Your higher education institution likely has several goals and requirements in mind when building and maintaining your website. Students, staff, donors, job seekers, parents, community members—everyone has a reason to interact with you there. Your audience is used to polished, easy-to-navigate online spaces and a mediocre website negatively affects their perception of you. It’s never been more important to nail your website’s design.

The numbers don’t lie:

  • 53% of mobile viewers will abandon a site if they have a poor mobile experience.
  • 65% of institutions require online donors to click at least three or more times to make a gift
  • 40% of people abandon a website that takes more than 3 seconds to load

Consider the experience you expect when visiting a website. Your audience is no different. If your site is not engaging or doesn’t provide clear information, your visitors will click away. Here are six ways to make sure your institution’s website makes the cut.

  1. Design Your Website for Your Target Audience

Your website should address the needs of your target audience while augmenting your institution’s goals. Great websites manage to pull that off while lighting a spark of something more: curiosity, loyalty, engagement. To get there, focus on what brings people to your site and how you can create a great experience for them.

  1. Share What Makes You Unique

What do you want people to learn about your institution when they visit your website? Who are your students? Staff? Alumni? Professors? Use photos, stories, videos, charts, graphs—whatever it takes to cement your value, tell your story and demonstrate your unique personality. A website that authentically says who you set you apart from the competition.

  1. Make it Easy to Navigate

How many times have you visited a website, only to click away when you couldn’t find what you were looking for? If a website takes too long to load, it isn’t searchable or lacks logical organization, your audience will bolt. Invest in web architecture designed to be pleasing and intuitive to use. If you don’t have it, consider user experience testing to let you know where you could do better.

  1. Have a Call To Action

What do you want people to do after they visit your website? Most organizations would like a sign-up, a donation, or an email address. Make your stated goal easy for visitors to accomplish: use calls to action to signify the next steps and guide the behavior you want your audience to take.

  1. Update Content Regularly

No one likes visiting a website that looks like it was last updated 10 years ago—and Google doesn’t either. It’s important to keep your website fresh and updated with new content so that it appears higher in search engine results and provides users with relevant, timely information.

  1. Use Responsive Design

Responsive design is no longer optional. Mobile users make up an increasingly powerful segment of your web audience and they will expect your website to work on their device, or they’ll go elsewhere. Losing mobile users significantly diminishes the strength of your site.

Web design matters because it can reflect how your institution operates, and ultimately how your audience feels about you. Gone are the days of text-heavy, slow-loading websites. Having modern, updated design features and functionality has become a sign of credibility. Don’t get left behind.