Calvin website changes aimed at prospective students

Calvin’s web team is upgrading and optimizing the homepage. Photo courtesy

Calvin’s marketing and admissions departments launched a redesigned homepage and other landing pages on Thursday, Oct. 18, which aim to make the website more easily accessible and readily informative to prospective students.

Nate Hibma, director of web services, led the redesign. Students participated by giving feedback and performing user-testing of the “Admission” page, which was completed a few months ago. Student workers also helped to populate content and images.

Timothy Ellens, director of communication and brand steward, hopes the changes will improve user-experience:

“The thinking is that all the new pages — homepage and the rest of the top-levels—will work in tandem to give a full view of Calvin College and answer the most common questions of the prospective student: ‘Do you have my major? will I fit in? what does your campus look like? what type of community is there?’”

The new pages incorporate more images and video content. Ellens said that this will hopefully create a more interactive experience for students visiting the site for the first time.

“By placing particular emphasis on visuals — starting with the videos at the very top—we hope to address these questions very quickly and organically.”

The goal of these new features, said Ellens, is to encourage visitors interact with the site.

“We need to show the student what our campus looks like,” said Ellens. This includes finding their major, exploring academic departments, etc. and then facilitating  the prospective student’s application, campus visit or information request.”

Ellens explained these “call-to-action buttons” as easily clickable buttons that allow readers to engage with the content on the current page. Two of these buttons appear on either side of the new homepage leading the reader to “Admissions” or “About Calvin.”

Research for this project included an audit of approximately 50 higher-education websites, according to Ellens. Among these, (Johns Hopkins University’s website) was a primary influencer of the new site.

Ellens and other members of the team have also extensively monitored user behavior to discover which pages are getting clicked and read and which aren’t.

“This has also played a significant part in the redesign, causing us to prioritize certain types of content,” said Ellens.

Plans for the future include greater accessibility for persons with disability and added features for current Calvin students, staff and faculty through a “hub.”

“Our hope is to keep enhancing and improving our communications with our internal community,” said Ellens. “We’re exploring new ways to do this — the hub being one of those ways, as well as considering re-tooling our Calvin mobile app.”