As a university or college registrar, you know how important your website is for engaging with your students and their parents, as well as your staff and faculty. Your web presence has become a key tool not only for communication with constituents but also for service delivery, especially now as the pandemic continues. That’s why we’ve put together some best practice resources for you to help ensure your site is everything it should be.
Making More Information Accessible
In this AACRAO For the Record podcast, Grand Valley State University Associate Registrar Dan Vainner and Associate Director, Student information & Services Jason Cronkrite shared how they used analytics, an iterative development cycle, and creativity to transform their website, adding more functionality, communication, and information. (All mixed with a bit of fun.)
According to Dan and Jason, GVSU began their website revamp by using Google Analytics to determine traffic patterns and gauging user interests, while looking at site content and design with an eye toward making information more accessible. The registrars also defined their targeted groups (students, parents, staff, and faculty) and desired calls to action (how to get transcripts, future academic calendars, promotional videos, and more).
Their goal was to improve the student experience and reduce the burden on administrative staff (who could then focus on other issues). This led to what GVSU calls the Pyramid of Power for Web Presence: content, layout, consistency, features, and creativity.
Building Relationships Across Campus
One key to a successful website revamp, according to GVSU, is working with your institutional marketing, web, and IT teams. And don’t forget your own frontline staff who are familiar with routine problems. At GVSU, the greatest ideas come from collaboration, like creating a registration bingo game around one-credit classes to drive participation.
With help from their colleagues, Dan and Jason learned that plain English conversational sentences about the content of a page works best for SEO. And plain text links for a shorter URL helps users find information easier. Check these sites for web design and content creation tips.
The Results: Ongoing Improvements, Growing Audience
Using products like CMS 4 and Camtasia, the new site was launched within 2-3 months. One addition Dan and Jason called out was creating a secure faculty login for data requests and resources like student grader training. Want to be inspired? Check out the GVSU Registrar website.
As a result of updating their site, GVSU saw a 41% growth in website views. For them, their ongoing monitoring and improvement has led to ongoing growth.
Once your website is initially revamped, you move into maintenance mode, an ongoing process of reviewing results, identifying trends, and making further improvements. The GVSU registrars recommend that your department could benefit from having a communication director or other dedicated resources to help actively manage these tasks on a weekly basis.
Even with a basic foundational level of information out there, the registrar’s office significantly reduced phone calls. By putting answers on the site, students and parents can take care of problems themselves (which they most likely prefer). GVSU has continued to reduce administrative burden, expand their audience, and receive positive feedback.
Some Key Best Practices From GVSU
- It’s about more than your website – it’s about your web presence, which includes social media.
- Site analytics help you to determine what needs improving or simply fine tuning.
- Your content development is the foundation from which to build.
- Relationships with institution communication, marketing, web, and IT teams makes the process easier and the end product better.
- Working to both inform and entertain increases engagement. So, have some fun.
Last (but not least), here’s a tip from Parchment: Speed is a big SEO factor for sites. Milliseconds add up for Google when it’s scanning millions of websites daily. So, time is money when you think of server resources. Give Google a fast website to scan, and you’ll be rewarded with a positive search engine ranking.