5 Reasons to Revamp Your College Website (& Refresh Tips)
When was the last time you took a good hard look at your higher education website? Your college’s website is one of your most important marketing tools for recruiting new students, connecting with alumni, driving donations, and demonstrating your school’s positive impact on the world. If it seems outdated, stale, or not reflective of your values, it could be time for a revamp.
In this guide, we’ll highlight five reasons to refresh your website and tips for making impactful updates. Along the way, we’ll highlight examples from the top college websites to show a few best practices in action.
1. You need to refresh the user journey
When a visitor lands on your college website, what’s the first thing they do? The answer depends on who they are and what they’re hoping to get out of their visit. You can create a simple, user-friendly experience for all visitors by updating your user journeys.
The user journey encompasses the steps visitors take to engage with your website: the links they click, forms they fill out, pages they read, and more.
Kanopi’s guide to higher ed web design offers these tips for designing compelling user journeys:
- Streamline navigation. Simplify your website’s main menu to include the categories that matter most to visitors. For most universities, this will include menu items like admissions, academics, campus/student life, alumni, donations, and athletics.
- Incorporate specific, eye-catching calls to action (CTAs). Include CTAs that speak to different user groups and their motivations. For example, The University of Arizona website includes a great “I Am” CTA that allows visitors to choose a category that best represents them. Then, they’re directed to a web page that compiles resources that are relevant to their needs.
- Offer concrete next steps. Provide a variety of quick links and FAQ pages to address common concerns and questions visitors may have. Empower them with clear ways to take action, whether by applying to your university, submitting a donation, registering for an event, etc.
Track website analytics, such as time on page, bounce rate, and conversion rates for different forms, to understand users’ satisfaction with your website. You can also track user flow to understand how visitors are moving throughout your website and the common steps they take as they navigate from page to page. Identify common drop-off or bounce points to investigate what causes visitors to leave your website, then adjust your user journey accordingly.
2. Your website could do more to drive donations
Plenty of people are willing to donate to colleges and universities, and the data reflects this commitment. Donations to higher education institutions in the U.S. rose 12.5% in the fiscal year ending June 30, 2022.
However, if your college website doesn’t offer a variety of giving opportunities or adequately show the impact of donations, you could be leaving valuable dollars on the table.
Therefore, consider revamping your website to include more elements that promote giving, including:
- Donation page CTAs, such as a donation page menu link and buttons on your homepage
- Multiple giving options, such as online donations, planned gifts/bequests, in-kind donations, gifts of stock, etc.
- Stories that show the positive impact of donations on your student body or community
- Digital donor walls to recognize existing donors and highlight donation opportunities
To learn more ways to target prospective donors on your website, create donor personas based on supporter data and demographics. Go beyond alumni donors to develop personas for faculty and staff, business leaders in the local community, families of students, and foundations. These personas can help you design unique, personalized user journeys for each donor segment.
3. Your website needs to be more accessible
If your university’s website isn’t up to accessibility standards (and sadly, the majority of them aren’t), it’s important to correct any issues as quickly as possible. This ensures that you can build an inviting environment for all users and comply with ADA regulations.
Review your website to see if you need to improve the following elements:
- Strong color contrast
- Descriptive alternative text for images
- Accurate video captions
- Keyboard navigability
- Hierarchical heading structure
- Accessible digital waivers and forms
Offer an email address or form visitors can complete to report accessibility issues. For example, take a look at Adelphi University’s web accessibility information page and form for reporting issues:
This demonstrates how simple it can be to provide a resource for visitors and gather feedback that helps continuously improve your website.
4. You need to connect with more alumni
Your university’s alumni are among your most passionate supporters, lending a hand by participating in fundraising efforts, volunteer opportunities, and word-of-mouth marketing.
To show alumni that you appreciate them for more than just their financial support, your college website should provide a variety of ways for alumni to get involved beyond donating. For example, spotlight opportunities like:
- Volunteer initiatives
- Networking nights
- Mentorship opportunities
- Homecoming events
- Career services
- Award ceremonies
Gather a few alumni testimonials to include on your alumni information page or microsite to show other former students the benefits of getting involved. For example, you could spotlight alumni who are involved in your mentoring program or who have been able to find their dream jobs with the help of your career services. Seeing other alumni’s success will help encourage more engagement with your alumni program.
5. Your website isn’t inclusive enough
Your university’s website should be a welcoming resource for all online audience members. Prioritizing inclusivity tells all visitors—current and potential students, alumni, staff, and community members—“You belong here.”
Promote inclusivity by taking these steps:
- Share your diversity and inclusion policy. Include a prominent CTA or menu item that leads to your diversity and inclusion policy. This policy should include mission and vision statements as well as clear steps your university is taking to promote inclusivity.
- Share content that reflects the diversity of your student body. Make sure your website’s content, whether your images, blog posts, videos, or testimonials, mirrors the diversity of your campus. Prospective students from all backgrounds should be able to envision themselves becoming part of your community.
- Use inclusive form field options. Inclusive forms intentionally only ask questions your institution needs the answers to. They also provide a wide variety of options for demographic-related questions and don’t include character limits or minimums for names.
Diversity is improving at higher education institutions across the country, but there is still more work to be done. Make inclusivity a leading priority at your institution, and within your website’s content, to show prospective and current students you’re committed to developing an inviting campus community.
These tips are a great place to start when it comes to refreshing your website to align with current higher education trends. However, if your website needs more than a revamp, consult with a higher education website design professional. These experts can take a deep dive into your website strategy to design a user experience that appeals to multiple audiences, drives engagement, and enhances your university’s reputation.
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