Aesthetic vs. Utility in Higher Ed Web Design

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Testimonials can be one of the most powerful admission tools you have at your disposal.

It’s one thing to tell prospects how great you are. It’s a whole other level of authenticity when your students describe their own experience with their own words.

Recently, I’ve seen some very impressive aesthetic displays of these stories on University websites. Commonly through a design I’d like to call the “Wall-of-Faces”. Dynamic, vibrant and elegantly coded walls of student faces, ready to share their video story the instant you click on the mouth you’d like to speak.

It is a work of beauty. And it makes no utilitarian sense.

Your visitors are presented with a grid of head shots to choose from – often with little or no context. “Do I select the student that looks most like me? Ok… I guess I’ll click on the Scandinavian-looking male….nope, he’s a biology major. And I want to study business.”

“It might be a good story, but it’s irrelevant to me.”

When you are creating videos, think about where you want them to live before you film them. Your “Wall-of-Faces” might be redeemed through context (major is more important than name/graduation year), or by making sure each story speaks broadly, high-level and to the masses.

But, if a specific story comes out when filming, make sure it lives on the specific page the story relates to. A student talking about your University through the lens of their experience in the Biology program probably makes the most sense on your Biology program page. Plus, check your analytics. More prospects are skipping right to their program of interest anyway, rather than pacing through the beautiful admission page funnels we set up for them.

It is getting much easier to create beautiful Web experiences. But, if our content goal is to share a great story, we need to make sure we put it where the right people can see it.

About the Author
Eric Olsen is the Web Content Manager for Lewis University, a mid-sized Catholic and Lasallian University near Chicago, IL. Follow Eric on Twitter.

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  • http://www.dotagency.co.uk/ Web Design

    “if our content goal is to share a great story, we need to make sure we put it where the right people can see it.” – I think this is the main idea for any website, you’re absolutely right