Keeping your college or university website content dynamic and fresh is a big part of maintaining incoming traffic looking for answers concerning their higher education needs. But every now and then, you’ve got to consider the overall condition of your website because you just might need a website overhaul.
Sometimes, all you need is a few tweaks to get it back on track.
But other times you need a complete overhaul, like the “whole natural overhaul” that Doc Brown got from the rejuvenation clinic in Back to the Future II…
“I went to a rejuvenation clinic and got a whole natural overhaul. They took out some wrinkles, did hair repair, changed the blood, added a good 30 to 40 years to my life. They also replaced my spleen and colon. What do you think?” – Doc Brown
While we’re still ways away from being able to get a new spleen on-the-go like that, a complete website overhaul can give your digital marketing strategy a new lease on life…
If you’re approaching it with the right questions in mind.
Here’s a quick checklist to use when deciding if you need a website overhaul or just some simple tweaks.
Does your website help or hinder the user?
- Is it clear, concise and simple enough for them to get answers to their questions? Visitors are coming to your site for answers, and they’re going to decide to stay or leave in just 15 seconds. You can lower your bounce rate (the percentage of visitors that leave your site within seconds of arrival) by keeping the website copy clear, concise, and simple.
- Does it accurately represent your institution through photos, videos, rich media? Images tell a story and convey a message just like your copy. Make sure the rich media on your higher education website has the messaging and feeling you want for your audience. Also, take out any rich media that needs explanation or captions. The message should be self-evident.
- Does it leave them wanting more? Every good story has cliff-hangers that make you turn the page. Good websites do the same. Place calls to action at the end of every page or post that offer to answer related questions or stories that tempt your audience to keep clicking.
- Is it actually built for the end user or for the internal audience at the school? Internal sites use insider language and answer questions only insiders would ask. At best, this kind of content confuses visitors and, at worst, makes them feel unwelcome. Use subdomains to direct your internal audiences for their information or communications. Keep your main websites all about your outside visitors and their needs.
Is it easy to use from the user’s point of view?
- Are the language and terms user-centric and not what you use at your institution? Your website should speak in the language of your audience. The copy should include simple, everyday words as well as the specific words your audience will likely use to find you in a search.
- Is your site’s organization user-centric and not based upon school divisions or politics? It may be organized neatly by department, but that doesn’t mean it makes sense to the outside visitor. Remember, your visitors are looking for quick answers, not departments.
- Is it written well and for the web? Short sentences. Bullet points. Plenty of white space.
- Are there clear next steps and calls-to-action? Every page on your site should have a call to action. Examples…
- Learn more about financial aid and scholarships
- Share this post
- For more info, contact our alumni events coordinator
- Help more students achieve their educational dream
Do you need to gut your website, or tweak it?
There are different ways you can approach your website’s redesign, each with varying degrees of change and work involved.
Don’t assume that you have to jump into a complete website overhaul right away. Assess where you are, where you need to go, and pick your level of redesign accordingly.
Level 1: Tweak Copy or Content
After going through the checklist above, you may find that it’s strong in most areas, but poor in one or two. In that case, tweak the site to correct the weak areas in your copy or rich media content.
Level 2: Upgrade the site
Sometimes the site simply needs a fresh look or an improved navigation design.
You can accomplish this new design relatively painlessly if you have a platform like WordPress. Simply shop around for a new theme that suits your objectives.
Level 3: Migration
If your site is experiencing problems that affect user experience, but it’s not because of your content, layout, or design, consider migrating your site to a new content management system (CMS).
I highly recommend WordPress as a Content Management System.
It’s widely used and universally supported. Because of this, there’s a plugin for pretty much anything you need it to do, and it’s relatively easy to find qualified developers to get your site going.
It’s also easy for non-technical users to get into the content management back-end and update their content without having to bother the web department each time they want to update the content.
Other platforms to consider are:
If the issues hindering your users have more to do with site performance issues like sluggish page load times, consider who’s hosting your site. You may have to switch your website host to fit your changing needs.
For most smaller schools, budget $10 per month for web hosting and $50 for larger.
I highly recommend these website hosts:
Level 4: Complete Overhaul
Completely overhauling your higher education website involves work in all redesign levels that we’ve covered here.
In this level, messaging and content is designed at the beginning with the end user’s needs and your school’s marketing goals in mind.
Web hosts and content management systems are chosen with the marketing strategy in mind and are implemented from the ground up.
It’s a lot of work, but there are times when starting over from scratch can resurrect a dying digital marketing strategy.
I don’t recommend gutting your site and starting from scratch without guidance from an experienced guide.
Of course, we’d be honored to be the ones to help you in your website’s relaunch. But the important thing is, you’ll save a lot of money, time, and frustration by bringing a trusted guide along for the journey.
We offer expert guidance for website redesigns on every level, so please contact us today to talk about your project.
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Featured image by Marek via Adobe Stock