Many educational institutions are focusing on strategic redesigns of their websites. The trend is moving away from information packed brochure-style websites, towards sites with a concentration on lead generation. The importance of this shift is not simply a design facelift, but instead a content-focused restructure for digital conversions, which drive business goals and reinforce brands.
When taking on a redesign of a website with lead generation in mind, like applicant conversion, it is important for organizations to first define their audiences and how to address those audiences with website functionality, design, and information architecture.
While most educational institutions have similar goals in mind, such as getting prospective students to apply, attracting donors, and keeping in contact with alumni, each institution must tailor their website to be meaningful to their specific brand and community, as well as their operational team.
In order to interpret a proper call-to-action, such as a newsletter sign up or a student actually applying, you need to carefully outline these processes within an organization’s marketing and operational structure as a whole.
Overall, if the website is truly engaging, the goal of conversion will happen before a click is even performed. A click is merely a confirmation that your website is doing its job by serving your organization as an active participant in your marketing funnel.
Below we’ve outlined some high level case studies that provide a glimpse into smart research processes, meaningful design, and flexible content management system development for your unique team.
Building a Productive Website for Large Educational Institutions
Many larger educational institutions, particularly those that host a network of schools within a university system, often have a complex web of information, politics, and branding to grapple with when it comes to a website redesign.
Laying out the groundwork before initiating the redesign of a website is key to successfully presenting content that properly serves the needs of audiences and team members. The discovery process, which can be incorporated into a Sprint 0 plan, is a process dedicated to research and data collection of aspirational goals and how they can be met.
During this discovery phase, the aim is to collect qualitative and quantitative research to support purposeful decision making at all points of the website redesign process. Qualitative research may include stakeholder interviews to determine project goals, conducting focus groups with target audiences, competitor analysis, and more. On the other hand, quantitative research, such as online surveys, allows institutions to reach larger groups and source from all parties and demographics. This ensures a more well-rounded set of data to build from. Card sorting can also provide insight into favorable opinions on navigational structure. These two types of research guide the decision making to build a purposeful website, and also remove the risk of subjective opinions muddling the process.
Determining audience needs and website goals can be difficult from the inside looking out, particularly when silo-ed within each individual department. That being said, in-house teams can benefit greatly from a consultative muscle. Having a trained eye and a fresh perspective is key to moving website redesigns forward, and having practiced methods for various website conversions is an important step towards creating a meaningful website redesign.
Generating Leads for a For-Profit Educational Organization
For-profit institutions seek to generate conversions with target audiences that are interested in their educational product or service. Balancing clear and transparent information and targeted messaging is inherent in creating a trustworthy identity that will lead people down the sales funnel.
The process of brand messaging, design, and informational content must be intrinsically linked in order to generate valuable leads. A strategic approach to handling this process is utilizing a collaborative group, all working at the same time under the same project with the same goals in mind. This group performs a discovery process, sketches together, and collaboratively formulates a strong web presence.
It is imperative for a for-profit educational organization to articulate its value proposition, as target audiences have many options in a saturated market. It’s crucial to be honest about what the audience is getting from the educational service or product. Content methods, such as informational packets or surveys to determine whether your institution is the right fit, come off as authentic and work to generate leads.
Making information user friendly will increase the amount of time spent on the website, and thus result in more qualified leads. To do this, it is also necessary for an audience to know what content to read and when. Breaking up content to target those in the preliminary research phase, versus those ready to purchase, and making this content easy to navigate with the support of sharp design, will mean less visitor drop off and an increased pipeline of qualified leads.
Structuring Content Management for Complex Organizations
After the creation of clear content and messaging, the organization needs to be able to quickly and easily manage their own content as the website continues to evolve (we recommend quarterly analyses and content refreshes, at minimum).
A flexible content management system (CMS), specific to a team’s needs, helps a team organize the content of a complex institution. The goal extends beyond the initial creation of the website, as the most important concept for the scalable CMS is making sure the team can manage it after it has been implemented. The organization’s team must feel confident about adding new content, including responsive content, so that the website remains relevant and maintains the look and feel established by the redesign team. Development teams will work collaboratively to understand which content is static and which content is dynamically placed based on programmed logic.
A flexible CMS can offer an institution a number of benefits, including built-in security. Content is search engine optimized, making it easier for organizations to implement SEO best practices. Approval systems allows administrators to give different level of access to different users, and can also allow them to approve content before it goes live on the site. Easy page management allows any approved user on a team to quickly and easily update or change content on a website without web development involved. Remote access can also allow a team to update content pages from mobile, and scalable CMS makes a website mobile ready automatically. Archive capabilities also allow administrators to track user responsibility and archive older information.
A CMS also allows developers on a team to focus on functionality and user experience, rather than publishing the content. CMS update alerts can also let teams know when their content needs to be updated or reviewed.
Mindgrub is a seasoned vendor for redesigning educational websites with the goal of lead generation in mind. We have experience working with many types of educational institutions and their varying aspirational goals. We focus on meaningful construction of website content and navigation that institutions can easily maintain after the completion of the site.
If you are in need of a website redesign, or want to hear more about our process, reach out to us to discuss your vision.