliant?
The American with Disabilities Act section 508 that just went into effect in January 2018 makes it clear that your website needs to make education accessible to the disabled. The list is long and clear, but we have summarized actions that we take at Optimum7 when evaluating and designing a university website:
- Clear images w/ alt text
- Downloadable forms
- Easy access back to homepage
- Captioning for videos and downloadable transcripts,
- Make it easy for disabled to navigate around without the use of a mouse. This usually implies testing during the development phase how well the “tab” key helps someone move logically around a website or forms.
These are some of the top specific tips for universities looking to redesign their website. Get a free assessment of your university’s website by Optimum7 pros now.
At Optimum7, we’ve helped universities, large and small, build professional websites with fantastic results. Get a free assessment of your university’s website by Optimum7 expert designers today.Speak to an Expert