Today, more than any other marketing touch point, a website is the digital soul of an institution. All roads lead to it. As a leading website design agency for colleges and universities, higher education institutions frequently come to us to perform website audit so they can develop a plan to improve it. These are the ten dimensions of our website audit:
1. Brand Audit
First and foremost, we ensure that your brand essence and brand values are infused into the entire website experience. We evaluate consistent application of brand identity, color and typography.
2. User Experience Audit
User experience is important to both human beings and search engine bots.
Great websites are intuitive, easy to use, readable and engender trust. Their persistent navigation and prominent calls-to-action systems put the users in control. The Sitemap (org structure) and Wireframes (page schematics) – not just design and copy – create a logical content hierarchy and make a compelling argument. Balancing logic and emotion, stories and facts, they progressively disclose the information to create brand preference. All this is done in service of knowledge that prospective students are on their personal hero’s journey to realize their life ambitions, and donors on their journey to life of meaningful fulfillment.
The winning user experiences are usually created by heavy lifting by front-end and back-end developers. They hold the tension between these two opposing forces. The prospects are delighted with judicious deployment of photo galleries, carousels, accordions, filters, callouts, related content and more.
We evaluate to ensure your website lives up to these criteria.
Not just buyers, but Google and Bing bots also reward websites with superior user experience, information architecture and page architecture.
3. Content Audit
For each user group or persona, we analyze and determine if the content is using best practices in argument construction, persuasion architecture, influence and delight. We ensure the college elevates itself, tells student and alumni stories, conveys thought leadership.
Since blogs and university magazines are two of the most effective means of securing and lifting Google and Bing page one rankings, we evaluate theirs goals, structure (categories and tags) and their content.
For international students and search engines, we ensure that persuasive, translated copy exists in country-specific languages.
We finally rank your content on scales of clarity, brevity, simplicity, focus and posture.
4. Photography/Video Audit
Because the website is managed by distributed content owners with uneven appreciation of the power of photography as a story-telling and reputation-building tool, iconic photographs, if they exist, often are buried deeper in the site than they should be. The best photographs must be orchestrated in service of storytelling and support argument construction so they too help realize the website goals. After evaluating all this, we determine if additional photoshoots are desirable. Ditto for videos.
5. SEO Audit
Although Google uses over 200 factors to rank websites, they can be grouped into the following six buckets:
- Technical Factors – We begin by testing site load speed, mobile/desktop performance, and secure certificate. We ensure that all pages are indexed, robots.txt files are present and rational, XML sitemaps and 404 pages are present.
- On-Page Factors – We evaluate website domain names, sub-domains and URLs to ensure they are rational, descriptive and hierarchical. We validate that meta-data is filled with intelligent copy. We ensure page copy is not only focused and persuasive but is also infused with appropriate keywords. We evaluate the quality of HTML and CSS (Cascading Style Sheets) which are instructions to browsers to determine characteristics of web page elements such as text size, position of elements on the page, etc. We test if it meets ADA WCAG 2.2 standards for accessibility compliance for various special-needs audiences. We size up internal linking. For blogs, we audit their categories, tags and content to reveal areas of improvement.
- Off-Page Factors – We review conversations taking place on other website and evaluate quality and quantity of inbound links back to your website.
- Social Factors Audit – We ensure that social sharing buttons and open-graph (OG) tags that facilitate content sharing are omnipresent because they are a Google, Bing and international ranking factor. We evaluate the quantity and quality of social conversations going on about your brand.
- Location Factors Audit – We ensure that locations signals are embedded for the geographies you serve or wish to serve.
6. Revenue and Conversion Architecture Audit
Since a website is a college’s number one inquiry and application generation tool, we evaluate if it’s efficiently constructed to maximize them. We ensure that users are not only able to inquire, apply and sign up for a visit, but are able to access thought-leadership content.
7. Visual Design Audit
People are inherently very visual. All the hard work of strategy and planning is wasted if the website isn’t beautiful, uncluttered and distinctive. We score your design on a ‘Wow’ scale.
8. Mobile-First Audit
Since half of all website traffic comes from mobile devices, we ensure yours operates perfectly on popular browsers on commonly used mobile devices.
9. Business Strategy Audit
No money, no mission. A website should protect your signature programs, and liberate new prosperity by expanding into new markets/segments with new or existing programs. It ought to foster selling highest-value degrees to highest value prospects. We look for all this during our audit.
10. Human Centricity Audit
Great brands always remember that prospects, students, alumni, donors and partners are real people, with real needs, wants, motivations and ambitions. They never forget that they are in the business of making the lives of their stakeholders easier and helping them realize their ambitions. We will evaluate your brand’s language for factors like empathy and humanity.
Armed with the audit, higher education marketers can decide if they should simply streamline their current website or redesign a new one.