Step 2: Understand What You Have
Both Hoang and Sheard noted that most institutions house an incredible amount of content pages, with CSULB at 900,000 pages and Westmont at 300,000.
“Don’t let every department have their say,” explained Hoang. “Otherwise, you’d get a front page cluttered like a community board with random tidbits from every department on what they feel is important. Choose what goes on the front page very carefully and focus on your priorities; which, for us, are community and alumni engagement.”
According to Josh Pennino, national sales manager for Acquia, Inc. (the cloud server hosting CSULB and KWALL’s website) it’s important to build the website—especially the front page—on solution-focused content and a user-based platform.
“Be sure to look at the whole site, too, not just the front door or first level,” said Sheard. “A lot of times institutions make the front page dynamic, but then when a user clicks to go deeper, the secondary content pages look like relics from the early 2000s. A user can leave a secondary page just as fast as they can the front page.”
However, Hoang said that there’s a delicate balance between static and antiquated, and being too interactive. “Don’t get so caught up in the design that there’s a disconnect between what your institution is and marketing gimmicks. You also don’t want super technical, information-filled pages.”
Step 3: Design around Mission-Based Goals
Elaborating on his suggestion to find the balance between mission and design, CSULB had a goal to better integrate their athletics programs with traditional academics.
“So instead of having athletics as its own separate department listed on the website, we created a scrolling, interactive header with athletics as the first interactive placeholder with a link to recent news. The other placeholders include traditional prospective engagement information, but also program-specific calls-to-action for funding,” said Hoang.
Hoang also noted that, in the spirit of viral journalism, one of the featured placeholders is a campus community-based article, “22 must-dos on campus.”
“The community-inclusive article is interactive and not too serious with animated GIFs and informal descriptions. It’s been our most clicked-on article for months now.”
Sheard noted that choosing a design and marketing firm that specializes in brand customization is also a good move. “We put out an RFP and ended up choosing Ologie for branding and Acquia for our web CMS, and both partners were more than willing to help us craft our website around our specific mission.”
(Next page: Get the campus involved)
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