Matt Mefford
Sr. Digital Art Director

Does Your Website Give Visitors Indigestion?

Sometimes less really is more

University websites often have too many pages, leaving would-be applicants discouraged and annoyed. Prospective students are making a decision about going to your school in an extremely short amount of time. And they tend to view very few pages to make that decision.

Yet universities and colleges continue spending a mere fraction of their budgets on those few crucial pages, and instead focus the bulk of their resources on the outlying pages. From a marketing funnel point of view, you don’t even need them; and having the extra pages may even do damage.

Let’s get the page count down to just five.

On average a prospective student probably spends about two and a half minutes or less on your site. You have to make a case for your school in that amount of time. Content on key landing pages should be relevant to the prospective student’s consideration factors, and delivered in clear, bite-sized segments. We touched on this topic in a previous article, 5 Ways to Get the Most Bang For Your Website Buck, which describes various cost-efficient tips for enhancing your website. As Jeremy Ryan, EVP for Creative Solutions, wrote in that piece, “don’t give your readers every possible bit of information or option. It creates paralysis by analysis.”

What pages should you focus on?

That ever-prevalent question. Should your focus be on the pages that are currently most visited on your site? Probably not. Honestly, most visitors are going to those pages because the biggest button takes them there, or they are guided by your primary navigation, or that’s where they are used to going on other college sites that they’ve been equally disappointed by. Instead, analyze your website for the most engaging pages—the pages where prospective students spend most of their time. These pages should depict how you want them to know you. Focus on ensuring that the content provides a rich, in-depth view of why your school is the only school they should attend.

Other watch-outs to consider are your homepage and campus visit page. Take a minute and read your homepage. Is the information there any different from your competitors? In fact, most higher-ed sites look and/or sound way too similar. Uniqueness in how your school is presented is distinction in how it is perceived. This is often the solution to another frequently heard pain-point—“if we could just get them to campus.” So many schools lament about why their site is not making a better case for a campus tour. What is making their visit page experience ineffectual and unexciting? This is when you have to consider the quality of your content, which leads us to our next topic…

Is the quality of your content better on your top pages?

I’m guessing that you might have some video on your most trafficked pages… You probably have some important admissions information… You might have the highest quality image you’ve got in your library… But is the depth really there? Are you really telling the story of your school? You should be building custom and engaging solutions on those pages that do not feel like any other university out there. Your website should feel as high a caliber as the education a student is going to get at your school. This is done by spending significantly less time and money on the many noncritical pages (or leave them out all together) and focus on the three to five primary pages. Cut most of the peripheral pages outright and make a site with a rich experience that maximizes the two minutes you have.

Not every page on a website can be overly exciting, so you have to question if those pages are even needed at all, and are they actively diverting students from the pages you want them to see. You need to focus 90 percent of your resources on the five pages that introduce visitors to your brand and develop high-quality content and immersive experiences on those few pages that look very different from your competition.