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Designing a great education website

It’s how you start that dictates how you finish

Legions of students are gleefully flocking to university. Business decision makers have jetted back from Tuscany and are back in full decision making mode. Redesigned and refreshed websites for educational institutions appear across our devices for the first time. It must be the start of the autumn semester.

But what makes a great website for an education and training organisation? And can one approach work across such a diverse sector? In many respects the challenges in the early planning stages are the same as for any other piece of online communication:

  • How do we make an early emotional connection with the visitor?
  • How do we deliver the best UX possible for the visitor?
  • What is the desired response we want from the visitor?

However it’s not just the sector that is diverse. Invariably, the target audience for each organisation's website is equally diverse. Take the University of Leicester’s new website, including their new brand; neither designed by Headland, but a fine effort.

Planning for diverse audiences

The challenges for the project team are numerous:

Make that emotional connection with potential new students considering where to study for the next three or four years, motivating them to consider attending one of the university’s autumn open days. Provide an effective user journey through the hundreds of courses and thousands of course modules to give the visitor access to the hard data that will reinforce the emotional connection, and lead them to respond to the call to action and book a place on the appropriate open day.

Second, engage with third and fourth year students desperately trying to re-engage their mental hard drives with the act of being a student, their chosen subject and where online they can find their allocated course modules, new timetable and the first decent night out at the students’ union.

Thirdly, support suppliers wanting to tender for work, staff engaging with the intranet, and multiple secure online transactions from text books to accommodation.

Of course this just scratches the surface. And the story is similar across the sector, from sixth form colleges to post graduate business schools.

Our experience of this sector goes back more than a decade. We know that granular, almost forensic planning is the only place to start, and is the first step towards delivering a website that adds real value to a complex organisation.

Headland can bring our sector and planning experience to your website brief

Published: 5 October 2015

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