When the time comes for your team to redesign your university’s website, you may think it is all about a visual makeover of the site. In reality, many steps need to be taken before you can jump into that side of the redesign—if you want the job done correctly.
A solid starting point in cleaning up your university’s website is considering the user experience. If a user can’t easily get around your site to make conversions, there’s no point to how aesthetically pleasing it is. UX is an overarching term with many moving parts, so we are going to narrow it down even more and hone in our focus. To keep your site on the top of its game, without going through an entire redesign process, we’ve gathered up 5 areas for you to take a look at and possibly revamp.
Start at the top
It may seem obvious, but you should start at the top and revisit your homepage. A good looking page will definitely draw in users, but if you want them to move forward on your site, it must be easy to use. Taking a step back and making sure your homepage is a valuable stepping stone to the rest of your site is the first piece to tackle. Your homepage should highlight the areas of your site that you want users to hit next—this may include academics, student life, or admissions. Other useful pieces include quick CTAs to apply, request info, and schedule a visit. Having these areas clear and accessible on your homepage will start users off on a purposeful and wonderful journey.
Simplify and organize your nav
There are too many different types of navigation out there for anyone to pinpoint one that is the end-all-be-all solution, so you must carefully consider what is needed for your desired users to easily steer around your site. To speak extremely broadly, you’ll want to make sure your nav is clean and organized. Try setting up user flows and journey maps; these situations set up paths through different areas of the site that you know your users will likely need to take to obtain different information.
Once you have these mapped out, look to see how straightforward these may or may not be—from here you can see where areas can start to be restructured. Try and put yourself in your users’ shoes and follow the paths you’ve made, and compare them to how your site is currently structured. Additionally, finding the right sized navigation for your site can make a considerable difference. If you have a larger site, consider a multi-level navigation. But if you have a smaller site, don’t overwhelm the user with too many options off the cuff—this can confuse users by getting too specific, too early. Work with your team to find the right level for you—it is different for everybody.
Pay attention to your top level pages…
As you move further into the site and focus on the top level pages, we can begin to narrow down and modify these high level pages. To go along with the navigation tips above, this is a great place to start reorganizing and modifying pages to clean up some of the user paths you have set up above. In most cases, you want your top level pages to act as landing pages with more pointed objectives. In many instances, I will come across a site with more than 50 top level pages. While a perfect number of top level pages does not exist—as this varies with the type of school, the size, and the needs of your students—narrowing these down will help make clearer and more organized paths for users to follow.
…but don’t put your deepest pages on the back burner.
Although the “middle pages” are important, we can’t cover all of them. So we will focus on the top and the bottom and let you fill in the dots a little bit in the middle. At this level, there are likely many pages that are not needed. Reasons for this may include that they are outdated, lost, or there is not enough information for it to live on its own. Having data and analytics to help influence this step is helpful, but if you don’t have that, you can use your best judgment to clean up this level. Start with the outdated content, since it is the easiest to spot, and either move it to an archive or delete the content altogether if it’s no longer important. Next, move into the “lost” and “too little info” pages. These pages will most likely need to be modified, combined, and moved so they can be navigated to easily and also give the user all of the information they need at this level.
Revamp your shareable content
This may seem like a bit of a wildcard, but it is one of the most fluid areas of your site with new content constantly being added to the directory—or at least that’s how it should be. If you have an area of your site that involves shareable content, whether that’s news, a blog, or a newsletter, these outlets need to be regularly updated.
There have been too many times that I have come across a site that has one of those sections but has not received an update for two years. Start by organizing and archiving old content, and then set up a content calendar to stay on track and consistently push new information out on your site. And don’t worry about coming up with new ideas every other week, there are ways to stretch your dynamic content as well; make more out of less and release content in a series, or bring more people and views in to create content.
This is not a total redesign, rather just a starter pack. Looking at only these five areas will move you toward getting your site cleaned up and in a much shorter time frame than a full redesign— although we have done that in six months at one point. When you’re ready to turn your site on its head completely, we’re ready to talk.