Appeal to More Students with a Custom Website Design for Colleges

John SammonAuthor: John Sammon
Updated on 03/28/2024

In today’s online world, the look of your website effectively operates as the face of your institution, and your site itself is ultimately your #1 tool for successful higher education marketing.

So how does your site’s design, development, and usability stack up?

The look and performance of your higher ed web design can be highly influential in potential students’ decision-making, so ensuring your site runs well and effectively draws users in is key to any marketing efforts.

Since internet traffic and leads are continuously increasing in importance in the modern world, Sixth City Marketing understands the value of online marketing and how it can benefit your institution. We’re adept at tailoring pages to encourage students to apply, incorporating necessary accessibility features, and even adding core functionalities to position your site to rank higher in search engines, making us the right team for the job.

Plus, our years of experience allow us to provide helpful tips on how to develop sites that are designed to draw more traffic, obtain higher conversion rates, and give your campaign goals a significant boost.

What Is Website Design for Higher Education?

web design for colleges 2023Website design encompasses a diverse array of skills, with graphic design, interface design, search engine optimization (SEO), and user experience being just a few of them. Web design can be an ongoing process, as your website should be updated and maintained on a regular basis.

When considering a website design for colleges and universities, the goal is to provide an informative, interactive, and inclusive website that can appeal to a variety of target audiences, such as students (both prospective and current), faculty, parents, and more. A good website design can then ultimately lead to an increase in revenue through student enrollment or even donations.

What You Should Include in Your College’s Website in 2024

A user-friendly, optimized interface

Just like with any worthwhile website, you are going to want pages with streamlined content that is easy to understand, yet effective. Simple enough, right? With university websites, though, that may be more difficult than you’d initially expect.

College websites can be the host of numerous target audiences, so the overall user experience needs to accommodate each target audience. Due to this fact, we wanted to provide a few pointers on how to create a more personable user experience.

Some ways you can go about this include via the following:

  • Segmenting your website – Based on the number of target audiences that you identify for your website, you will want to tailor specific landing pages to those individuals or groups so they know which information is meant for them. For instance, consider what kind of language is important to an undergraduate student vs. someone looking for a graduate degree.
  • Structuring your content with clarity – Once you have segmented your site, create distinguished paths for how to get to these pages. For example, including tabs such as “for students” or “for parents” to indicate where each group needs to go can be greatly beneficial.
  • Keeping your menu short and sweet – To maintain content that is simple, effective, and easy to navigate, your menu should include the essential subjects of your website. This can include areas of study, information regarding campus life, and admissions requirements, to name a few.
  • Making your site mobile-friendly – Your website should be a vital resource that can be accessed on the go when need be. Because of that, make sure your webpages are compatible on all desktop, mobile, and tablet environments.
  • Incorporating microinteractions – Microinteractons are small design elements that users can experience that would make them want to interact with your content more deeply. This can help the overall visual aspect of your website and can be known to trigger positive emotions as well as further direct the user’s attention.

An upbeat and personable tone

Recently, colleges and universities have been trying to change the narrative regarding being too prestigious and out of touch with their audience. One of the ways they are aiming to do so is through the tone they convey on their websites.

Creating a personable tone with potential students can help the target audience to feel understood and included even before they are accepted to the school.

One of the main ways that we recommend achieving these results is by incorporating first- and second-person pronouns into the copy itself. The use of “you” and “we” will give prospective students the indication that they will be part of a close-knit institution, ultimately giving them a sense of ease and encouraging them to apply.

An informational blog

A blog is a perfect way to incorporate informative, up-to-date content on your website. According to Orbit Media, 80% of bloggers report that having and maintaining a blog delivers results, and 50% of bloggers report that posting two to six times a week will more likely drive definitive results.

Our team is constantly encouraging businesses to start a blog, as we believe it is a great way to showcase your expertise within your industry, rank for a wide variety of valuable keywords, provide helpful updates, and drive strong links and traffic to your website. If you are considering a web redesign for your college website with the plan to include a blog, WordPress is the perfect content management system.

Add original photographs and visuals

The best photos that you can put on your university website are from the campus itself. These photos can feature sporting events, classroom settings, or students enjoying the numerous amenities that your school has to offer. This will not only make your website look visually appealing but will allow prospective students to immerse themselves in your college’s atmosphere.

Along with the photos that you publish to your website, you have the opportunity to include alt or title tags to target specific keywords or phrases. This is incredibly important when it comes to the overall SEO health of your site.

For more information regarding strategies and tips for creating a successful website that puts the user first, please contact our team of experts today, as we would be happy to assist you.

