Education Marketing—Outside In, Not Inside Out

College websites are incredibly complex, containing massive amounts of information that must meet the needs of many different audiences and user types. All too often, this also means they’re extremely hard to navigate, which makes it that much harder to achieve the institution’s goals—including hitting enrollment targets.

Multiple Users Accessing An Education Website
Published: 5.10.2016

In our education marketing work, we frequently encounter college websites that are organized based on how the institution works and how internal stakeholders think about it: it’s organized from the inside out. 

To be successful, the website needs the exact opposite approach: organized based on the users, their objectives, and their information needs. In other words, organized from the outside in.

How do we turn this thinking on its head, and help our users find what they need?

In a previous post, we talked about identifying user needs and aligning them with the institution’s strengths to create a solid, successful education brand. Armed with a detailed content strategy and communications plan, now we’ll organize the website to meet those user needs.

Personas are powerful tools for putting the project team into the user’s mindset. We develop personas for each user type, and use them to drive our thinking in organizing site content, functionality, and form into an intuitive site architecture with defined user pathways organized around each user’s unique needs.

Next, we conduct user experience testing to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of our planned structure: how well does it meet the user’s needs? How easily are they able to complete tasks? Where does it fall short? How do they feel about the experience, and what’s their perception of the institution based on it? Once we understand this, we make adjustments to the architecture and user pathways.

The result is a clearly defined structure that makes sense to the college’s target audiences, supports both institutional and individual goals, and provides a flexible, extensible foundation for expansion over time. It’s also the framework for design and content, which we’ll explore in the next step.

Want to learn more? Let’s talk about bringing your education brand to life.

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