In the international education world, we often wear multiple hats. Week to week (or even minute to minute), we prioritize all kinds of tasks from strategic planning, risk management, advising, logistics, teaching cultural competency, communicating, marketing and more. Now that it’s summer, you might find yourself (finally!) finding time to dive into marketing and outreach revamps and planning. But projects outside of our regular wheelhouse can be overwhelming. What is most important? Where do I start? Who do I involve? What’s the best approach? How do I know my effort will be worth-while?

If you’re like most offices, you may not have the capacity to complete a full redesign of your website. Instead, you can still strategically upgrade existing content to better serve your main audience: prospective students. When approaching a website “audit,” start with data. Before you jump to learning HTML code and re-writing content, access your website analytics and ask yourself a few key questions:

  • Click-rates: What pages are users visiting the most? What pages do I want them to visit? Are my most important pages (applications, funding, deadlines, health and safety) being accessed? How does this information inform my prioritization of updating page content? How much time to people spend on pages per session? Where are they driven from?
  • Focus group: Most people want to find information online in four clicks or less. What information do you want your users to be able to find? What information do your users want to find? Set up a focus group of students or new users that are not familiar with your website. Have them try to find information and take note of their pathway to finding it. Is your website “map” intuitive? Are they able to quickly find information? What content do they skim past? Are any pages overwhelming? Are you meeting the expectations of your user? What are websites that you like? Why do you like them?

Once you have a realistic idea of your user experience, begin to prioritize where you need to make edits, remove excess, and fill in content holes.

Have a page you’re ready to edit? Decide the goals of your website to drive your editing priorities.  To better reach students, consider if your content is transparent, consistent, accurate, concise, intuitive to find, and if it conveys a clear “call to action.” In other words, what is the user’s next step? Is the website promoting the next phase easily? You may be surprised (and possibly relieved!) to learn that most students are still making decisions and finding out about options from face time. It is perfectly acceptable (and encouraged!) to simplify your website and instead drive students to come in for advising.

Summer projects, especially big ones like website editing, can be overwhelming. Honor the risk involved and embrace change!