Why an educational institution’s website can make or break its credibility

For many, if not most, potential students, as well as professors and staff seeking employment, your college or university website delivers their first impressions of your institution right to their phone, tablet, or computer. laptop or desktop computer.

The impact of the “curb appeal,” of walking through your doors or walking anonymously around your campus to get a feel for what you’re doing, has given way to your digital presence. The COVID-19 pandemic has increased the value and influence of providing a professional, engaging and interactive online portal at your school. It is the face of your brand and your most effective marketing tool.

Does your website offer an experience worthy of your institution?

The best websites are visually appealing, cater clearly to digital visitors, run smoothly across a variety of platforms, and are easy and instinctive to navigate. They must evolve regularly to stay up to date not only with up-to-date information about your institution, but also with the latest structure, menus and offers that visitors expect based on their experiences with other websites they use. , from outlets such as Amazon, eBay, or Zillow on social media sites like Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

How can you ensure that your institution’s web presence optimally meets your needs and those of your website visitors?

The best way is to undertake a thorough examination. Whether your website has been developed and maintained by campus staff or you have outsourced its design, construction and maintenance, regular reviews of appearance, content, message, branding, accessibility and ease of use are essential. It is not necessary to undertake a complete overhaul every year, but keeping the content and function correct and up to date is essential. If visitors to your website come across broken links, outdated calendar items, staff lists that include staff no longer working for your facility, descriptions of discontinued programs, or other incorrect content, it will have a bad effect. image of your establishment as a whole. Have a plan in place to regularly review and maintain your website.

You can develop and conduct your own assessment, or work with external agencies to undertake the process for you. Sometimes an objective eye can help.

Look at what other colleges and universities are doing. Yes, it’s comparing yourself to the Joneses, but you don’t have to completely reinvent the wheel. There are a number of websites, as well as award programs, that feature what they consider to be the best college and university websites. They use a number of criteria to rate websites and provide links to the websites themselves so that you can visit them and see for yourself why they have been highlighted as outstanding examples.

Digital Marketing Company WebFX Names “9 Best College Websites To Emulate.” They praise Notre Dame for a clean and clearly organized homepage and for maintaining this format throughout the website, as well as for the good quality of the photos and a consistent color scheme. Bates College (www.bates.edu) is highlighted for choosing to incorporate a ‘burger menu’ rather than the standard set of tabs at the top of the home page and including a link to a tour virtual campus on demand. Other institutions included in WebFX’s nine to emulate include Biola University, Goshen College, and the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD).

Website development company FreshySites shares its “10 Best College & University Websites (January 2020)” and offers an overview of how websites help define schools. The list also includes the Rhode Island School of Design, praising its use of “bold high-resolution images,” easy navigation, and intelligent use of art by RSID students. The University of Texas at Austin is known for its use of home page school statistics, including its ranking among other public universities and student retention rates. Regent College receives good marks for a compact structure that works well on various devices and an attractive and intelligent color scheme. Cornell University, Brown University, and Ohio State University are on FreshySites’ Top 10 Lists.

MorWeb.org, a CMS software and web design agency, offers their take on the “15 Best College Websites (and Why They’re So Great). Bates College and the Rhode Island School of Design are also on the list, along with Wheaton College (known to take pride in its student body with the inclusion of testimonials and a blog dedicated to students), the University Chicago (in part, for defining its audience by including a navigation bar divided into types of site visitors and stunning images that incorporate image sliders), Virginia Commonwealth University (for colorful calls to action and well placed [CTAs] and outstanding images and graphics) and Alverno College (to prominently display earned rewards, well-organized statistics and navigation tools).

For comparison and inspiration purposes, there are also award-winning college or university websites. In 2020, the Web Marketing Association presented its 2020 Internet Advertising Competition Award for Outstanding Internet Advertising Achievement in the Best College Website category at Boise State University. Boise State also won this award in 2013.

The 2019 Collegiate Advertising Awards for website design include Bryant University, Vermont College of Fine Arts, and Slippery Rock University.

In fact, Slippery Rock University has won six Education Digital Marketing Awards for 2020. EDMA, sponsored by Higher Education Marketing Report, recognizes the best educational websites, digital content, electronic communications, mobile media, and social media among entries received from colleges, universities, and high schools.

Whether your institution is a small college with fewer than 5,000 students or a large university with multiple campuses and tens of thousands of students, your website serves as a gateway that welcomes potential students (and their parents) and students. employees as well as visitors to your Campus.

It’s a valuable marketing tool that displays what you have to offer, serves as a recruiting aid around the world, promotes your culture, and keeps alumni and donors engaged in your mission. Have a proactive plan in place to make sure it’s engaging, interactive, informative, engaging, and up to date.

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Janice G. Ball