As a higher education institution, your website is hands down your most visited and important digital asset. It’s the only digital real estate that you own, your first point of contact with the outside world, and your ultimate source of truth in an increasingly digitized world.
Getting prospective students to visit and stay can be a real challenge, however. In order to reach and connect with as wide an audience as possible, higher education institutions must break down existing barriers to engagement and get the user experience just right.
This is no easy task, as it involves successfully catering to the needs of a wide ranging audience with a varying degree of digital savviness.
With this in mind, let’s take a look at 5 ways Higher Ed websites can break down barriers, enhance visitor engagement, and boost recruitment.
Higher Ed Websites Must 1: Have Good Discoverability
As the old saying goes ‘‘good SEO equals good discoverability’’. While it is certainly true that relevant content of good quality remains king when it comes to improving SEO and optimizing for discoverability, there are a few other things that are worth paying attention to these days.
Google’s switch from desktop-first to mobile-first indexing, for example, is an important shift that could negatively impact your website if you do not optimize to account for it.
It is also important to stay on top of your page performance by referencing Google’s Core Web Vitals on a regular basis, as neglecting to do so could damage your website’s discoverability.
Higher Ed Websites Must 2: Establish (Immediate) Trust
Trust on a university or college website can mean many things to students, staff, and prospective students. Like SEO, website trust is the sum of a number of different elements. The most obvious of these can be boiled down to questions surrounding whether your site loads effortlessly, asks permission for cookies, or - perhaps most crucially- allows prospective students to easily identify the schools and programmes that align with their interests.
By asking yourself the above questions you can begin to get a clear understanding of whether your website is currently providing everything possible to establish immediate trust in visitors.
Higher Ed Websites Must 3: Execute Flawlessly On The Expected Brand
Studies have shown that brand is increasingly the number one decision driver for today’s prospective students. This means that it is not sufficient for your content to be merely discoverable. As a critical part of your brand, you need to ensure that your content is up to date, of consistently high quality, and that its language is both clear and inclusive.
Higher Ed Websites Must 4: Enable a Great User Experience
Higher Ed Websites Must 5: Offer Frictionless Engagement and Conversion Opportunities
It may seem like a somewhat obvious statement, but ensuring that no barriers to conversion exist across your site should be a major priority. Ask yourself, is the application process clear and consistent throughout the site? Are prospective students able to easily register for events and courses etc online? Is it obvious where parents can go to get the information they are most interested in?
Until you have answered crucial questions like the ones above, you will be unable to accurately assess your level of engagement with your visitors, and may be missing out on a large number of potential conversion opportunities.
Accessible Websites Break Down Barriers and Boost Recruitment
Of course, a large part of ensuring that your website performs optimally for all visitors involves meeting relevant legal web accessibility standards.
With web accessibility lawsuits on the rise, there has never been a better time to ensure you are removing any remaining web accessibility barriers. Indeed, with one web accessibility lawsuit filed in the US every 4 hours in 2021 (not to mention the 100s of thousands of demand letters sent), this is no longer a luxury but a necessity for all higher education websites.
Removing accessibility barriers is the right thing to do not only from a legal and business perspective, but from an ethical and social perspective as well. Ensuring you are meeting relevant requirements protects your website from legal issues first and foremost, but also provides immediate benefits for your student body, your brand, and can ultimately expand your prospective student base and improve web conversion rates.
By taking steps to ensure that your website covers all of the above bases, you can successfully remove any friction that exists between you and your visitors, enhance your brand reputation, take your UX to the next level, and connect with a much wider audience.Learn more about Monsido for Higher Ed and discover tools that can help you reach your website goals.