“John and the Sixth City team are wonderful to work with. They are extremely knowledgeable about SEO, digital marketing and website optimization. The team goes above and beyond to help clients reach marketing goals and is accessible to answer questions via phone, email and in-person meetings. They are true professionals and I would highly recommend their services to anyone looking for a digital marketing firm that will help take their business to the next level.” – Joni Bowen, Kent State University

Helpful Questions and Answers About Higher Ed Website Design

Want to learn more about the ins and outs of website design for your university? We answered some of our most frequently asked questions below.

How important is website design for my college?

Extremely important! Did you know that 50% of consumers believe that a company’s website design is crucial to its brand? So, when a website is designed poorly, it can greatly affect the overall user experience.

For example, if potential students are interested in your college but are not able to navigate your website to request additional information or learn more about a particular degree program, they could disregard your university when it comes to their search. Avoid the stress and create a user-friendly website that is guaranteed to drive more qualified inquiries and, ultimately, students.

What are some common mistakes that colleges make in their online marketing efforts?

Along with problems related to site design and structure, colleges, universities, and other schools can face issues that stem from a lack of knowledge regarding optimization tactics, or simply missed opportunities. Some common mistakes we see include:

  • Having duplicate metadata, which can hurt pages’ value in the eyes of Google
  • Having no metadata at all, which not only hurts the pages’ value when it comes to ranking, but also makes it more difficult for Google and other search engines to know how to categorize them
  • Experiencing poor loading times on your site which can both frustrate users and negatively affect your online rankings
  • Lacking unique internal links between both key and secondary pages on your site, since healthy interlinking is a valuable SEO tactic for improved rankings
  • Lacking imagery on key pages, since using both still images and videos on pages helps to boost the SEO equity of those pages and the site as a whole

For questions about any of these aspects, be sure to consult with our team.

Why should I work with WordPress?

We love WordPress and think you should use it for a variety of reasons. With its customization, easy-to-learn interface, and ability to help your site’s overall SEO, it has been our #1 choice for web design and development for our 12+ years of business. Additionally, consistent updates and maintenance are very simple through the WordPress platform.

We are not the only ones who love WordPress, either. This web design company actually hosts approximately 43% of the internet as a whole, as well as 60 million blogs successfully.

Should I write content to accommodate a new site?

Absolutely! Along with a fresh new website, you should write new landing pages for your target audiences, or even rework pages that already exist on your site. This can further help you efficiently drive more inquiries from prospective students.

Are there certain technical SEO considerations when it comes to higher ed websites?

Yes. For one, it is especially key that higher education websites have a clear and logical site structure and navigation menu. This is essential since there tend to be many sections on a college or university website, including areas for:

  • Admissions
  • Undergraduate students
  • Graduate students
  • Tuition
  • Course catalogs
  • Sports
  • Clubs
  • Faculty
  • Financial aid
  • News

To get visitors to where they need to go, and seamlessly facilitate form submissions for lead generation, a well-designed site is needed, something our higher education website design and development team has extensive expertise in.

Along with this, you also want to ensure that 404 error pages are kept at a minimum. With the large number of pages that higher education sites can contain, some will eventually become broken or will no longer be needed, leading to deletion.

Missing and deleted pages can result in 404 errors, which is both frustrating for users and detrimental to your SEO efforts since Google does not prioritize ranking sites with excessive 404 pages.

Let our team address these aspects and prevent problems on your website so everything can run smoothly and you can get the leads you need for your programs.

Are all of your websites custom?

Yes, we always start from scratch with all of our web design projects and craft you a website based on other sites you like, features you wish to have, and more.

Not only will this get you the aesthetics and site functionalities you desire, but it helps us avoid problems during the development stage. Working with existing websites, while certainly possible, is more problematic as existing code and site structure can cause limitations that a fresh design won’t face.

I’ve heard about schema. What is that? Do I need it for my college’s website?

Schema is a form of structured code used on websites to help search engines better understand the content featured on their pages. Search engines operate on supplied information to help them categorize sites and direct users to the right locations. Schema helps facilitate this through various code indicators that highlight the focuses of pages and the sites they live on.

For higher education websites, relevant schema categories can include college/university, person, course, educational occupational program, event, and others. You can visit our schema markup post for some great stats and facts, and contact us with any questions. Our team is adept at implementing schema markups on sites to ensure they are properly crawled by search engines.

What happens after our website is done being built by your team?

After you have approved the final version of the website on our development server, we will plan to push your website live on your desired hosting platform, implement all the tracking codes you need, and give you logins and access to your new site once it is fully launched.

Can we continue to work with your team after the launch for other marketing services?

Once your project is complete, we would love to move forward with helping your school grow its online presence through our other digital marketing services. We can supply SEO, PPC, website design, WordPress development, conversion rate optimization, SEO auditing and consulting, social media marketing, paid social media marketing, and more!

