5 Essential Tips for Improving the Usability and User Experience of Your Higher Ed Website

One of the main goals of any website project is to produce a website that is easy to use. Usability is sometimes reduced down to “easy to use,” but it really is so much more. I could write a whole article about the definition of usability, but today I’d like to jump straight to a few tips that can be applied to your existing site, gleaned both from my professional experiences and Steve Krug’s awesome book, Don’t Make Me Think: A Common Sense Approach to Website Usability.

Five-Second Rule

Pause for a moment to take a deep inhale and exhale. That’s all the time you get from a website visitor. In order to earn a second breath, your website needs to communicate your message clearly to the user and provide them with the appropriate next steps.

This rule doesn’t just apply to first impressions of your homepage; consider the five-second rule as it pertains to accomplishing basic tasks on your site, like finding out when fall semester applications are due. Users typically just dive in, muddling through your site, quickly scrolling and clicking to get what they want. They don’t take the time to analyze your entire page and pick the best choice. Realistically, they look feverishly around for anything that is interesting or vaguely resembles what they are looking for, and then they click! If they mistakenly click the wrong link, the back button is a painless exit to try again.
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Messiah College: A CRM Success Story

For higher ed marketers, prospective students are really prospective customers. It comes as no surprise then, that in recent years colleges and universities have rushed to adopt the customer relationship management (CRM) tools that have long been used by other industries to centralize and streamline their communications.

We recently had the opportunity to chat with Kris Hardy from Messiah College, a small, private, Christian institution located in Central Pennsylvania. As Messiah’s director of web and digital marketing, Kris oversees the college’s public-facing website and is responsible for managing digital marketing efforts for the school’s academic programs.

Since Messiah moved to a CRM system two years ago, Kris says the platform has grown to play an increasingly important role in his work as a digital marketer. During our interview, he detailed how making the switch to a CRM has helped Messiah take their digital marketing efforts to the next level, outlined the challenges his team encountered post-rollout and shared a few of the things they learned as a result. Here’s an abridged version of our conversation:

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Digging Deeper With Attitudinal Research

Demographic research can provide some very useful information about your target audience, but it definitely doesn’t tell the whole story. Recently, we spoke with researcher Susan Baier to find out what higher ed marketers can gain from looking at a different type of data.

Susan is the owner and founder of Audience Audit, a marketing research firm specializing in custom attitudinal segmentation research. She has more than three decades of experience in the marketing industry but, for the last ten years, her focus has been helping clients cultivate stronger marketing strategies based on insights gained through custom research. Here are a couple of interesting soundbites from our discussion.

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Building a Better Acceptance Package

Though higher education marketers and admissions counselors work year-round to attract and retain students, one of the most impactful moments for an admissions campaign is the acceptance offer.

A well-crafted acceptance package is a door opener that sets your admissions team up for success throughout the campaign cycle. Students are becoming more discerning in their college search, and are applying to more schools than ever before. That means there’s even more pressure to deliver on their expectations.

To that end, here are some recommended best practices for getting the most out of your acceptance package. Continue Reading

Harnessing the Power of Word of Mouth

Word of mouth holds a lot of sway in the college decision-making process, yet few schools have a deliberate plan for building buzz among their prospect base. Daniel Lemin, co-author of a new book titled Talk Triggers, recently stopped by the Higher Ed Marketing Lab to share some practical strategies higher ed marketers can use to generate quality word of mouth. Here are a few key takeaways from our discussion. Continue Reading

A Non-Invasive Approach to Website Governance

Website governance is a challenging topic in any large organization, and colleges and universities are no exception. That challenge is only amplified when those who most need to exercise control over a website lack the resources or political support necessary to enforce effective governance policies and procedures.

But that doesn’t have to leave you dead in the water, especially not if Shelley Keith has anything to say about it. Shelley, a higher ed industry veteran and senior strategist at Modern Tribe, has an alternative approach, which she was kind enough to share with us in a recent podcast episode. Here are some of the highlights from our conversation.

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The Prospective Student Journey is Overrated, and Other Things We Learned From Chris Aarons

I recently had the pleasure of talking about digital transformation and higher education with Chris Aarons, co-author of the WSJ best-selling book, The Digital Helix. Chris is an accomplished marketer with no shortage of bold opinions on how professionals in higher ed can get the most out of technologies like AI, big data and automation. We covered a lot of territory, from how he was able to spot the one school that clearly “gets digital” while sifting through hundreds of direct mail pieces sent to his son (7:00), to what schools can learn from Nike’s Colin Kaepernick ad (15:20).

Below are just a handful of the insights I got from our conversation.

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Five Takeaways from Creative South 2018

co-written by Shannon Viox

We don’t have many fears at Echo Delta, but one thing that frightens us is recycling ideas. Our phobia is a constant push to bring fresh perspective and innovative ideas to our clients and one way that is possible is through inspiration from our peers.

Late last week, we hit the road for Columbus, Georgia – one of the most beautiful cities in the south – for the annual Creative South conference. We spent a few days surrounded by other creative-doers while we recharged our creative batteries, gained perspective on our role as designers and to get inspired. Continue Reading

Duplicate Content: Menace or Meh?

We’ve all seen it. Within otherwise peaceful groups, there can arise certain differences of opinion that are instantly polarizing: Coke or Pepsi. The oxford comma. How to pronounce “gif.”

In the SEO world we have quite a few debates like that, and one of our most hot-button issues is duplicate content.

Clients often ask, “Is duplicate content something we really need to worry about?”

As with so many things in life, the answer isn’t black and white. While duplicate content isn’t as bad as some shady SEO practitioners make it out to be, it’s certainly not as good as those selling duplicate content claim—and rarely is it part of a great businesses marketing strategy.

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How We Make the Big Idea Happen

It’s easy! We lock ourselves away in a dark office, drain a Madison-Avenue-sized bottle of single-malt Scotch and then stumble out five minutes before the big, important client presentation with the Eureka moment in hand.

The truth is a lot less romantic and always involves 99 percent Thomas Edison-like perspiration. Big ideas are more likely to emerge when a group of passionate, fearless and creative people – focused on a common challenge – generate lots of smaller ideas that in many cases can add up to something truly unique, remarkable, relevant … and big. Continue Reading