In the modern information age, we’re all experiencing information, or cognitive overload. The sheer volume of information we’re exposed to and the frequency with which it arises can be an issue, but researchers tend to agree that it’s not the volume of information; it’s how it’s organized that’s the problem.
One of the biggest mistakes we see people make when it comes to their websites is not prioritizing information architecture. While the design aspects of a website are fun, glamorous, and ultimately vital to the success of your site, it’s important that you don’t jump straight to the design and forgo the important process of building a solid information architecture and understanding the purpose behind your site and its content.
Higher education institutions often have large, complex websites that cater to many audiences who depend on their successful performance: Faculty, students, prospective students, parents and the higher education community at large.
The importance of your institution’s website cannot be understated. The web is now mission-critical, meaning that if your web presence fails, your business operations suffer as well. For this reason, any downtime is an unwelcome hassle for anyone charged with managing the website.
DO Start early
Ideally, feedback should be part of your production plan from the very beginning when you’re looking to release a new website or feature. It’s not only a useful marketing activity to manage your online reputation, but it also may help you find the areas of your business that need improvement. The earlier you ask for feedback, the easier it will be to correct any problems that exist. You can monitor activities manually, or use an all-in-one monitoring service such as Sysomos or Brandwatch.
The accessible web means that people with disabilities can perceive, understand, navigate, interact with, and contribute to the web. This encompasses all disabilities that affect access to the Web, including visual, auditory, physical, speech, cognitive and neurological disabilities. But web accessibility also benefits others, not just those with disabilities, including people with “temporary” disabilities such as a broken arm, older people with changing abilities due to aging.
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was enacted in 1990. Its effects are visible in nearly every public space in the form of disabled parking, ramps as alternatives to stairs, Braille signage, and more. Although the need to provide disabled people with reasonable accommodations has been a civil rights issue for decades, one important public space – the Internet – has been largely overlooked up until now.
When it comes to web design, don’t underestimate the power of color.
- Black: sophistication and power
- White: cleanliness, sophistication, virtue
- Red: courage, power, strength; can also stimulate appetite
- Blue: calmness, peace, trust, safety
- Yellow: optimism, happiness
- Green: balance, sustainability growth
- Purple: royalty, spiritual awareness, luxury
- Orange: friendliness, comfort, and food
- Pink: tranquility, femininity, sexuality
- Complementary: colors opposite to each other on the color wheel
- Analogous: colors that sit next to each other. These are “related” colors that create pleasing and relaxed visuals when used together. They don’t stand out from one another, but can create subtle and beautiful content. You may need to add a complementary color to make a particular item stand out.
- Triad: a color combination made of three colors that are evenly spaced around the color wheel
- Split-complementary: Choose one color as your base, and combine with two complementary colors adjacent to its opposite
- Rectangle: a color combination made up of four colors in complementary pairs
- Square: similar to a rectangle palette, but the two sets of complementary pairs are colors evenly spaced around the circle
Caution: Color Blindness
- colr.org – lets you upload an image and see the range of colors within that image
- colorblender – generates a set of five colors that will work well together
- Adobe Colour CC – lets you try out and create different color schemes
- Check my colours – lets you determine if you’re using the right color combinations in your web design
Want more? Sign up to get our newsletter delivered to your inbox the first Thursday of every month. Receive links to the latest web-related news and blog articles, best practices, and thought-leadership commentary.
- You manage a large number of products (eCommerce sites like REI)
- You publish and manage a lot of content (content aggregators and news sites like Reuters)
- You have complex service offerings requiring a lot of supporting content (large association sites, higher education sites like Cornell, government sites like The White House)
- Your site is information-oriented, diverse, and you offer a lot of long-form web copy
- Your site is small without too much content (small businesses, restaurants)
- You have fewer pages and focused content
- Your site is dedicated to a singular function, such as a tool or online calculator
What is a 404 (Not Found) Error page?
A 404 Error Page is essentially a non-existent page that returns a status code of 404. The 404 error is generated whenever a server can’t find the specified page.
How do 404 errors occur?
A 404 page can happen for a number of reasons. These reasons fall into two buckets: user errors or website glitches. Either way, an informative 404 page is the most effective solution.
