admissions page makeover: less talk, more action.

A few weeks ago, our admission folks asked me to design a new landing page for a marketing push they were working on. Apparently the direction went so well, they asked if I could adapt it into the new admissions home page. Or they were trying to soften me up to get to the bigger project. In any event, the new page went live on Monday and shows the continuing evolution in how we handle web content.

As a writer, it’s hard for me to let go of graceful, compelling sentences full of descriptive adjectives, active verbs and strong nouns. Yet in high-level pages, it seems users have been more likely to click buttons, play videos, follow left-navigation links than click on inline links. And as Mary Beth Kurilko, one of the brighter minds in web writing, likes to say: If the opposite is ridiculous, why write it? Do any of our competitor schools NOT have outstanding professors, a range of academic programs and a desire to help students succeed? So perhaps this writing has always been cliche.

Here was our previous admissions page; I never thought of it as that bad, but always had room for improvement:

Even though it was less than a year old, you can see the incrementalism in it, as we kept adding one thing, then another, then another. The buttons were a nice addition at the time, but they ended up looking kind of strewn around the page. The virtual tour promotion came later. See all those contextual links? Our analytics found they weren’t terribly effective. Say, is that a July event still in our upcoming events list in September? Oh dear.

The new page is much simpler and more streamlined:


The incremental redesign’s new central emphasis is a two-minute admissions video. Below sit links for related videos, including an extended (~12 minute) version and introductions to our four colleges and schools. The buttons on the side emphasize actions that enrollment management would want to drive — take a virtual tour, schedule a campus visit, apply — and I also recommended a link to majors/minors since statistics show this is a popular link on any page it appears and since one of a student’s first questions is whether we have their program.

We generate the buttons via this site, which eases some crunch of not having a dedicated designer for our office. I’m on the fence as to whether six buttons is a lot; streamlining options is generally a good thing but if Admissions wants to start with six buttons and they all serve valid functions, I can’t argue. What we can do is look at the analytics after the initial push and see where people click and don’t click — and adjust accordingly.

I’m still trying to adjust to less writing, but short directive phrases (Update Status, Add Photo, Write Post) seem to work for Facebook, right? In any event, we’ll see how a new direction of less talk, more action works for us.

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7 Comments

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7 responses to “admissions page makeover: less talk, more action.

  1. Erik

    I’m in the middle of an admissions site overhaul – good food for thought here. I think I would agree with the new direction. Home pages are usually gateway pages, not destination pages. You want to give them a quick overview of what they can do here, as well as provide an initial impression.

    I also like Mary’s quote about the opposite being ridiculous – it’s so often true. I always assume that people will be skeptical when we talk highly of ourselves – as they should be. I try to have quotes from students and alumni backup those claims and add credibility.

    One brand strategist put it this way: if you say you’re cool, you aren’t. If you say you’re prestigious, you aren’t. These attributes have to be conferred upon you by your customers, from the outside.

  2. Love the honesty. I’m having the same realization that the most effective Web writing involves a lot of chopping.

  3. woychickdesign

    I think your admissions page evolution is a good one. We recently posted a satiric look at the inevitable (dare I say ridiculous) direction of the web: http://bit.ly/qJxIuB

    In all the usability testing we’ve ever done, it’s always struck me that site visitors are far less interested in all the stuff we think they’ll be or want them to be interested in. They generally want a specific piece of information or to accomplish a specific task. Eliminating barriers to satisfying those needs makes a lot of sense.

  4. Hey, Tim!

    Nice example of less is more (action). Less content is easier for visitors to use and navigate as well as for web owners to measure and maintain (your outdated “upcoming events” example is not uncommon). It’s a double win.

    Your project is a great exercise in prioritizing content. What is most important for Admissions to convey and what do visitors most want to know? It seems like you’re doing a good job figuring that out.

    I look forward to hearing about the results–analytics, of course, but also visitor feedback. What impression does the Admissions homepage leave with new visitors? Does the video serve your brand better than other content types? Cool discussion.

  5. Tim Nekritz

    ERIK: “if you say you’re cool, you aren’t. If you say you’re prestigious, you aren’t.” = EXACTLY! The more I review web copy I wrote years ago, the less relevant it seems. It’s like nervous conversation filling a lull at some kind of real-life gathering … it often makes one seem less interesting, not more interesting.

    ERIC: Yes, less is the new more.

    WCD: Sadly, if you hadn’t told me that was satire, I may have believed it. I can see the basic point but obviously sooner or later someone will need some actual answers or copy. Honestly, much of what one finds on upper-level pages are much navigational than necessary.

    RICK: I am always honored to receive such praise from someone I consider one of the top minds in content strategy. Indeed, looking at the results is quite an exciting prospect.

  6. We just redesigned our admission site at Butler University. We definitely tried to follow the less talk, more action rule. As you can see on http://www.butler.edu/admission, we’ve weaved social media and updated content throughout the site.

  7. Pingback: Doing Better By Doing Less « think + do

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