June 17

7 Signs You Need a Website Overhaul


In the digital age, your school’s website isn’t just a collection of pages—it’s a vital touchpoint that can make or break your enrollment efforts. When was the last time you updated your website? If it’s been a while, it might be time for a website overhaul.

Think of your website as the first handshake, the initial conversation, and the welcoming smile that prospective students and their families encounter. A good website does more than just inform; it engages, captivates, and compels action. It serves as a powerful ambassador for your institution.

Yet, for many students, higher education websites are challenging to use.

In fact, according to the 2023 RNL e-Expectations Trends Report on Attracting, Engaging, and Enrolling Higher School Students, students find several things frustrating about an institution website, including:

  • 22% Find it difficult to see key information about specific majors and programs 
  • 18% Feel the admission directions are confusing
  • 17% say the links and navigation are hard to use
  • 13% Feel the website is hard to read and is not mobile friendly

Unfortunately, many schools fall into the trap of launching their website and then neglecting it, leading to user frustration.

It’s understandable. The process of creating and launching a website can be daunting and resource-intensive. But once the digital doors are open, ongoing maintenance and optimization are needed to make sure the site continues to serve as an enrollment magnet.

As the times change, so should your website!

That’s why I’d like to share seven key signs you’re in need of a website overhaul. By addressing these signs, you can transform your site into a powerful enrollment tool that attracts mission-fit students and provides a seamless user experience. 

Sign 1: The website copy is dry. 

Dry website copy often lacks personality and fails to convey the unique spirit of your institution.

It may be overly formal, filled with jargon, or simply not engaging enough to hold a reader’s attention. Dull, lifeless text can quickly turn off visitors because the copy doesn’t resonate emotionally with prospective students or highlight the vibrant community and opportunities your institution offers.

To improve this, start by injecting personality and voice into your content.

Develop a unique tone that reflects your institution’s character, whether it’s traditional and esteemed or modern and innovative. Your copy should speak directly to prospective students, making them feel welcomed and understood, then through this copy, focus on storytelling to create an emotional connection.

These stories can showcase the impact of your programs and the supportive community at your school.

You should also highlight the benefits and opportunities your institution offers.

What can students gain from attending your school?

Rather than saying, “We offer various extracurricular activities,” say, “Join our fun student clubs and organizations to make lifelong friends, develop leadership skills, and enhance your college experience.”

I also recommend you break up your content with headings, bullet points, and short paragraphs to make it more readable. For more insights, check out our free ebook, Writing for the Web: 7 Secrets to Content Marketing Success for Education Marketers.

Plus, incorporating visual elements such as photos, videos, and infographics can enhance your message and can break up large blocks of text and provide a more engaging experience!

Sign 2: Your website is not mobile-friendly. 

Today, a significant portion of web traffic comes from mobile devices. If your enrollment website isn’t optimized for mobile use, you risk losing many prospective students who browse on their smartphones or tablets.

Remember, mobile users are often on-the-go and have little patience for slow websites. To fix this, start by adopting a mobile-first design approach.

Start by making your website’s layout responsive, meaning it automatically adjusts to fit different screen sizes. This includes optimizing images and making sure text is readable without zooming in.

Navigation should also be intuitive, with easy-to-click buttons and menus designed for touchscreens.

Finally, don’t forget to regularly test your website on various mobile devices. That way you know all users, regardless of their device, will have a consistent and positive experience when visiting your website. 

Sign 3: Visitors experience slow loading times. 

If your enrollment website takes too long to load, visitors are likely to abandon it and move on to other options.

To address this issue, start by optimizing your website’s performance.

One of the most effective ways to do this is by compressing images. Large image files can significantly slow down your site, so make sure to reduce their size without compromising quality.

We recommend all images should be under 1MB. But don’t worry, you don’t have to go and replace all your images! Instead, use a plugin that will automatically reduce image sizes on the site.

Another key factor is minimizing the use of heavy scripts and outdated plugins. While these can add functionality and visual appeal, they can also bog down your site’s speed.

Have your IT team review your website’s scripts and plugins and replace any that are unnecessary.

A quick, efficient website reflects positively on your school, and a fast-loading site also improves your search engine ranking!

Sign 4: You don’t have visitor tracking or analytics. 

Without visitor tracking or analytics, you’re essentially flying blind. Unable to see how users are navigating your site, what content they’re engaging with, or where they might be encountering obstacles.

Luckily, Google Analytics is a robust analytics tool that is easy to utilize.

With it, you can see the number of visitors on your website, their geographic locations, the pages they visit, and how long they stay on each page.

