Web Design & Content Guidelines

It's important to remember that even if you have a top-ranked program, many prospective students (especially those from out-of-state) will make their initial assessment of your program based solely on your website. Therefore, it's vital that your website:

  1. Clearly explains why your program is a great choice or how your unit can benefit the reader,
  2. Presents the information in a professional manner to increase your credibility in their eyes (since the user might know nothing about you or KU), and
  3. Presents the information in a format that is easily understood and is accessible.

Studies also have shown that sites that present prominent and consistent branding are more credible to users.

Audiences and Goals

The first step in creating engaging content is to identify your audience and your goals. People often skip this all-important first step in designing or re-designing their site. Defining your target audiences and their goals will help you:

  • Decide what content to include
  • Prioritize each piece of content to determine how prominently to display it
  • Create task-based usability tests
  • Resolve disagreements over content

Start by making a list of your top three to five target audiences loosely ordered by importance to your mission. Importance may be defined differently by each unit, but in general, the bigger audiences will usually be more important.

Example of an academic department's list of target audiences:

  1. Prospective students, along with their parents/guardians
  2. Current students
  3. Prospective and current faculty and staff
  4. Alumni of the program
  5. Businesses who might want to partner with the department
  6. Legislators and other stakeholders
  7. The media and general public

It is important that the site not be inwardly focused to serve the needs of existing staff first.

Setting Audience Goals

For each audience, list the top three to seven reasons they are coming to your site. Although you might think you know these reasons off the top of your head, it can be very helpful to do a quick survey. Simply ask at least 10 members of each target audience: "What are the three to seven things you hope to learn or accomplish by visiting our website?"

In preparing a survey, it's better to not give preset responses for them to select, but if you do, be sure to leave a blank for "Other:_______"

Once completed, tally the results separately for each audience. The most-chosen reasons per audience are your top goals for that audience.

The navigation section explains how to use that data.

Example of an Academic Department's Audience Goals

  1. Prospective students
    1. Decide if I want to join this program – is it what I want to learn? Will it help me get a job? Is it too hard?
    2. Determine how highly ranked/respected the program is in relation to peers.
    3. Determine the mean GPA, or mean ACT scores of current students.
    4. Find the program admission requirements and course prerequisites.
    5. Learn how and when to apply to the program, and what scholarships are available.
    6. See what classes are offered and what the classes are like.
    7. What is going to school at KU like? Will I fit in?
  2. Current students
    1. Get degree requirements; what classes will/should I take?
    2. Look up contact information for professors and their office hours.
    3. Download forms.
    4. Find building or lab hours.
  3. Businesses who might want to partner with the department
    1. What research is the department doing that might help my business?
    2. Does the department have a good track record of working with businesses?
    3. Who do I contact to inquire about partnering?
  4. Current faculty and staff
    1. Download forms.
    2. Direct students to certain course/degree information on the site.
    3. Update their own biography page.
  5. Alumni of the program
    1. Learn “how the program is doing” and “what they're up to.”
    2. See if there are any upcoming alumni events
    3. Find out how to donate to the program

 


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