Your website reflects the essence of your institution, and first impressions can be as critical to success. A well-designed site gives prospective students an authentic view of your school’s offerings while keeping all members connected with current happenings.
Higher education institutions can foster meaningful and lasting connections with their target audience with the right website design. Through targeted content tailored to each user’s needs, universities create a strong presence that speaks directly to those they wish to engage – from prospective students looking for information on admissions to faculty searching for career opportunities. An effective web design works hard 24/7, so educational organizations are free to attend to other tasks to provide quality learning experiences!
In this article, we’ll provide you with some tips on how to design a higher education website that’s attractive, easy-to-navigate, and optimized for search engines. From content organization to site architecture, we’ll cover all the essential elements of a successful higher education website. So, read on to find out how you can create a website that stands out and brings in more students!
Higher Education Website Design: 10 Tips to Grow Your University
It is crucial for marketers to determine the most effective higher-ed website design that not only makes browsing easier for visitors but also purposeful for the institution. Professionals establish that several aspects, including navigation, ease of use, aesthetical elements, dynamic content, etc., can all affect the buying decision. Through the incorporation of recruitment strategies for students, higher education websites can become more effective tools for connecting schools with their desired student body.
This blog will discuss the top 10 higher education website design tips with examples from which you can take inspiration.
1. User Journey and User Experience
The user experience defines how students navigate your website and how they use its various features. Browsing through courses, signing up for webinars, and using the contact form all fall within the user experience.
Kanopi Studios identified in an earlier publication that higher education website design is now focusing on simpler, leaner design aesthetics. Target audiences, which can include everyone from students and parents to teachers, demand more value through content, with demands for a personalized journey for every visitor.
One of the unique examples of personalization comes from the University of London website, which offers remarkable accessibility tools. The tools offer two prominent features, including a toolbar to read the text for disabled users and change the language for international visitors.
In addition, the website offers excellent personalization through its collapsable and highly detailed navigation designed for all its target personas. There is a clear and well-planned user journey that encourages actions through its various sections, like the Find a Course to Study search bar and Foundation Day 2022 news.
The call to action is, if we notice closely, compelling. Actionable text is fused with a deep orange color which is considered a popular color that online users click. Professionals discuss that to grow conversions, your CTA must have a vibrant color that should preferably match your university website design color palette.
You will also notice how clean & ordered the main navigation is and how detailed the footer navigation is. Not only does it make the website design simpler, but the content is more valuable within the collapsable navigation. The University of London website also offers an optimized mobile version equipped with full desktop site features.
2. Storytelling with Content
Content is the most powerful tool to help higher education marketing teams craft meaningful stories around their brands. The idea of the stories is to engage and attract students to choose the unique experience of your university or college.
Creating unique videos, webinars, life-on-campus feeds, and other content that allows audiences to view life from the outside is a crucial part of every university’s marketing strategy. Here is an excellent example of storytelling by the University of Sheffield in their latest introductory video:
Remember that your storytelling is the starting point of a higher education lead-generation campaign. The purpose is to educate users, build trust, and convince them through visual, written, and spoken content to choose your university.
3. Communicating your Brand Identity
GatherContent identified in their college website design ideas that focus on the brand identity, which includes the institutional mission, vision, and values, is the sixth most crucial aspect in the higher education sector.
Branding in higher education aims to demonstrate to students and teachers what they will achieve from being part of your academic institution. One of the most remarkable examples of communicating brand identity, values, and mission across the website is from the prestigious MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology).
The mission of MIT is to advance knowledge, solve real-life problems and serve the country through its highly progressive expertise. You will notice the same mission across almost all MIT website pages with inspiring content like “pushing the boundaries of knowledge”, “highest standards of integrity, intellectual and creative excellence,” and “a culture of learning by doing”.
At MIT, the administrators want to inspire creativity and innovation by researching, learning, and practical application of ideas. Teachers even demonstrate this by discussing ideas and research theses that generate curiosity among students.
4. Create Visual Content
Modern school website design ideas are heavily inclined toward real-life visuals from the institution. These real-life photos and videos depict memorable moments from student life, interactions, and events at the university.
You may have already noticed a large number of real-life images of university campuses, accommodations, labs, libraries, and even classrooms in the home page banners, like the one in the University of London above.
Visual content in higher education website designs is an excellent way to let prospective students imagine themselves in those alluring situations. Marketers discuss that the most effective visuals are those that are genuine, delightful, and not dramatized.
The New York University is one of the most creative examples of visual content, including videos, images, and gifs found across the website.
Inclusive of bold header images reflecting the life around the university, you will also notice the use of real-life visuals from the classrooms and campus life laid across the website.
