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Minnesota State University, Mankato

Minnesota State University, Mankato

Taking your web pages to the Next Level

Page address: https://www.mnsu.edu/its/web/resources/nextstep.html

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Your site is in the official template, but something's missing...

You may be one of the many across the Minnesota State Mankato campus who has done the hard work of transitioning your website into the web template, but feels that it still falls short of what you were hoping it would be. There are several additional steps necessary to make a website that really communicates with your audience.

Essential steps to a great website

  1. Knowing your audience(s)
  2. Defining your goals for the site
  3. Designing and writing content that will resonate with your audience(s)
  4. Utilizing the medium to present these messages with all available impact

Take these apart step by step:

1. Knowing your audience

  1. Who do you want your website to communicate with? (audience definition)
  2. What do they need to hear from you? (content definition/description)

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If you don't know the answers to those two questions, you might miss your guess as you attempt to craft your messages or establish a tone to your site that will help you take that next step. Sit down with stakeholders in your office or department and come up with the answers to these questions.

2. Defining website goals

Do you want to provide all the answers to students on why your department's major is the most evolved on the planet? Make them want to stop playing around and take your list of prerequisites? Or do you want to make the phone stop ringing with questions about how to perform a simple process that you have just put in place for ordering transcripts online?

The next step for the stakeholders group in your office or department is to hammer out the goals of your website. Keep it simple. For example, you might want your website to:

  • Increase number (or quality) of applicants to major; or
  • Increase alumni donations; or
  • Inform users of all features and functions of new online application.

Your list will be different: it will be yours. This is a critical element of your next step plan.

3. Creating content

Once you have done the hard work of identifying your audience and defining your goals, you must take the next step: creating content. The essential components of this step are:

  1. Break down the goals into manageable pieces. Make sure everything has an accessible, intuitive size
  2. Create (or review) website navigation that can present all the bite-sized pieces of information from #1. This can be as simple as creating a bulleted list on a Word document.
  3. Write (or edit) text for each page on navigation from #2 above. (Note web copy writing articles on resouces page.)
  4. Locate (or create) graphics for page. You might want to place this item before #3, because sometimes-good photos or artwork can be a great trigger for the right copy on the page.

4. Using the web richly

What are the things that make you stop and take notice of a website? Typically people don't read text (much) on the web, but rather scan for headlines, bulleted lists, and appealing graphics, both still and motion. These are what will help you push your website up to the next level. Your site needs a blend of graphics and text in an appealing mix, utilizing what the web is so good at presenting.

Will a video present your message compellingly? Does an audio podcast of an alum expressing appreciation of your program sound like it would carry some weight with your audience? If you have access to the creative talent to make an interactive Flash movie object, you might consider how that would help tell your story more effectively. Take advantage of all the features you can to move your website up another step.

Conclusion

The steps and the content creation process above are oversimplified to give you a quick picture of the whole process. To really take your site to the next step, you will spend many hours of your time and some budget dollars. You may want to tackle this on your own in-house, or the conversation might be with outside consultants. The Webteam is available to help you with the technical features of your website, and the Integrated Marketing Team is here to help you with the goals, planning and content part of your site.

And don't forget to finish your site!:

  1. Build website
  2. Test website
  3. Deploy website