It’s no secret that most institutions of higher education struggle to create a great website. Incomplete content, muddy navigation, and broken links are practically expected. Web-savvy students of Generation Z grimace and groan through their college search.
The truth is, a website doesn’t need to have the latest, most expensive features to be great, nor will snazzy gadgets improve a website that lacks basic functionality. Your website is a tool, and for the user to have a positive experience that reflects well on the institution, that tool must accomplish the user’s goals.
That’s easy to say, but actually knowing what your user’s goals are is another matter. One thing to keep in mind is that these goals will likely be rather different from what you would expect, or what your goals would be. Remember, you are an insider with insider information. Take it for granted that your perspective – and what you would want out of a website – is quite different from that of sophomore in high school thinking about college for the first time.
An article in UX Magazine turns on its head the popular notion that general information should be presented first and foremost. Indeed, do you think most teenagers give a hoot about the illustrious founding of your school or generalizations about a quality learning environment? They can find general information anywhere.
What does your school have to offer that’s going to have a direct impact on the student? Programs found nowhere else? High value for cost? A unique undergraduate living situation? Opportunities to spend a semester at an internship or abroad? This is the type of information – specific, relevant, and unique – that will draw a prospective student in and distinguish your institution from thousands of competing institutions that just don’t get it.
Yes, it’s important to invest in quality web design, but that’s only going to pay dividends once you’ve got your content straightened out.