3 university web design pitfalls to avoid

It’s pretty understandable why university websites are so easy to get wrong.  The university website has so many masters to serve; current students need to be kept in the loop, alumni donations need to be collected and above all universities need the website to direct potential students to relevant information and also provide them with an accurate reflection of the institution’s brand. 

With so many duties to fulfil it’s easy for the university website to become cluttered with information and for the overall message to be lost in translation.

Universities are a haven for talent, creativity and research and yet unoriginality and outdated designs are rife among their websites.  

Prospective students make split-second decisions when visiting a university website. A website that is difficult to search or that isn’t responsive (when using a mobile device) can cause potential students to become frustrated and ultimately decide to take their business elsewhere.

A great university website should provide users with a positive experience. It should feature an attractive design, informative content and most of all be easy to use.

We’ve listed three website design pitfalls that every university really needs to avoid:

1.  Back to the 90’s

The 90’s was the decade that brought us Sony Play stations, Nintendo game boys and Tamagotchis. Sure, we all feel nostalgic from time to time but it’s important to not let your love of this decade cloud your web design judgement. In the (hopefully) unlikely chance that your university website looks as though it was designed using a Commodore 64 and has any of the following features, seek expert advice immediately:

  • Flash intros
  • Sections ‘Under Construction’
  • Novelty fonts
  • Browser restrictions
  • Questionable Clipart
  • Background images with text sitting on top of it
  • Clunky table based layout

Web design is constantly changing and ever evolving so it can quickly become outdated, what seemed ahead of the curve a year or 2 ago can quickly seem old fashioned.

For universities and colleges, who rely so assuredly on their website to attract prospective students, an advanced and modern website is an absolute must. The idea of implementing a redesign might seem daunting but having an overall web strategy (that includes a web content management system) can make the process a whole lot easier. 

2.  Attack of the clones 

If you were to randomly select and visit 20 university websites, how many do you think would stand out and stop you in your tracks? The current reality is that most university websites feature designs that are in essence pretty similar to each other. You know what we mean, the smiling images of ‘invasion of the body snatchers’ students, the obligatory splash of the school’s colors and of course the use of JavaScript drop down menus.

Take advantage of your website to showcase what your university has to offer by incorporating the following:

  • Simple design that stands out and creates a strong first impression
  • Quality photography that evoke a powerful and emotional response
  • Identify the name of your university clearly on each page
  • Strong visual experience on all pages not just the home page
  • Easy to use navigation system that allows users to readily find the information they need
  • Creative video tours for prospective students
  • Responsive design for mobile access

3. Minimal not invisible

It’s one thing to have a minimal and clean design but having a website that’s so minimal users struggle to find the information they’re searching for is another thing entirely. The idea of stripping your website back to include just the bare essentials is certainly desirable from a design standpoint. The key here, however, is ensuring that usability isn’t affected; a minimalist site should increase usability not hinder it.

 If considering opting for a minimalist design, work from the beginning and decide what information you need to include, instead of removing information from your current site.

There are so many considerations when designing a university website and so many departments and functions to satisfy, however avoiding some rudimentary design mistakes and opting for a modern, user friendly website that showcases creativity can help schools achieve optimum student recruitment numbers.