Get the Most Out of Your School’s Web Design

Show Potential Students How Great Your Programs Are with a Beautiful New Website

Sixth City Marketing has been a thought leader in digital marketing for higher education for years. We look forward to taking your university’s website to the next level by:

  • Designing a completely custom website that fits your school’s branding
  • Enabling features that can improve your rankings in search engines
  • Highlighting your culture through photos and video
  • Including well-thought-out designs for improving conversion rates
  • Building out your desired design in WordPress or Shopify

Experience with Higher Ed Website Development Projects

Over the years, we have had the pleasure of providing higher education web development services for a variety of schools. A few of these include:

  • Kent State University College of Business
  • Kent State University Research Department
  • West Virginia Junior College
  • Boardman Training Center
  • Ohio Valley College of Technology
  • United Career Institute (formerly Pennsylvania Institute of Health and Technology)
  • New Castle School of Trades
  • North American Trade Schools
  • Columbus College of Art & Design

Why Choose Us for Your University’s Web Design Services?

top web design company for collegesWhen you are comparing various agencies that offer website design for colleges, keep in mind that Sixth City Marketing has:

  • Recognition for being a Top Web Design Company for Education
  • Years of experience in website design for not only schools, but industries of all kinds
  • Experience in marketing on a variety of content management systems, including WordPress and Drupal
  • Advanced knowledge in designing for conversion due to our background in search engine optimization, which can help your website rank above competitors
  • The drive to build authentic relationships with our clients, along with enthusiastic client support, and an overall passion for what we do
  • An in-house team of developers, designers, writers, and strategists with over 25 years of collective internet marketing experience
  • Offices in ClevelandColumbus, Nashville, Indianapolis, Chicago, and Pittsburgh, making us centrally located in the Midwest to travel to wherever you are based

We Are Higher Education Marketing Experts

After accruing extensive experience working with a variety of content management systems, Sixth City Marketing is well-equipped for any challenge. In addition to developing websites, we also excel at digital marketing in the following areas:

  • Higher ed search engine optimization (SEO) campaigns – SEO is one of the most valuable marketing tactics you can utilize for your institution once you have completed your higher education web design. With a streamlined and more functional website, you’ll be well positioned to optimize it with keyword-rich copy that can help you rank highly in search engines, attract students, and generate qualified leads.
  • Pay-per-click marketing (PPC) – Alongside search engine optimization, pay-per-click marketing, or PPC, can be a worthwhile and complementary approach to generating the leads you’re looking for at your school. Ads can be tailored to and targeted at future students, being broken down into demographic segments, specific campaign focuses, academic department groupings, and more. Our team is adept at producing high-quality ads and landing pages that are designed to draw users in and get them to reach out.
  • Conversion rate optimization – One element that can go hand in hand with web design for your college is conversion rate optimization (CRO), also known as design for conversion. You will want to have the pages on your site optimized to encourage further exploration and clicking by visitors, and that is facilitated by having a responsive site, quick load times, simple and readily available contact forms, and much more.
  • Consulting and auditing – Sometimes your internal marketing department might just need some pointers on how to shape up your site to position your college for success. That’s where our team comes in. We can assess your college’s website to determine areas that need improvement, what techniques and opportunities have been overlooked, and how you can best employ search engine optimization methodologies. Our team will also engage in sitemap analysis, keyword analysis, duplicate content checks, error analysis and much more.
  • HubSpot marketing and consulting – If you have a HubSpot website, our team can provide key services to ensure that you get the most out of it. We can supply premium content that is designed to convert, mobile optimization, site adjustments and restructuring, improved metadata, high-quality backlinks to boost your Google profile, and much more.
  • Social media marketing – Once you’ve received a fresh website design for your university or college, you’ll want to get the word out! Our social media marketing services can help you do just that, as we can craft posts about key pages on your site that highlight all the amazing things your institution, professors, and students are up to.

Sixth City Marketing ensures that your institution’s results exceed your expectations by synthesizing these various marketing areas. Our team places a lot of pride in our work, and we make it a point to include our clients in the strategizing process to ensure optimum ROI.

And not only do we help universities with web design, but also other types of educational institutions like:

  • Graduate schools
  • Trade schools
  • Junior colleges
  • Community colleges
  • And many others!
“We were faced with a lot of web based issues and Sixth City Marketing helped us streamline eight websites. Their dedicated staff listened to our every need and understood the importance of an easy, user-friendly layout. Sixth City offered prompt and efficient communication and delivered above our expectations. We value our continued relationship with their team.” – Claire Anter, I-X Center

Let Us Develop Your School’s Next Web Project

Searching for a company to manage the next web project for your university, grad school, trade school, or junior college?

Contact Sixth City Marketing today and inquire about how our team of specialists can help you develop a new website or improve your current one. We look forward to working with you.

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