Higher education websites have a wealth of information to share with their audiences, and often, in an attempt to organize and share this information, the website’s look and feel is overlooked or falls low on the priority list. An institution’s website is the “virtual front door to campus,” and should attract both current and former students, their parents, alumni, professors, and donors. The site should be user-friendly and should include these basic features:
For the first time in history, mobile has exceeded desktop internet use. It’s no longer an option to have a website that’s not mobile-friendly. In fact, only mobile-friendly websites will show up on Google’s homepage when a user searches for a site from their handheld device. According to a 2014 study on students and their parents’ mobile behaviors, “More than seven in ten students and nearly half of parents have looked at college websites on mobile devices.” Today, most CMS systems—like Wordpress and Drupal—automatically optimize your site for mobile traffic and allow you to view what the mobile experience looks like before pushing any new content live.
Believe it or not, research shows just how important it is for an institution to have the right font on their website. According to a psychology experiment conducted at Wichita State, “Site visitors associate the font you use with a level of prestige for the university—so much in fact that your font should be incorporated into your user-testing plan to make sure it is sending the right message.” Your web font(s) is ultimately part of your school’s overall brand identity, so you’ll want to make sure it resonates with your prospective students and is clearly defined in any brand standards you’ve established.
Communicate the campus experience by investing in great photography. Gone are the days of text-heavy websites; now, photography dominates, and having big, impactful photos on your institution’s website is an easy way to showcase the campus, its buildings, and its students to prospective applicants. The larger and more vivid an image is, the more enticing it is. Visitors will be more apt to stay and click around on your site when photos spread across the entire screen captivate their attention. Ultimately, good photography will keep visitors on your site longer.
What better way to communicate to prospective students what campus is like than to show them?
What better way to communicate to prospective students what campus is like than to show them? Some of the best, top-rated higher ed websites have virtual tours. Consider including campus hot spots, restaurants, coffee shops, dorm rooms, dining halls, libraries, and local attractions in the tour. Don’t leave visitors with any unanswered questions. A virtual tour should also include a clickable map and navigation.
Students who visit your site want to know how your institution will prepare them for life after graduation. So why not showcase the stories of successful graduates? Have a few stories available on each department’s page, so students can see for themselves what they can do with certain majors. Hearing a recent grad’s stories first-hand is much more captivating to young students than hearing stories from an older professor or faculty member. You may even consider providing an email address or link to the alumni’s LinkedIn profile, so prospective students can contact them with questions.
The right features will attract students, donors, alumni, and more to your website. Visitors must be able to access your site on their mobile device, and once there, should stay captivated. Make sure that when visitors exit your site, you’ve answered their questions by showcasing photos of campus, providing a virtual tour, and highlighting the stories of successful graduates. And remember, sometimes less is more when it comes to telling your story through text.