Plus, other platforms like Heap can offer things like heatmaps, which visually represent where users are clicking, scrolling, and spending the most time on your site.

I recommend setting up goal tracking within your analytics platform to help you monitor specific actions you want visitors to take, such as filling out a contact form, downloading a brochure, or starting an application. 

By tracking these conversions, you can assess the effectiveness of your calls to action and make data-driven adjustments to improve user engagement and lead generation.

Sign 5: There is an imbalanced focus on faculty over school offerings. 

Prospective students are primarily interested in understanding how your institution can meet their educational and personal needs. 

If your website focuses too heavily on faculty achievements without adequately presenting the programs, opportunities, and experiences available to students, you risk failing to connect with your audience.

You can fix this by prominently featuring information about your academic programs including success stories of how they benefited the students within them. 

Prospective students want to see real examples of how current students and alumni have benefited from attending your school. Share testimonials, case studies, and stories that illustrate the positive impact your institution has had on their lives and careers.

Plus, videos, virtual tours, and interactive features can bring your school’s offerings to life! 

A video tour of your campus facilities or a day-in-the-life video of a current student is more impactful than text alone.

And speaking of faculty members, if your site has old, outdated faculty photos, it may be time for a website overhaul! 

Prospective students and their families visit your site to get a sense of the people and environment they might be joining. 

Seeing old, low-quality, or outdated images can make your institution seem out-of-touch and less professional. This is why it’s important to regularly update the images on your website. 

High-quality, professional images help convey a modern, vibrant, and welcoming atmosphere. I recommend scheduling regular photo sessions with the faculty to keep these images updated. 

In addition to updating photos, consider the overall presentation of your faculty. 

Include brief, engaging bios that highlight their expertise, research interests, and contributions to the academic community.

By keeping faculty photos current and professional, and presenting them in a way that highlights their contributions and personalities, you will help families and prospective students connect with faculty and may sway their decision to join your institution. 

Sign 6: You don’t have any way to offer immediate assistance on the website. 

If your site lacks a way to provide immediate help, you might be missing valuable opportunities to engage with visitors and address their questions in real-time.

But I acknowledge this is easier said than done. 

After all, all of us marketers are already too busy, so constantly answering a website chat can feel overwhelming! 

Luckily, AI chatbots mean you can have someone consistently manning the chat, without delegating resources to monitoring it. 

AI chatbots like Ada are designed to provide instant responses to common inquiries, guide visitors through the processes, and offer personalized support based on user interactions. 

An AI chatbot can be particularly useful in answering frequently asked questions about admissions requirements, program details, financial aid, and campus visits. 

This will reduce the workload for your admissions team and ensure that prospective students receive accurate and consistent information.

Moreover, AI chatbots can operate 24/7, providing assistance outside of regular office hours!

Sign 7: The website is not focused on enrollment. 

An effective enrollment website should have a clear and singular focus: encouraging prospective students to apply to your institution. 

If your website is cluttered with unrelated information or lacks clear calls to action, you may be missing out on potential applicants. 

When a website is not focused on enrollment, it can confuse visitors and fail to guide them toward taking the next step in the application process. I recommend you remove or relocate any information that is not directly related to the enrollment process.

While it’s important to provide comprehensive information about your institution, ensure that the primary focus remains on guiding prospective students toward applying.

Design your homepage and key landing pages with clear, compelling calls to action. 

Use prominent buttons and links that direct visitors to essential steps such as scheduling a campus visit, requesting more information, or starting the application process. 

These calls to action should stand out visually and be easy to find!

This improves the user experience and increases the likelihood of converting visitors into applicants.

Need Help? 

If your enrollment website is underperforming it might be time to overhaul it. 

Download our free Guide to Redesigning Your Education Website to learn how to address the most common issues faced by school websites. In this comprehensive guide, you’ll discover how to:

  • Effectively tell your school’s story
  • Optimize your website for maximum impact
  • Craft compelling web copy
  • Automate your website to increase efficiency

It’s basically our cheat sheet to a high performing site!

For a deeper dive into optimization, or if you need help with your website overhaul, contact us for a consultation and a digital marketing audit. 

We are ready to help your institution get the attention it deserves! 

Chasing Mission Fit

A Marketing Guide To Fill Your Institution With Students Who Will Succeed.

The essential marketing book every higher education institution needs! If you are a higher education marketing professional seeking a fail-safe plan to make your institution stand out, “Chasing Mission Fit” is your guide.

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So you can empower your institution with audience-focused marketing strategies, and attract mission-fit students who will flourish in your unique academic environment.

Ready to transform your institution’s marketing approach?
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Featured image by Antonioguillem via Adobe Stock

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