The university also offers a virtual tour like the one we already analyzed above from Sheffield. The use of great visuals and the focus on the dark purple color are also quite noticeable in the video.
5. Easy Switch From Desktop to Mobile
One of the essential higher education marketing trends to consider when evaluating the design of your website is its ability to switch from desktop to mobile. Popular research has already identified that 92.1% of users access the internet through mobile devices, while a massive 59.6% of website users browse through smartphones.
Therefore, optimizing your website to easily switch from mobile to desktop mode and vice versa is a vital usability aspect that higher education marketers cannot avoid.
6. Improve Accessibility and Usability
Two of the most critical best practices that can make or break even the most outstanding university website design are its accessibility and usability. Ease of use and accessibility options are also regarded as one of the top higher education SEO tips to enhance the experience of visitors.
Accessibility, as we discussed on the University of London website above, is some of the most integral tools to enhance engagement with audiences who have physical impairments. Issues like color blindness, a broken limb, eyesight issues, etc., can be overcome through user-friendly tools like the one deployed by the University of London.
A great way to keep your college website design in sync with the latest accessibility trends, professionals suggest following the WCA Guidelines (Web Content Accessibility Guidelines). These standards were designed to establish a universal code of website accessibility features.
7. Appealing to Your Audience
An important tip for quality higher education website design is to choose the design and aesthetics that appeals to your audience. Leaving visitors with a positive feeling about your website is a great way to retain them and encourage them to make a certain decision.
For example, the color emotion guide from the Logo Company establishes the effect of different colors that brands inhibit in their customer’s minds. Similarly, you will notice a large number of higher education website designs that include blue color to instill trust within the audience.
As you may have noticed above, the colors and themes of websites become parts of the unique brand identity. It is a great idea to research within the target audience the aesthetic elements that they love in higher education websites to really make a compelling design.
8. Tell Them Where to Go
Allowing your website visitors to perform guided actions through an intuitive buyer journey is always an excellent tactic. An excellent university website design includes CTAs with vibrant colors, and the button enlarges when users hover over them.
This creative buyer journey that tells users where to go can be a significant tip to enhance campaign goals like increasing enrollments, growing inquiries, triggering more downloads, etc.
One of the ideal examples of guiding users to take a particular action includes the very well-designed University of Austin Texas website. Every CTA and link, when hovered on, takes a darker shade enticing the user to click and discover more.
An excellent way to guide prospective students to make recommended decisions around your website requires a strategic marketing funnel. Creating a flow for users to learn first and then take informed actions. This admissions enrollment funnel can help prospective students become more familiar with your institution and programs, leading to higher chances of conversion. Perhaps you’d find it helpful.
9. Let Your Brand Talk Through Text
A great deal of effort goes into your website content & copy, so make sure your messaging is reflected in your website design. Higher ed web design is all ready required to offer more white spaces. Therefore using these spaces to convey your messages is extremely important.
A great deal of focus should be on choosing the right font, size, color, and layout within the page design. Professionals recommend that a minimalist approach for text is usually ideal, with san-serif fonts that are thin and provide character spacing as the best ones.
University website designs should offer a bold look, claim 99design. The website should be full of design elements, including photos and colors, while the text should be thick and cover larger screen areas. The University of California San Diego offers the ideal example of a quality higher education website design.
In addition to its creative white spaces, the addition of imagery, san-serif text, and great spacing allows users to concentrate more on the text. Notice great text placement is necessary to inspire readers to both enjoy the image and read the text with clarity. There are some fantastic higher education website personalization ideas you can view in our previous blog also.
10. Avoid Dark Patterns in UI
Dark patterns, and marketing professional identity, are deceptive elements intentionally embedded in the website user interface to trick users to make unwanted actions. This can be a trick to signup people to newsletters, marketing materials, or pay for a product they didn’t order.
Researchers have discovered dark UI patterns previously within higher education website design, but modern school website design ideas look beyond even the most subtle ones, claim KanopiStudios.
Since dark patterns are unliked by users and are considered deceptive by search engines, it is ideal for removing such elements to instil trust within website users.
We already know that website design is one of the primary factors that users decide to leave a website and never return.
In a competitive industry like edtech and higher education services, having a sleek and attractive website is necessary to grow both as a brand and as a business. Attracting students with appealing design, colors, content, and holistic digital experiences is a prerequisite of success for higher-ed websites.
If all this seems too challenging to manage, reach out to us. At ThinkOrion, we know that a good higher education website design is super important to build trust and attract potential students. That’s why we offer comprehensive higher-ed marketing services that focus on helping our clients reimagine their website designs. With our help, competitors will no longer overshadow your College or university. We’ll also use our industry insights and knowledge to craft high-performing digital campaigns that easily captivate people’s attention and draw them toward your higher-ed institute.