If you ask anyone in higher education, they’ll tell you that the industry is experiencing a radical shift. Online learning environments have become the norm, with competition reaching all-time highs. Because of this, a university’s website design and online presence is more important than ever before.
And it all starts with the website. That’s why the University of Cincinnati Online enlisted Vital to help them revamp their website (online.uc.edu) to improve the user experience, back-end functionality, and overall look and feel.
Specifically, these were the key goals for the new website:
- Showcase their programs in an accessible and flexible format.
- Create a dedicated community for online learning.
- Foster collaboration among alumni, businesses, educational and community partners to fuel ongoing innovation.
- Create an enhanced, user-friendly look and feel so prospective students can navigate easily and convert into applicants quicker.
- Run on a platform that is as easy to manage on the back-end as it is for users to navigate on the front-end.
Here are some of the key updates made to the website:
To satisfy their requirements and gain a competitive edge in the cutthroat world of online degree programs, Vital built UC Online’s new website using WordPress for maximum scalability, flexibility, and security.
Using WordPress allowed us to prioritize UC Online’s website goals and address their pain points while also creating a unique CMS experience that allows them to internally manage and update all site content.
An Enhanced, User-Friendly Look & Feel
As noted in our original research on university website design problems, a cohesive design across all related program and degree options is crucial for user experience.
UC Online’s previous website had 300+ web pages that were divided among several third-party sites, as well as ever-expanding program offerings. So, to improve organization and user experience, we helped UC Online identify the pages that could be consolidated so they could deliver their message, values, and offerings more effectively and concisely.
From there, it was necessary to categorize programs and degrees appropriately and to expand on detail pages to ensure that website visitors could find the information they needed to move from prospective student to applicant.
- Program navigation: Degree offerings were slightly buried in the previous site. Now when users hover over the mega navigation, they can easily self-identify by seeing every program and degree.
- Program detail pages: When considering a degree program, prospective students need as much information as possible. We expanded on UC Online’s program pages by adding FAQs, relevant content, and application and admission information.
New, Easy-to-Manage Platform
Instead of using a theme or template, Vital’s web development team custom built UC Online’s new website in PHP, HTML, and CSS — creating a site that is totally unique to UC Online.
With a custom build in WordPress, UC Online’s internal team now has an extremely easy to use back-end that allows them to quickly make updates to degree programs, roll out new programs, and add supplemental content when necessary.
Using WordPress, UC Online can also leverage the most robust set of website tools and widgets on the market, which is only available on the WordPress CMS.
“It’s important for UC Online to be able to build upon their existing content so that website visitors can gain all the in-depth information they need to satisfy their research process,” said Jamie Abodeely, Project Manager at Vital. “Their new website delivers the right content at the right time and is optimized for conversions, allowing UC Online to achieve the highest possible engagement rate and maximize their ROI.”
While it is still early (UC Online’s new website launched just a few months ago), the post-launch results are already worth noting:
- 8% increase in organic traffic
- 1.5% increase in search visibility
- An increase in the rankings of 407 keywords (20 to top 3 positions, 35 to top 10 positions, and 218 to top 20 positions)
In addition to these metrics, UC Online is pretty happy with the outcome as well.
“I can’t say enough about the complete transformation of our website,” said Brandi Bittner, Executive Director of Marketing and Recruiting for UC Online. “From a customer perspective, it’s easy to navigate and visually appealing. On the back-end, the user interface is intuitive and makes administrative updates incredibly simple.”
If your university’s website could use some TLC, give us a shout. We’ll recommend a web design plan that will work best for you and your prospective students.