A web server will typically generate a 404 Not Found web page when a user misspells a URL or attempts to follow a broken or dead link. 404 errors also occur when pages have been moved or deleted, the page has expired, or the page was blocked.
Why are 404 Error pages important?
One of the biggest mistakes you could make when you launch a new website is ignoring all of the links, pages, and content from your old website. If Google has Site Links indexed and listed for a website and the navigation menu changes, Google considers these to be broken links. Google will then remove the links and lower the overall ranking of your website in its Search Engine. Any links to your site from other blogs or directories will also break, and you can expect your site to take the hit.
To avoid the headache, make sure to use error pages! Adding 301 Redirects and 404 Error pages can ensure that you don’t lose business because of an upgrade to your site. A 301 Redirect is a permanent redirect which passes between 90-99% of link ranking value to the new page. This is the perhaps the best way to retain online marketing efforts from old websites. If you have redesigned, added or removed content from your site, a custom 404 Error page is essential to direct site visitors to content on your new site when they’re looking for content from your old site.
A customized 404 Error page is an advantage for your site. It can help visitors find the information they were looking for and provides them with a much better overall user experience.
What should I include on my 404 Error page?
When a user lands on an error page that doesn’t contain any helpful content, it’s very likely they’ll navigate away from your site. To avoid frustrating site users and losing out on potential business, we recommend developing a custom 404 page.
The typical content a user sees when they reach a 404 Error page is a “page not found” message. This doesn’t provide users when any helpful information or instructions as to where to go from that point. To minimize visitor loss, a good 404 Error page provides a clear, helpful message that informs the user that the page they’re looking for can’t be found and points them in the right direction. You may want to ask the user to re-check the URL they’ve entered.
It’s also recommended that you use an error page that has been designed to look like the rest of your website. Maintain the main navigation menu, logo, fonts and colors. If the 404 page looks drastically different from the rest of your site, the user may become confused and abandon the site all together.
To prevent a visitor from leaving your site, include links or other elements that requires the user to take action. Include a link to your home page in addition to your main navigation menu. You can also provide a few key links to your most popular categories or pages on the site. If you have one, feature a link to your site map or search function. This will help the visitor find exactly what they were looking for. Here’s a good example of a 404 Error page with a search function from MailChimp.
To avoid having your 404 Error page appear in Google search results, make sure your webserver returns an actual 404 HTTP status code when a missing page is requested.
Build a better website and stop turning visitors away with your 404 Error pages. To learn more, contact Sanmita today!
Let us know what you think of this blog post in the comments section. We’d love to hear from you!
As mobile use surges, our partners at Texas Wesleyan University are making a strong commitment to be mobile-friendly. In partnership with Sanmita, Texas Wesleyan is upgrading its entire website to adapt to any device and screen size. We are thrilled to do more with our excellent partners at Texas Wesleyan!
Sanmita is redeveloping the underlying architecture of the Texas Wesleyan website to allow the entire site to be responsive. This is our latest project with Texas Wesleyan as the school upgrades its web products. Recently, Sanmita converted the university’s homepage and admissions section to be responsive. We are also developing an interactive calendar feature that will have the look and feel of a mobile app. The calendar will be integrated into the website, eliminating any obstacle of downloading an app to use the feature.
Texas Wesleyan’s moves come at a time when it is critical for higher education to be mobile-friendly. Mobile is becoming an essential tool in higher ed marketing and recruiting. A survey of college students shows 89% own a smartphone. Younger Americans are increasingly using their mobile devices for web browsing; In 2013, 68% of prospective students said they visited college websites on a mobile device. A responsive site helps ensure these mobile-savvy students will have a positive user experience and easily access essential information. Texas Wesleyan University understands these trends and wants its website to meet these demands.
We’re into the dog days of summer, but it’s not too late to make some easy upgrades to your website before students arrive in the fall! Here are some ideas for easy fixes you can do right away.
1. Take A Look At Other Websites
Have you looked at other college’s websites recently? It’s important to keep up with the competition! Things to look for include ease of navigation, forms, scheduling, user interface and graphic appeal. What things do other sites do better? Identifying areas that could use improvement is a good place to start.