5 Ways to Improve Your Website

Last October, the first phase of the redesigned UM-Flint website was launched. The website’s home page and audience pages were rolled out with a new design and structure. Since then, we’ve been working diligently toward transitioning the rest of the site. Work has been done with departments like Graduate Programs, Undergraduate Admissions, and the International Center, but progress has been very gradual. Now, as we search for a new Front-End Developer, the redesign process is at a bit of a stand-still.

But, there’s good news! There’s much more to a good website than aesthetics, and there is plenty you can do to improve your website right now.

Don’t Wait

No matter what your department’s website looks like, one thing holds true: Your website is important!

Your website is a virtual front door to your department. What you present may make the difference in a student’s choice of major, or even choice of school. The Noel-Levitz 2011 E-Expectations Report found that one in five students removes a school from consideration because of a bad experience on a website. What constitutes a “bad experience?” One major factor is bad content–outdated, unclear, or non-existent information.

5 Things You Can Do Now

You don’t have to wait for a redesign to take a look at your site’s content. The content on your website should be refreshed and reevaluated constantly. While you’re waiting for the redesign of umflint.edu to reach your department, here are five things you can do right away to improve your website.

1. Update your content. Web content related to events or programming becomes outdated quickly. Find the dated information on your site. Is it up-to-date? Is there an event schedule for the upcoming academic year instead of last year? Looking further, is the information about your program or department still accurate? Is your staff directory current? Keeping your content updated should be your first priority when it comes to the web.

2. Refresh your content. Now that your content is current, can it be better? Is the language clear? Are you presenting information that your audience is interested in? How can it be made more compelling or engaging?

3. Take advantage of your resources. Nearly any photo or video you can imagine is available for use on your website. All UM-Flint faculty, staff, and students have access to MediaBin, the university’s central location for approved photos, logos, and other digital media. You can also find videos for embedding on the UM-Flint YouTube channel.

4. Eliminate unnecessary pages. Does your website contain pages with only a few sentences? Often, pages like these can be eliminated and the content grouped with other relevant content. For example, an “About” section with subpages for maps, contact information, and a staff directory could easily be condensed into one page with three sections. Visitors don’t want to click seven levels down into your website to find what they’re looking for.

5. Check your website’s navigation. When you click on a page within your site, is it clear where that page lives within your site structure? Is it easy for a visitor to get back to the start? Are the subpages in your navigation relevant to their parent pages? Take some time trying to navigate your site and see how easy it is to get around. Better yet, ask someone else to click around and see what they say. Then, when you find glitches, fix them.

More important than a website’s color scheme or graphic treatment is its functionality. Your website provides information and instruction to prospective and current students, faculty, staff, alumni, and community members. All the pretty fonts in the world won’t replace good content. The best thing you can do for your website is to make sure your content is up-to-date, easy to navigate, and useful for your audience.