The Mount's Approach to Building the Website
Websites — nearly every organization has one. In the fast-paced, technology savvy world in which we live, websites are essential for reaching people. The need for a great website is as important in the for-profit arena as the nonprofit, and that includes higher education.
The website is often where a student gets to know about a college. When we at the Mount began discussing the rebuilding of the Mount’s website, we knew that in order to capture the interest of students, the site didn’t just need to look great, it needed to be easy-to-use on all devices, and provide valuable, fresh content.
Considering the Audience First
Interviews were conducted with members of the College community, including admissions counselors, those who work with first-year students, faculty, staff, and students. We spent time digging into analytics data, learning what the audiences looked for on the site, and defined our main audience – prospective students, Mount alums and parents of students. This focus allowed us to tailor the site to their specific needs.
We set out to make it easier for our audience to move around the site and find answers to their questions. We reorganized the site, edited and rewrote text, and ended up with a leaner and more manageable website.
“When prospective students come to our website, they want to find the information they’re looking for easily and quickly. The rebuilt website will make that possible with user-friendly functionality and content organization that makes sense,” says Amy Gamble, senior admissions counselor and member of the core project team for the site rebuild.
A Fresh Design
Sparkbox was selected to redesign the Mount’s website after months of research. The company is a small team of people working in a renovated space in Dayton, Ohio. They specialize in front-end consulting, design and development, building responsive websites that possess both brains and beauty.
For the look of the site, the Sparkbox team drew inspiration from the Mount’s existing marketing materials. The site features clear, easy-to-read type, with bold headlines that capture readers’ attention. The look of the site is welcoming, yet collegiate and professional, without appearing stuffy.
Designing for Mobile Devices
Over the last year we watched as mobile traffic from smart phones and tablets increased by over three times, making up nearly one tenth of our overall visits. Instead of building an app, or a mobile-specific site to accommodate mobile traffic, we decided to use responsive web design to make our site look great and work well on every device, no matter the size.
Responsive Web design works using media queries. Lines of code determine the current width of the site, and adapt the appearance to look great at that width. This means elements of the site may drop down on the page, or change in appearance slightly for greater emphasis. Photos may resize to fill space, and type may get larger or smaller to improve readability. It all happens seamlessly, and most audiences don’t even notice the change. They just have a great experience on the site.
A unique element of the rebuilt site is the navigation, or links used to browse the site. We provide the user on a mobile device a unique navigation that allows them to access the entire site as easily as a user on a desktop computer.
Telling the College's Story
A great-looking, usable website is nothing without engaging content that captures the audience’s attention. That’s why when we rebuilt our site, we knew it needed a content management system and strategy that made it easy for members of the Mount community to share the latest news and updates from their part of campus.
So we opened the site up to faculty, staff and students so they could help tell the Mount’s story by posting regular updates to the website. These updates would then be automatically distributed throughout the site, lending deeper insight and providing more information for our audience.
Have a look around the new site. Explore, kick the tires, and tell us what you think. After all, we built it for you.