2023 Conference Web Strategy Website Development

Academic Program Pages: Phenomenal Cosmic Power, Itty Bitty Living Space (WSC01)

Rebecka Hall of Old Dominion University talks academic program pages.

How Old Dominion University increased traffic with an academic program page redesign

Academic program pages are a big part of what I do as a full-time freelancer in the higher ed space, so this session spoke to me. In the 8:30 a.m. time slot on Monday, Academic Program Pages: Phenomenal Cosmic Power, Itty Bitty Living Space (WSC01) helped kick off the first full day of sessions at the HighEdWeb 2023 Annual Conference.

Rebecka Hall of Old Dominion University walked us through the reimagining of academic programs pages as well as the overarching program finder page. This involved 175 programs that could be combined/linked more than 400 ways, resulting in about 500 pages of newly designed and written content.

Rebecka explained that this project had a few phases; the initial redesign work on program pages was furthered during a university-wide web redevelopment project (which was done in partnership with a vendor). During that latter phase, they kept much of the then-new framework.

This was a jam-packed session, and I encourage attendees and members to view the full session. In the meantime, here are a few highlights:

Project Overview

  • At the time of the project, there was little consistency between academic pages. They ranged from “the longest text page I’ve ever seen in my life” to pages with virtually nothing.
  • Much of the degree-related content lived only in the catalog, which the program pages linked to.
  • Appealing to and partnering with the provost was key; this buy-in resulted in having a champion for this project at the highest level of academic leadership.

What They Did & What Happened

  • The framework for the academic program pages involved four key areas:
    • Interest buckets
    • More CTAs, including cookie-based options to favorite and compare programs
    • Templated information in eight key areas (such as careers, faculty highlights, careers, student testimonials, and related links)
    • In-page navigation
  • Within a matter of months, the program finder page moved up in (internal) site visit rankings.
  • Next steps for this phase included removing duplicated content and improving accessibility.
  • The program page redesign project led to a redesign of the catalog to make the two entities more complementary:
    • Catalog – authoritative data
    • Program page – marketing focus
    • Department/college page – other info (such as clubs, current student resources, etc.)
  • Governance/maintenance of program pages is now handled by restricting access and using an internal ticketing system. Tickets are created by sending an email to a specific address, making it easier for the end-user.
  • Department/program-related news was a touchy subject; Rebecka stressed that having a news component on a specific page could quickly become outdated if there’s not consistent stories/updates. “If you’re going to have this on your page, you have to be creating news,” she said. She added that this responsibility also fell to ODU’s news group; collaboration would be important to keep news sections fresh.

As Rebecka stated, this redesign of the program finder page and individual academic program pages was an iterative process. Since the launch of the redeveloped ODU website in October 2022, she reported that there was a 194% increase in traffic to the listing page.

Photo Credit: GPA Photo Archive

Link Journal has covered the HighEdWeb Annual Conference since 2011. Explore our archives for articles about previous conference sessions.

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By Donna Talarico

Donna Talarico, a Red-Stapler-winning HighEdWeb presenter and volunteer editor for Link, is an independent writer and content strategist. She is the marketing columnist for Wiley's Recruiting and Retaining Adult Learners, and her work has also been published in CASE Currents, The Guardian Higher Education Network, and elsewhere. From 2010 to 2015, she told the Elizabethtown College story as part of an award-winning marketing and communications team. Always a storyteller, before higher ed she worked in print and broadcast media, and for a leading eCommerce company. She is the founder and publisher of Hippocampus Magazine, a bimonthly creative nonfiction journal and small press. She loves road trips, board games, greasy spoon diners, and words.