Women using a laptop, drinking tea, scrolling through a website.

Content Drives Website Restructure

In my position as Program Director with Graduate Admissions and Recruitment at West Virginia University, I get the pleasure to engage with potential and recently accepted graduate students.  Most of the communication comes through the office’s vanity email account. This has been a blessing in disguise due to the fact that email allows for documentation.

I have been addressing questions received through the vanity account since December 2017. Over the last five months I’ve noticed the trend and volume of questions asked, and they can be categorized by the following topics:

  • Application fee
  • Application status
  • English language proficiency
  • Financial assistance
  • Graduate program application
  • Official undergraduate transcripts

So I began to think, why am I getting so many emails with questions if our website offers the answers? Well.. the answers were either not detailed enough, hard to find, or non-existent. For starters, the information found under “How to Apply” did not offer any information on applying or the application process but how to research and choose the correct graduate program. (See my legit response below.)

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To enforce a consistent brand, I then reviewed the Undergraduate Admissions website and to my surprise, the to websites did not have the same content or structure. The biggest difference being the undergraduate website was organized by type of applicant (audience) and included a few that graduate admissions had overlooked.

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I’ve worked on two website redesigns before and both content strategists and web designers and developers always told me that content not design should lead these types of initiatives. I’m not sure I fully understood until this.

Understanding what content was needed and mirroring the structure of the undergraduate website made creating a new site map EZ-PZ. For this specific project, writing the content took me less than two, full days considering the information existed in so many previous emails (re: documentation is a blessing in disguise). Within three full days the content and site map were made live. If you’d like to provide feedback, I welcome it with open arms.

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Oh, quick tip. Some of the information that is important to potential and recently accepted students is provided by other resources across campus. Before the website update, the Office of Graduate Admissions recreated the content and linked to the external resource. To help move this project along I asked myself two things:

  1. What is the Office of Graduate Admissions obligation to the students?
  2. Is this going to enhance the potential student experience or add a layer of confusion?

My answers to these questions are:

  1. Our obligation to to explain admission requirements, application process, and connect students to their graduate program of interest.
  2. There are SO many websites across all the colleges/schools, departments, resources, etc, why reinvent the wheel? Information gets lost in translation, why not let the “experts” explain.

Each department/resource provides value to the student. Not reproducing content allows for these entities to actually rely on each other, be apart of the student experience, instead of trying to own it all. We can’t do it all, and also do it all correctly. So lets help each other, and ultimately the student.

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