hodgsonConsulting Newsletter August 2016
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 August 22, 2016
August 2016 Newsletter

Top Ten Tips for a College Website Redesign

Imagine being a high school student today. Think of the college flyers cramming your mailbox, the well-meaning advice you get from everyone you meet, the interminable essays and applications. It’s nothing less than overwhelming!

It’s important to note that most kids develop a shortlist of schools to visit in person solely through online browsing. That means your website has to appeal to an audience that is already flooded with hundreds of images of verdant lawns and students strolling through campus…how can you make yours rise to the top?

Thanks to our friends at Nielsen Norman Group (www.nngroup.com), we can share ten design guidelines that, when kept in mind, will give you a head start in the race to engage these smart, savvy kids. 
  • Identify your school on every page. Not everyone comes to you via the home page.
  • Select your images carefully…they speak volumes. Are you focused on athletics? Diversity? Student happiness? Use real pictures, not stock photos, and tell your story.
  • Beef up your “About Us” page – it’s where everyone goes! Summarize your unique qualities and make it fun.
  • Showcase your strengths, and you don’t have to use paragraphs. People scan rather than read, so give them metrics, like statistics, rankings, and awards.
  • They want to see information on your majors and programs. Make it easy to find, so that discriminating Forensics student knows you’re the perfect fit.
  • Use your alumni page! What do your graduates do? Where do they work? Show off your job placement data and communicate how valuable an investment your school is.
  • Make the application process easy. Hold hands if you must; this is stressful for students. Prominently display your application deadline, and offer a step-by-step description of the application process.
  • Follow the user journey: check the main tasks for your students, and make sure they’re not running into outdated or contradictory information. Do some quick user testing: testing with just five users, you can uncover 85% of your problems.
  • Don’t try to be cool. A lot of your students will be paying their own way; they want a school that’s approachable and fun, but takes its job seriously. Let your current students create content if you want the right tone.
  • Respect Google. If you want “real” restaurant reviews, you leave the restaurant site and check what people are saying. It’s the same thing with colleges…Google yourself to make sure viewers are finding accurate information.
Even if you’re not redesigning your website, take a look at this list and see if you can freshen up your content. Put some students in front of your site and ask their opinions, or ask them to write some testimonials. In no time at all, you’ll have created a little buzz that can lead to a big increase in interest.

Create a Show-Stopping RFP
At Hodgson, we read a lot of RFPs. And we mean a lot; we review more than 20 a week. We choose to bid on about 10% of those. So what catches our eye?

If we’re downloading them, we already know they fit within our target market and scope of services. Our decision to bid or not comes down to other factors, and the clearly written, organized, well-thought-out RFP always rises to the top.

If we were to put ourselves in your shoes, these are some guidelines we’d offer:
  • Be concise. When the printer is spewing out 50 pages of an RFP, we can guarantee all those words aren’t necessary.
  • Let us know in the beginning what you need. A website redesign? A CMS implementation? Web maintenance services? Integration? SEO analysis?
  • Include your parameters, and whether they’re flexible. Share your timeline and budget, and let us know if they’re set in stone. Have you already identified the CMS you want to use? This helps us read strategically, and make sure we’re a good fit.
  • What are your project goals? We need to know how you’ll measure success, as that will drive our proposal approach.
  • Clearly communicate your due dates, and what criteria are most important to you when evaluating proposals.
  • If you can, release the RFP to a shortlist of vendors you’ve already vetted. You’ll get a limited number of qualified bids, and we’ll know that you’ve given us the once-over and a customized, carefully written proposal is well worth your—and our—time.
  • We love trees. Help us save them by accepting proposals via email.
Web redesign projects are always a big deal, requiring a lot of senior-level support and enormous resources on the client side. Drafting an RFP that clearly communicates the scope of work and your goals is an excellent start toward a successful site launch.
Copyright © 2016 hodgsonConsulting, All rights reserved.

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