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Content Management, Web Design

Best College Websites: What These Schools Did Right

Ready for a website redesign? See how these best college websites and best university websites are maximizing their web pages to reach prospective students.

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University of North Carolina School of the Arts: Best Award-Winning Design


From a succinct, on-point message to dynamic videos, the University of North Carolina School of the Arts (UNCSA) draws prospective students into their website then provides them with pathways to their chosen topics.

University of North Carolina School of the Arts has one of the best university websites because of its messaging and dynamic visuals.
University of North Carolina School of the Arts has an award-winning design with several striking features.

 

What makes this one of the best university websites?

UNCSA uses full-screen images that give prospective students insight into what it feels like to attend. And they don’t stop with pictures. A variety of pathways that students can click through lead them to information specific to their desired topic.

UNCSA achieves this by:

  • Keeping content simple
  • Making content direct
  • Ensuring content is easy to follow

These design elements combine to make the University of North Carolina School of the Arts’ award-winning website.

 

Murray State University: Best Easy-Access Calendar


College and university campuses struggle with calendars because there are so many events—and they are changing all the time. Consequently, many schools resort to using a boring calendar listing to advertise. Murray State University solved this problem with an easy-access calendar that transforms events into a beautiful tiled page.

The best college websites feature easy-access calendars like this one from Murray State University.
The best college websites feature easy-access calendars like this one from Murray State University.

 

What makes this one of the best university websites?

Murray State University’s website calendar entries feature:

  • Date
  • Title
  • Description of the event
  • Cost
  • Images when available

Upon clicking through to the unique event page, site visitors can choose to add the event to their personal calendar. The best part of Murray State University’s calendar is that it is accessible from the home page.

Website calendars are an effective way for colleges and universities to keep their students aware and involved and to help prospective students imagine what their life would be like on your campus. A good website calendar should integrate with your web content management system (CMS) and allow for multiple contributors. Seek a vendor that offers a CMS and calendar module that work seamlessly together.

 

University of Alabama: Best Website Hype Video


“Life doesn’t just give out Pulitzers or championships. Greatness takes work, grit, and perseverance. And this is only the beginning.
The University of Alabama… Where Legends Are Made.”

Academics, athletics, relationships, networks… There’s enough inspiration and hype in this 30-second video to send students in droves to the application page.

Building on their legacy of championships in football, the University of Alabama’s Legends video series highlights the university’s accomplishments across campus.

 

What makes this one of the best university websites?

The University of Alabama’s hype video has all the common characteristics of videos found on the best university websites, including:

  • Compelling voiceovers
  • Footage of students actively participating on campus
  • A variety of campus activities
  • Inspiring music or sound in the background

Looking to create your own hype video? Remember that the best videos appeal to a prospective student’s senses and emotion.

 

Harper College: Best Interactive Course Catalog


Course descriptions, credit class schedule, student handbook… It’s all found on one page
on Harper College’s website. A click to the course descriptions takes students to a dropdown box for each area of study. Another click and all classes in the area of study appear with detailed information about credits and prerequisites. 

The best college websites like Harper College’s include an interactive catalog that has all the information a student needs to register for courses.
The best college websites like Harper College’s include an interactive catalog that has all the information a student needs to register for courses.

 

What makes this one of the best college websites?

Harper College takes it a step further than their current course catalog. Their catalog home page includes:

  • “Ask a Question” box
  • Well-placed button as a call to action to apply
  • Link to older editions of the catalog
  • Credit class schedule

As a bonus, a comprehensive navigation bar provides quick links to related areas such as apprenticeship programs, academic divisions, and learning communities.

A good course catalog should integrate with your CMS and allow you to build the infrastructure you need for a dynamic website.

 

Western Kentucky University: Best Virtual College Tour


These days, students are applying to several colleges—and many are located several hours away. This makes it essential for university and college websites to have dynamic virtual college tours of their school online.

The best virtual college tours like Western Kentucky University’s give students tools and resources to gain a better understanding of all the school offers.
The best virtual college tours like Western Kentucky University’s give students tools and resources to gain a better understanding of all the school offers.

 

What makes this one of the best university websites?

The Western Kentucky University website boasts a virtual tour with an interactive map that features:

  • Photographs of locations
  • Descriptions of locations with links to additional information
  • A search box that allows students to search by description, title, or category

Being able to see the layout of campus, interact with a map, and learn the history of campus landmarks helps students see themselves as a fit for your school.

 

Stony Brook University: Best Page for Attracting Boosters


Stony Brook University
recognizes alumni and boosters as an essential audience for their website. 

The best university websites feature a comprehensive boosters page like Stony Brook University’s that makes alumni and friends feel at home.
Alumni and friends feel at home on Stony Brook University’s comprehensive boosters page.

 

What makes this one of the best university websites?

