Three Ways to Make the Most of a New Institutional Website
Web information architecture – a blueprint that includes page names and hierarchies – is about more than guiding users smoothly through your site. As much as your site’s design and content, the architecture is essential to conveying who you are. To maximize your site’s potential to change market perception and reflect your institutional brand, do:
1) Put your message first.
Stop thinking about your information architecture as a series of signposts and start thinking about it as a messaging tool. You want users to find what they came for, sure, but the more meticulous you are about inputting appropriate titles and meta descriptions into the back end, the more likely users are to land on exactly the pages they need through organic searches. So, thanks to search engines, you can worry less about navigation and more about whether your site navigation tells your story.
2) Look out, not in.
The biggest mistake schools tend to make is to create an architecture that reflects their bureaucracy. Most manage to get the basic navigation right – with the “three A’s” of admission, academics, and athletics increasingly standard in basic websites for educational institutions – but dig in and you get a smattering of programs and departmental initiatives that make sense only to insiders. If you want to convey that your administration is accessible and aware of student and community needs, your information architecture should be, too.
3) Know the limits of what a website can do for you.
Metrics are king these days, and you ought to use analytics to tweak content. But bounce rates, percent change in new users, and number of prospects filling in contact info to bulk up your CRM are a small piece of a bigger marketing puzzle. Your website sends the message of who you are. As should your logo, your print work, your social media strategy, and more. So don’t think of metrics as an end in themselves. What ultimately matters most is whether you hit your admissions and fundraising goals. And even the greatest website revamp can’t claim responsibility for that.