Editor's Note (The View From Here)

First Impressions

College Planning & Management routinely features articles on the importance of the first impressions your campus makes on visitors and, in particular, potential students. When prospective students—and their parents—are shopping for where to spend their higher education dollars, what they see and experience when they first walk onto campus affects their choices. With this in mind, CP&M shares information from experts offering advice on creating appealing entry points, from signage to landscaping to building façades and more.

Your campus has another front door, however. I know, because I spend a fair amount of time on college and university campuses across the country… without leaving my office. How so? I visit your websites.

I routinely scan college and university websites in search of news stories and press releases for both our print and electronic publications. Upon landing, some of your websites offer sweeping drone-captured videos of expansive campus landscapes, while others show bold, eye-catching fonts, graphics, and appealing photography of students actively engaged in learning and college life. A few are a bit bare-boned, providing basic text, headlines, and a selection of menus and links. These are few and far between, however.

The first impression your institution’s website provides may be all it takes for potential students (or journalists) to linger, click through, and learn more, or go scouting for other schools. Research shows it takes about 50 milliseconds (0.05 seconds) for users to form an opinion about a website that determines whether they like the site and whether they’ll stay or leave, and that 38 percent of people will stop engaging with a website if they find the content or layout unattractive.

What message does your online “front door” deliver to first-time visitors? When was the design of your website last updated? How does it compare to those of other institutions that may be recruiting students who are also looking at your school?

There are a number of websites available—including the Web Design Degree Center, the Webby Awards, HubSpot, WebAward, and more—that profile or give honors to websites they consider the best. Those are good places to do some research to see how your website compares. Your website is your digital front door. If you make a winning first impression online, chances are you’ll increase the number of potential students who set foot on your campus.

This article originally appeared in the College Planning & Management June 2018 issue of Spaces4Learning.