Stony Brook’s slogan for their alumni and friends page, “Far Beyond Giving,” emphasizes ways beyond donating that alumni and boosters can engage and connect beyond college. This includes:

  • A calendar specific to events of interest to alumni and boosters
  • Reunion news
  • Homecoming information
  • Online newsletter
  • Perks exclusive to Stony Brook alumni

Stony Brook works hard to include alumni long after they graduate, a strategy that no doubt pays off during capital campaign time.

 

Pasadena College: Best Easy-to-Use Admissions Page


Even though Pasadena College reviews 40,000+ applications each year, their college admissions process is as easy as 1-2-3, with pathways specific to each student’s journey.

The best college websites like Pasadena College’s boast an easy-to-use admissions page that clearly delineates the steps for admission.
There’s no room for guessing on Pasadena College’s easy admissions page. The steps are clearly delineated, making it easy for prospective students to figure out their admissions path.

 

What makes this one of the best college admissions websites?

College admissions websites should ask: What type of student are you? Pasadena College does this by including all student options:

  • First Time College Student
  • Returning PCC Student
  • Concurrent Enrollment
  • Previous College Student
  • Noncredit Student
  • International Student

Additionally, Pasadena College addresses frequent questions right on the page, such as open enrollment, eligibility, and whether there are special programs for the disabled and veterans.

 

California State University Channel Islands: Best Emergency Messaging


A good web CMS will have an emergency alert module that allows colleges and universities to communicate quickly and easily with their varied audiences. California State University Channel Islands learned this lesson last year when fires swept through the area.

The best university websites have an emergency alert system to notify students and the community of school closures like the one at California State University Channel Islands.
California State University Channel Islands notified its community about school closures by posting an emergency alert to the home page of its website.

 

What makes this one of the best university websites?

California State University Channel Islands’ website emergency alerts system makes it easy to:

  • Publish high visibility announcements that can be pushed out to social media platforms
  • Post an alert while on the go if necessary due to its mobile-first design
  • Manage alerts via a stand-alone mobile interface, meaning someone in campus security doesn’t have to be trained in how to use the full CMS or module
  • Create authority levels so you can designate who can post alerts

You won’t appreciate the full value of having an emergency alerts system in place—until you need it.

 

Morehouse School of Medicine: Best Comprehensive News and Events


Busy students, faculty, and administrators have little time for catching up on college and university news, so Morehouse School of Medicine designed a page that makes it easy to keep up with events and current news.

The best college websites provide all current news and events on one convenient web page like Morehouse School of Medicine’s News and Events page.
Morehouse School of Medicine provides all current news and events on one convenient web page.

 

What makes this one of the best college websites?

The Morehouse News Center features:

  • Current news stories with links
  • The Morehouse calendar
  • Feeds from social media platforms
  • Comprehensive search by topic or date
  • An archive of stories
  • An image gallery
  • Links to school publications

No more hunting for information with the all-in-one News Center at Morehouse.

 

Franklin Pierce University: Best Messaging Using Hero Image Slider


Rather than choose one story to highlight, Franklin Pierce University maximizes use of the hero image slider by presenting several prominent news stories in a large area at the top of their home page.

The best university websites include home pages with hero image sliders that spotlight all the top stories like the slider used by Franklin Pierce University.
When you can’t decide what story should receive top priority on your web page, take a cue from Franklin Pierce University and display them all using a hero image slider.

 

What makes this one of the best university websites?

A hero image slider like the one used by Franklin Pierce University lets you speak to several audiences at once:

  • Academics
  • Athletics
  • Alumni
  • Donors
  • Prospective Students
  • Current Students
  • Parents
  • Faculty

Choose colorful, appealing images, to-the-point text, and provide a link on each image so the viewer can get more information if desired.

 

Juniata College: Best Storytelling


Juniata College
speaks directly to a prospective student: “Become the Author of Your Own Powerful Story.” Immediately, students are drawn into the site and encouraged to explore the post-graduate successes of the Class of 2018.

The best college websites like Juniata College’s use storytelling that draws in prospective students by encouraging them to consider how they will tell their own story.
The story of Juniata College is unique for each student. That’s why the school immediately tries to draw in prospective students by encouraging them to consider how they will tell their story at Juniata.

 

What makes this one of the best college websites?

Juniata College masters the use of storytelling techniques and carries the theme through by:

  • Relating to the reader: in this case, prospective students
  • Providing stories of recent Juniata graduates
  • Engaging prospective students to consider what they can do with a Juniata degree
  • Providing a prominent “Apply” button so that students can begin their journey at Juniata
  • Using an informal, conversational tone to build intimacy with the reader

The emotional edge of Juniata College’s website depicts a familiar, welcoming campus that prospective students feel a part of even when online.

 

Conclusion

How does your school’s website compare to these best college websites? If it’s clear that your school’s website needs a refresh or complete redesign, check out these additional resources:

Or, if you are ready to embark on a redesign project and know that you need a powerful CMS in place, schedule a demo.

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