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When is it time to redesign?

Joel G Goodman
/ 3 min read

When is it time to redesign your college or university website? Probably not when your new president or VP says something. And not because it’s been four years since the last project, and you feel like the time is right.

I mean, either of those might overlap with the better signs that it’s time to redesign. But getting the reasons for doing so right is at least as important as the end result.

So how do you know when the time is right?

1. As soon as you know your website isn’t producing the results you need to stay competitive

A lot can happen to a beautiful website in a short amount of time. Content gets changed, new mandates from the board mean pages get added, and the homepage morphs a bit from political demands.

Maybe a current student says they can’t find something, so the optimized user journey is changed to accommodate their request at the expense of your prospective students. Or the Financial Aid office keeps getting the same questions, and instead of rewriting the content for clarity, dense explanatory text Is added.

Reduced performance is a slow burn that you may not have noticed. So check in on your website. Is it hitting the goals you set out for it in the first place? Did you even define performance goals?

If your website is currently underperforming, you are losing brand salience. Worse, you’re losing the trust of prospective students and their families. The longer you go in this state, the deeper the hole you’ll have to climb out of — and that’s a lot of work.

2. When you know how (and why) you want a new website to perform

So you’ve realized that your website is the key to your institution’s growth and stability, you’ve got the buy-in to do what’s necessary, and you’re ready to level up. It’s time to redesign. If you know what you want that website to accomplish for your institution, it might make sense to get outside help to design that perfect strategy.

The biggest thing I’ve learned in my career in higher education is that a website redesign can only be as good as the research behind it. Make sure you do the foundation work before you start building.

Bravery can help you there. Research is at the heart of our work; we know it’s important at every stage of your marketing practice. We can help build those data feedback loops needed to make smart, effective decisions.

3. When you have a plan for new website management

If your institution has set a strategy for maintaining its website, this is the perfect time to redesign. Bravery estimates that, even at smaller institutions, to adequately compete in the broader higher ed market using an in-house team, a college or university needs to spend upwards of $1 million a year annually on web operations.

That $1 million includes staff salaries at market rate and marketing technology (MarTech). And if that amount seems high to you, that’s for two reasons.

First, higher ed consistently underpays technical staff. If we’re honest, the industry underpays most staff. This causes many problems, from the developer churn we’ve seen since the pandemic to a constrained talent pool. We need to pay market rates to attract the types of talent required to produce results.

Second, higher ed is notorious for running skeleton crews on their web teams. Your web staff are overworked, underpaid, and stretched incredibly thin. If the website is your most crucial marketing tool, fund it to that level.

A website requires a lot more than hosting to keep performing for you. Between content strategists, writers, designers, developers, and data analysts, the maintenance costs alone are massive. Then there’s the need for ongoing UX refinements, seasonal content and design changes based on your recruitment funnel, adding new features, repairing broken code, and updates to your CMS of choice.

It’s a lot.

There is another option

Universities can cut that cost down significantly by working with an agency. You may not need a full-time product designer on staff. If you can’t afford to pay a quality programmer $120,000 a year or more, partnering with an agency with a deep developer bench might make more sense. It all comes down to choosing the right partner.

Bravery’s University Insight partnerships cost about a third of building an adequately staffed in-house operation, depending on how much work you need to be done monthly.