March 11

Website Optimization: Creating a Student-Centric Website


by | Mar 11, 2024 | Featured, Strategies, Websites

A student-centric website can lead to greater engagement and enrollment success because it puts the focus on the most important person in the transaction—the prospective student. 

As we’ve laid out in other posts, the most important piece of marketing content you have in your content marketing library is your school website

We often refer to it as “enrollment-focused” websites. You can read about it in more depth in my new book, Chasing Mission Fit. 

This is where you should ultimately send all your traffic from other marketing channels, and where most prospective students will go if they are looking for information about you.

Because it’s so high on the strategic priority list, and because it tends to be a more costly investment to develop, it’s crucial to get it right. 

Fortunately, optimizing your school website doesn’t necessarily mean spending a fortune on the latest web technologies or the most advanced design techniques. 

Instead, the most effective website optimization starts and ends with creating a student-centric website.

What Is a Student-Centric Website?

Audience First

A student-centric website is designed with the primary audience—prospective students—in mind. 

This means that the layout, navigation, and content are all created to meet the needs and preferences of potential new students and their families. 

A student-centric website aims to provide a seamless, intuitive user experience that makes it easy for them to find the information they’re looking for.


It often includes personalized elements that cater to the individual user’s interests, academic goals, or stage in the educational journey. 

Personalization can range from customized content recommendations to user-specific information on courses or campus life.


Ensuring the website is accessible to all users, including those with disabilities, is a key aspect of being student-centric. 

This includes compliance with web accessibility standards to ensure that information is available to everyone, regardless of their physical or technological capabilities.

Why Create a Student-Centric Website?

By being student-centric, the website becomes more engaging for students. 

It provides them with a personalized experience, which can significantly enhance their interaction with your institution. 

This increased engagement is crucial for attracting prospective students and retaining current ones by making them feel understood and valued.

A website that centers on students’ needs helps them make informed decisions about their education. 

By presenting clear, comprehensive information about programs, admissions, campus life, and outcomes, the website assists students in navigating their options and choosing the path that best fits their goals.

Student-centric websites help students self-identify whether or not they are a good mission-fit for your institution. 

From a branding perspective, a student-centric website reflects positively on the institution’s brand and values. 

It demonstrates a commitment to student success and satisfaction, which can elevate the institution’s reputation among students, parents, and the broader educational community.

Ultimately, focusing on the student experience can lead to better educational outcomes

When students have easy access to resources, support, and information, they are more likely to succeed in their studies and beyond, contributing to your school’s overall success.

I’ve been crafting student-centered websites for some time now, and the extra planning effort at the beginning makes all the investment worth it in the end.

Here’s how you can begin optimizing your school website.  

How to Create a Student-Centric Website

1. Study your marketing persona.

One of the first decisions you will have to make is to which marketing persona you will direct your school website. 

Because we are creating an enrollment-focused website, we know that the marketing persona is going to be a prospective student.

But what kind of student are you trying to reach?

Here are some key questions to consider as you study your marketing persona. 

  • What are their demographic characteristics, like their age, social background, neighborhood, etc.? 
  • What are their educational goals?
  • What are their personal values and beliefs?
  • What are the unique challenges or obstacles getting in their way of attaining their goals?

If you can’t immediately answer these questions, consider doing some research. 

Gather focus groups of students who fit the demographic characteristics and talk with them about their goals, values, and challenges. 

Hit the streets and get familiar with the physical spaces where your audience hangs out

If you’re going to have a student-centric website, you’ve got to know your audience as best as you possibly can. 

And don’t let this be a one-time project. Each time you learn something new about your prospective student’s outlook or desires, it could be time to update your messaging strategy. 

2. Plan your content and design.

Now that you know the kind of prospective student you’re trying to reach, you can begin planning your messaging strategy and the design elements of your website. 

Here you will lay out the kinds of questions your audience is asking that need to be answered. 

You will choose the kind of language that will best resonate with your audience, including taglines and slogans.

Even design will be affected by the information you have on who your target audience is.

For example, if the marketing persona is a non-traditional adult student, don’t go with small fonts that make it difficult for them to read.

Or, if the marketing persona is a traditional student coming in right out of high school, you’ll want to include plenty of imagery showing them the kind of welcoming community that awaits them. 

Both the content and the design need to tell prospective students: “You belong here!”

3. Leverage your internal network.

It seems counterintuitive, but to create a student-centric website, you’ll have to rely on your colleagues and connections who aren’t directly involved with marketing.

As higher ed marketers, we often conceive innovative ideas that require a mix of various insights and approvals.

The journey from ideation to implementation is rarely a solo endeavor. You’ve got to find champions within your organization who share your vision. 

This collaborative approach not only garners support from key decision-makers, such as deans who greenlight projects, but also enriches the project with diverse perspectives that can enhance your understanding of your marketing persona. 

People like the deans, faculty, and other administrative personnel have interactions with your target audience every day. 

These interactions can provide valuable insights for you in how you will craft your content and design for the student-centric website.

By engaging in meaningful conversations and rallying support from various quarters, your student-centric website will be more likely to reach its goals and become an enduring piece of your marketing strategy.

No Need to Wait

Increasing engagement and enrollment results by creating a student-centric website doesn’t have to break the bank or have you chasing after the latest tech gimmicks. 

It’s all about making a site that feels like it’s speaking directly to the student, recognizing their needs, dreams, and challenges. 

And you’ve already got the resources you need to begin! 

As you pull on all the conversations and collaborations within your internal network, you’ll find the momentum you need to make your optimized website a reality.

Because at the end of the day, when you center your efforts on what’s best for the students, you’re not just filling seats; you’re building futures. 

For more help on optimizing your school’s website, contact us today!

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.

Chasing Mission Fit book cover Discover how to:

    • Precisely target your ideal student
    • Craft a compelling brand for your institution
    • Implement a proven marketing strategy from 30 years of expertise

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?
Order now!

Featured image by Deagreez via Adobe Stock

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The Enrollment Cliff Is Real

Explore strategies for tackling the enrollment cliff and finding mission-fit students with insights from Bart’s book, Chasing Mission Fit.