University Websites, How not to have your brand experience fall apart

June 27, 2024

University Websites, How not to have your brand experience fall apart

tag College Website Development | University Website Redesign
University Websites, How not to have your brand experience fall apart

 A branded university website is one of the most effective tools for driving student enrollment. But all too often, schools who set out to redesign their website fail to take it all the way, creating a double whammy of a poor brand experience and a less effective website.

Web sites are one of the top brand experiences for any organization, and this is especially true for Higher Ed. But a great brand experience requires the university to go all the way. All too often we’ve seen universities stop short of delivering on their brand experience online. In this blog we’ll show you the pitfalls to look out for.

What makes a great Higher Ed Web Site Brand Experience? 

Brand has been defined as one’s gut feeling for a company or organization. If you think about your favorite brand, whether it be Nike, Starbucks, Apple, etc., you probably have a feeling about that brand. A university website has the opportunity–no, more like the responsibility–to make that impression, that feeling.

Go take a look at your university’s home page but only give yourself 3 seconds to take it in. What impression do you leave with? For most sites, it’s not so great (don’t feel bad if that’s true in your case!) The first job of the home page is to make a first impression of the brand.

The second job of the home page is that the user gets who you are and what you stand for. On your university website, this is done through imagery, headlines, and design. User experience (UX) is also a contributor. Is the site easy to navigate, is it easy to find information, and is it easy for the user to take a desired action? All of these factors reflect on the university and are part of the brand experience.

University websites have a responsibility to make a great first impression and they have the ability to improve a users opinion of the university. The website also has the opportunity to provide ease of use–all of which translates into the brand experience.

But so many higher ed websites fall short. And we’ve seen a site or two just not quite go all the way to make a great brand experience happen. Read on if you would like to know how not to make those same mistakes.

How to NOT Have Your Higher Ed Brand Experiences Fall Apart on Your Website

Brand requires you to go all in. You can’t fake brand, you can’t mail brand in, and you can’t do something that’s just good enough. Brand has to be awesome, authentic, and on-target. So avoid the following pitfalls to offering a great brand experience:

Don’t Go All In

You know a great university website costs $250,000 and up, but you aren’t willing to invest that. You believe that you can still get a great site for less. So go with your less than budget and hope for the best (spoiler, it’s not going to work out all that great).

Use Old Content for a New Site

Why is writing copy so expensive? One shortcut is to not write new copy, instead, just use old copy! Sure, that’s like buying a new house and moving all of your old furniture into it. It’s just not going to look that good, but you sure can save some money that way!

Just Update the Home Page or Major Pages

The saying goes, “Like putting lipstick on a pig…,” but this isn’t such a bad route to go. Some people will feel like it looks nicer. The problem with this approach is once a user gets past the home page, the experience falls apart, making the brand experience worse, not better. It feels like a bait and switch.

Use Staff Photographers

Universities save money by using staff photographers. In 10+ years of doing university websites, we’ve seen one (one!) staff photographer who was a great photographer. If you want to fall short in a great brand experience, don’t use a professional photographer.

Don’t Update the Application Experience

Although the application is the most important action a user can take on a website, use your student information system portal’s online Applicatiion (or Common App’s) instead, and provide a totally disjointed brand experience. This will truly ensure a bad brand experience is had. It’s only the largest investment a prospective student will make in their life, why make the form easy and enjoyable to use?

Your University Website: The Next Conference Presentation

We’ve touched on key elements to creating a website that provides a great brand experience. All you need is some vision, and some conviction, and perhaps a great partner. You can do it. Steer clear of these common missteps and you won’t become another brand casualty. Instead, you’ll be a higher ed brand rock star. We’ll see you present about your great web brand experience at a higher ed conference soon!