university website tips

February 1, 2012 by

create clear categories

We've all experienced how hard it can be to find the right bolt, button or nail for the job we need to get done. It can feel like a hopeless hunt in the dark if you don't have clear labels on the little jars that you've got lying around, and even worse if you don't even know where the containers are.

A complex website that is poorly designed creates the same problem, and university websites are inherently complex.

They are a vast repository of information about course offerings and content, financial aid, student life, faculty research, library holdings, fundraising, news, job vacancies and contact information.

But finding the exact information that you want on RandomUniversity.com can feel a lot like looking for that 3/4-inch masonry screw that you know is somewhere in your garage.

segment your target audience on the home page

One way to organize that information is to think about who it's for.

Higher education sites need to cater to the needs of a very diverse audience, including students (current and prospective), faculty & staff, alumni, and community members such as donors, government departments, and media organizations.

Is it clear on your home page where each of these groups should go to find what they need?

use targeted links

Champlain College does an excellent job at this.  They've got all the usual 'about', 'news', and 'people' links in the navigation menu where you'd expect, but have also given a clear signpost to all new visitors in a brightly colored box that's impossible to miss.

Clicking on the links takes visitors to the 2nd-level page that's appropriate for them, and where they're likely to find what they want very quickly.

This strategy not only gives clear directions to first-time visitors, but also communicates that you welcome their arrival and are concerned about their needs rather than simply spouting off about how great you are.

Making your website 'visitor-centric' in as many ways as you can is the name of the game, and clear, targeted links and information are a great way to start.  Your visitors will notice and appreciate your efforts, and you'll be sending out the right kind of message (that you exist to serve them) about your institution.

Have you seen other examples of university websites that do this well?  How does your college deal with this challenge?

 

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