Tag Archives: web design

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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when a website goes live, it doesn’t go dead.

Over the weekend, we began rolling out the new web design for oswego.edu to a pretty good reception. The design portion of the project — from first comps to launch — took less than three months, an exceedingly short window in higher education, so it has been quite a rush. But throughout the process I’ve emphasized that the new look is only a first step.

Screenshot of new home page

What we really wanted was a look that was cleaner and less cluttered than the previous design, which had a lot of colors and tables and suffered the misfortune of aging the way anything does in seven years web time. The new look is a skin we’re putting over pages migrated into our new content management system, Ingeniux, which topped some 200 other contenders (when the CMS team started) in large part through ease-of-use for our nearly 300 campus editors. But it’s also a powerful CMS we’ll tap more in the future.

As we were tasked with having the new design up before the Admissions cycle heated up this month, and since we have a huge site with a short window to get this far, some of our old pages remain in our old look and CMS. We continue the migration, but people can still find pages with this look:

old career site

In the new site, we try to play up the use of large photos (500 px by 205 px) first proposed by the freelance designer who did the makeover. Feedback from more than 200 incoming students pointed toward a preference for simplicity and a strong visual sense. Adding components (reusable blocks of content) in the right side can help make our pages more dynamic:

new academics homeBut there’s much left to do. We had to make some hard decisions about what we could complete before relaunch, and what we knew would still need work. We don’t want to throw everything into Tales From Redesigned Land’s mythical Phase 2 black hole; we’d like to keep working hard to make the website better on a daily basis. Stewart Foss of eduStyle calls it incremental redesign, and I’m a big believer.

The phrase I use, blunt as it is: When a website goes live, it doesn’t go dead. Everyone working in the web, imho, should think that way. We’re always tweaking, editing, looking to improve. Every day is a new opportunity to make things better than the day before.

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