Planning or Revising Your Site
1. Gather feedback. Talk with a variety of your site's visitors about your current website.
- What are they looking for when they visit the site?
- What do they like about the site?
- What don't they like about the site?
- What do they want that isn't already there?
2. Define the audience. Think of your site as a communication vehicle to all audiences. Prospective students may be one audience, but current students, alumni, faculty, and parents may also be visiting your site. What are your key messages to each?
- What information would an alumna look for?
- What information would a current student want?
- What about an undergraduate student vs. a master's student vs. a doctoral student?
- What about a potential donor, what information would they be looking for?
- What about a past donor, what might they want to see on the web site?
3. Plan for a dynamic home page. Plan to update the home page of your site frequently with fresh information for visitors. Changes to the home page content show your visitors that the site is being maintained and will encourage them to return frequently to find out what's new. A static home page will make people wonder if they should bother visiting the rest of your pages to see if anything is new.
- What would draw your various audiences to visit your home page frequently to get information instead of calling you on the phone or sending you email?
- News and events are generally the items that need to be updated most frequently and are the things repeat users are most interested in.
- What events could you feature on your site? Be sure to remove event listings after they have passed as well as news items that have become stale.
- Could you profile a different person (alum, faculty, student) each month or each week, a different publication by a faculty member or from the field, or a word of wisdom?
4. Size up the competition. Visit the websites for schools, programs, or departments you consider to be your competitors. Prospective students use the web to gather information about all their options, and knowing how the competition is presenting information may trigger some ideas for your website.
- How are they are using the Web?
- Is information categorized so that users can quickly find what they need?
- Are they effectively communicating with their audiences?
- What's different between your site and their site?
- Do they have categories that you should add to your site?
- How do they use photography on their site?
5. Review the content of your current or planned Web site. While BC's standard web design makes our sites look professional and allows for easy navigation, content is the most important part of a site. Out-of-date content, incorrect information, or poorly formatted and written content will quickly turn off visitors.
- Ideally you should have 5 to 8 groups of pages that function as the primary navigation sections for visitors to your site. Look at the organization of your current site or an outline of your planned site. Are there major categories of information that are missing or out of place? Are the groups discrete and self-explanatory so that users will easily know in which section to look for the information they are seeking?
- What are the most important pages of your site that you want visitors to find easily? How many clicks does it take to get to the most important material? Try to keep it to two or three clicks if possible.
- Are the words used for the major categories (left navigation links), words that mean something to any visitor?
- Talk with a variety of people in your organization - what are the common questions they receive via phone or email or walk-in visitors? How can that info be provided on the Web?
- A note about consistent terminology - just as it confuses drivers that Route 128 and Interstate 95 are the same road in Massachusetts, what words does your site use interchangeably that might confuse someone new to BC? Any acronyms or abbreviations you should explain?
- Are there places where you ask a visitor to write to a postal address or call a number to request materials? Why not provide an email address instead or in addition?
- While it may be time consuming - be sure to update content on pages that are old or out of date.
- Edit and/or restructure wordy pages using page titles, section heads, bulleted lists and other devices that will make quick scanning easier. A general rule of thumb is to cut print copy by 50% if you expect people to read it on screen.
- Check links to external sites and pages to be sure they all work.
- Review the images you currently or plan to use. Think about what type of photographs can help visitors understand your message. Photographs make a site more attractive to the eye. Crop and resize images to match the size at which they will be seen on your page. If you need photos of Boston College scenes, contact the Office of Marketing Communications photography department.
- What documents are often requested from your school or department that could be posted on the web and printed, rather than sent via U.S. or Campus Mail?
- How would I find your school or department building if I came to campus - where is the link to maps and directions? Consider having a map detail on your site that highlights your building and the best option for parking.
- Who would I call or email if I had a question about your school or department? Can I find the contact information easily? Have I provided information about who to contact to report a problem with the web site?
6. Keep other BC websites in mind.
- Are there other sites at BC that you should link to, like BCInfo, Alumni site, Student Services, Financial Aid information, Maps and Directions, Libraries, Off-Campus Housing office, Bookstore, etc.?
- Can you save yourself the work of posting and maintaining information that is already posted by another site? For example, you may want to link to the directory information for your area. A school or academic department may want to link to the course information on the Student Services site.
7. Use the Web.
- What other sites on the Web would your visitors like? Publications? Organizations?
- What accolades has your department received, use the News section to link to online publications that highlight your school or department.
- What sites on the Web could help your visitors, a link to the MBTA or Massport site for out-of-town visitors? A link to the FAFSA information for financial aid as seen on the BC Student Services site?