You realize your institution's website needs a facelift - but it's still functioning, so any needed improvements get put on the back burner while available funds are used on other, seemingly more urgent, projects. How long can you put it off? Why is an up-to-date web presence so critically important? A new study by Digital Clarity Group (DCG), available for free download on our website, explains why colleges and universities need to prioritize their web presence as students' digital expectations are on a rapid rise.
As the 2015 E-Expectations report revealed, nearly 80% of college-bound students say that a campus website affects their perception of an institution. They are paying attention to your web presence and judging your school accordingly. Today's students have grown up with digital technology and their expectations of your website are high. To date, you might not feel an impact on your incoming freshman class, but as time passes the probability increases that an outdated website will have a significant impact.
According to DCG's study, titled Digital Transformation in Higher Education: How Content Management Technologies and Practices Are Evolving in the Era of Experience Management, "The tipping point - the time at which a change or an effect cannot be stopped - will occur when a higher education institution's inability to meet the digital expectations of today's education customers affects the quantity and quality of students enrolling in their programs. Once this happens, universities will be playing catch-up with leaders who have been willing to make bold investments."
Of course the best case scenario is being proactive early on and completely avoiding being a part of that tipping point. The Digital Transformation in Higher Education study revealed that institutions who are conscious of the necessity to update their websites sooner rather than later are motivated by the desire to:
- Enhance their online reputation
- Recruit the most desirable students from global populations
- Engage with students through other digital channels
Being aware of all of the above, how can any institution neglect investing in a much needed facelift for their website? Well, let's be real here. Higher education faces obstacles that other businesses don't. For a number of reasons, decision-making is a complex process and can take a long time. Achieving a consensus among a large number of departments with vastly different needs and goals is difficult. Not to mention the funding issue. Making a substantial financial investment is a challenge when budgetary concerns lead to uncertainty that can hamper long-term investments.
Taking all these hurdles into consideration, should you just give up and make the best of what you have? Absolutely not. The trick is to find ways to improve your digital presence while facing these issues. The Digital Transformation in Higher Education study closes with a checklist that has action items any school or university can take today. Recommendations include assessing readiness, looking forward when gathering recommendations for new content management technologies, rethinking relationships with implementation partners, and seeking digital leadership.
It's important to avoid being overwhelmed by the mammoth task of creating a modern, usable website. Take whatever action you can and find the service providers that can make the job easier and help you create a website that reflects your institution.