Have the proprietors of your neighborhood grocery store ever rearranged the shelves? You walk in with a shopping list in hand, but suddenly you can’t find the bread aisle — much less that obscure salad dressing your kids love.
It’s a familiar problem that’s caused by visual disruption. You expect a certain aesthetic and layout when you walk into your favorite supermarket, and when it doesn’t look the same, you feel disconnected and confused.
The same thing happens when your school lacks a cohesive web presence. Visitors land on the home page, then visit the section for the psychology department and wonder if they’ve been accidentally redirected to a different school’s site. That’s the last response you want to get from prospective students and donors.
Branding Is Everything
People access websites in numerous ways these days. They might log on from their desktop or laptop computers, but they’re just as likely to check out your school on their smartphones or tablets. While the vehicle might change, you want the experience to remain cohesive and consistent.
Branding isn’t just for car dealerships and clothing manufacturers. Your university website design should reflect your university’s brand in tone, layout, and voice. If every page of your site features a different color scheme, font choice, or layout, people won’t understand your brand — which puts your school in the danger zone.
As Higher Ed Live points out, a unified web presence doesn’t just make visual sense. It can also increase your search engine optimization results and enhance brand visibility.
You Want People to Return
You don’t want your school’s website design to turn off potential donors or students. You want your prospects to come back to your site at a later date, whether to investigate potential degree plans or to show their friends the school they might want to attend. If your design is haphazard, confusing, or out of line with your university’s brand, the first visit will likely be the last.
Kelly McKenzie of the Pittsburgh Business Times cautions that your design statement shouldn’t end with your school’s website. You’ll want to bring that same aesthetic to all of your electronic communications, including email marketing, if you want to create a positive and resonant impact.
If your various department heads are creating their own separate websites to promote their research or publish their students’ work, you have no control over the resulting design or format. Professionalism is highly important for creating positive user experiences. If one of your employees creates an unprofessional site and links it to your institution’s main site, the school’s reputation suffers.