When it’s time for a redesign

Earlier today a tweet popped up on my #highered feed with a document about the need to redesign an institution website (Warning it’s a PDF). It was created by a group called Plattform Higher Education, which is a company based on marketing and communication needs for higher ed institutions. I really suggest you reading it yourself. It’s only one page after all but here are the bullet points.

  1. You’re three or more clicks from the contact form
  2. Your website’s look and feel doesn’t fit with your institution’s identity.
  3. For content updates to the site, you have to rely on a website designer.
  4. Your website features outdated content and images.
  5. Web analytics reveal a high bounce rate.
  6. A designer hasn’t touched your site in more than three years.
  7. Your institution has a website but lacks a mobile-specific site.

These are all really good things to look into. But I would like to suggest an 8th bullet point that pointed to your site needing a redesign.

8. It looks like shit

I’m not trying to be mean or sound like an ass but as I continue my job hunt I regularly come across department webpages that face this exact issue. In truth many face issue eight because they have fallen into issue sixes clutches. That should not be an excuse though. Your webpage should be there for a simple task. To help your students. You can’t expect your website to be of much help if it looks bad. You wouldn’t use a flyer to attract students to your program that was drawn with crayons would you?

Poor design leads to lost information. I could put all the information a student would need on a website but if it’s poorly designed and “looks like shit,” the student may not be able to find what they need or they may just give up and leave the website and end up calling or coming into the office, thus taking up more of your limited time. You can’t just “throw something together” and expect it to work.

A blog post I found earlier today characterizing some of the biggest mistakes in web design was really glaring at how common some of these errors are in higher education websites. It’s really something that needs to be properly addressed. Whether it’s through an institution-wide template or something. Allowing departments to exist with bad websites only will reflect badly on the institution as a whole.

I don’t want the impression to be though that I think that department pages that differs from the main university page are worse. Far from it, in many cases the department page is better.  But largely I’ve found it to be more poorly put together.

So I suggest to all people in higher education, sit back and take a real look at your website. It may just be time that you need a redesign. And don’t think about the money first, as by improving your website you may be getting more students and thus making the money back.

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