This week we launched a redesign of our company website, collegewise.com. It’s been about three years since we did a major overhaul, but we had some specific goals in mind this time around.
1. Make it easier for visitors to find what they’re looking for.
We didn’t want to assume what information people wanted from our site. So we looked at our site data for the last year, found the pages that people navigated to most often (“Counselors,” “Services,” “Contact us,” Testimonials,” etc.) and displayed them prominently on the right side of the screen. People that just want our contact information can get it quickly, but people who really want to take the time to learn more about us through our site will have that information, too.
We also set it up so that when visitors have to scroll down the site, the menu follows them down the right side of the page. That should make it easier for them to move on to a new page when they’re ready.
2. Allow us to make updates quickly and easily.
We didn’t have the ability to update most portions of the previous site without involving a web designer. Even something simple, like if one of our offices changed their address, we couldn’t just make that change ourselves.
In the new version, about 90% of the site is totally under our control. We can add or delete pages, edit copy, and even insert our own photos. If we have a big announcement to make, we can put it on the home page. If we record video of one of us speaking at a conference, we can share it on the website. When we add a new service or need to post a job or want to indicate that one of our free seminars is full to capacity, we’ll be able to do it ourselves right away.
3. Less polish, more Collegewise.
We’d already overhauled most of the copy on our last version to accomplish that goal, so we just tightened it up a little in spots to make sure it said exactly what we wanted it to say. And we made sure it was absolutely clear what we do, how we do it, and what we believe in.
But we also wanted to do with our website what we tell our students they should do with their college essays—just be ourselves. We don’t want it to be an over-polished version of something we’re not. We wanted it to be more Collegewise.
To accomplish that goal, we removed some of the flashier (for us) design elements.
Our old site looked like this:
The new redesigned site looks like this:
Our new site might not be as pretty as the old one in some places, but that was a trade we were comfortable making. This isn’t 1999. No prospective customer is wowed by a flashy website anymore. We wanted it to be clean, easy to navigate for the visitor, and a good representation of what we’re all about.
A site that depicts who we really are will draw the right people to Collegewise. Not everyone is going to like our vibe, but that’s OK. We don’t do college counseling like everybody else. If what we have to say on our website speaks to you, you might be a good fit for Collegewise. If it doesn’t, that’s OK, too.
In the next 6 months
The new site gives us the ability to host our own online store. That’s where we’re going to sell our book about how we do college admissions, videos of our seminars, and guidelines for admission to particular schools.
We’ll also be considering how we could use private, password-protected areas of our site for our Collegewise families. One thought we’re exploring is putting recordings of our seminars up for families who aren’t able to attend, or giving them free access to the chapters of or book.
What we want to improve next
We’re not as happy with the posed current photos of the kids as we are with the rest of the site. We like that they’re all real Collegewise kids (no stock photography), but they came from a professional photo shoot we did at our offices. They’re too posed and polished. They aren’t real examples of what it’s like to be a Collegewise student any more than an overly-polished essay is a real example of the kid who wrote it.
So we’re taking photos ourselves now. Not posed photos, but real pics taken with our own digital cameras of the things that happen every day at our offices—like counselors meeting with families, parents enjoying dinner at our “Senior Parent Back to School Nights” and kids banging our gong when they submit their final application. That’s Collegewise. And we don’t need a professional photographer to share that.
We probably won’t start sharing those photos on the site until those kids are officially done here and off to college. So that’s going to take a little longer. But we’ll keep at it.
We hope you like the new design, and thanks for reading.