A recent comic from xkcd has really hit home with marketers and designers of college websites. It highlights how off-the-mark many university websites are when it comes to meeting prospective student needs. The comic highlights the particular problems with common features of university website homepages, but the same issues arise in many B2B and B2C websites.
The comic displays a Venn diagram with two overlapping circles: The first circle shows “the things on the front page of a university website“. The other circle shows “Things people go to the site looking for.”
The university “front page” circle has items such as: virtual tour, campus photo slide show, alumni in the news and a letter from the president. The what “people go the site looking for” circle has: application forms, academic calendar, department/course lists and a list of faculty phone numbers and emails.
The intersection of the two circles has only item: “full name of school.” The punchline is that the university marketing staff focuses more on what messages and information they want to push on to students instead of providing what students really want.
The lesson learned is that the features of your website should first and foremost be tailored to the needs of your website visitors. As a marketer or designer, you should make it easy for the website visitors to find the important information that they are looking for.
At Walker Sands, we’ve found that the most successful websites address the needs of their users first. As marketers and designers, you should try to accomplish this goal on every page of the website, not just on the homepage.
Once you’ve met the needs of the users, then you can highlight the messages and features you want the users to see and use. The trick is to prioritize what users need and make the higher priority items easiest to find. Figuring all this out before you begin the creative phase of your website project is key.
During web design projects, try to avoid having committees choose what’s important based upon their own opinions. Let end user surveys and other forms of market research determine what should be the easiest for users to find. Use this information to guide the committee’s decision making process.
If you have questions on how to make your website meet your user’s needs, drop a comment below or send us a message.