Monday, Nov. 27, 2017
Starting today, Virginia Commonwealth University’s main website — vcu.edu — has a new look. After months of research, planning, designing and testing, the Division of University Relations launched a redesign of the site, the first major overhaul of vcu.edu since August 2013.
But the site got more than a facelift — it also has a new focus. Its main goal is to recruit prospective students, which means prospective students and their families are now the primary target audience. As part of the shift in focus, the three formerly separate admissions sites for undergraduate, graduate and international students have been incorporated into one section within the main website. New content, such as quotes from students about their VCU experience and an expanded student life section, helps prospective students get to know VCU and the opportunities it offers them.
Our new site gives users a feel for what VCU is like before they ever step foot on campus.
“Our website reflects VCU’s upward trajectory as a major public urban research university,” said Pam Lepley, vice president for university relations. “We recognize that our digital presence is often the first VCU experience prospective students and their families have, so we want our home page to make a great first impression. Our new site gives users a feel for what VCU is like before they ever step foot on campus.”
In addition to recruiting students, the site aims to help foster a culture of philanthropy at VCU and to continue to serve the needs of its secondary audiences — current students, faculty, staff, alumni — and help them find the information and resources they need.
For roughly two months before launch, users were invited to try a beta version of the site and provide feedback. In an attempt to further ease the transition to the new site for regular VCU home page visitors, a link to the old home page will be available at the top of vcu.edu for a limited time. Feedback about the new site can be sent to email@example.com.
Nine things to know about the new site
1) Prospective students and their families are the primary target audience
The new site is designed with prospective students in mind, showcasing what sets VCU apart from other universities while also giving prospective students the information they need to decide whether to apply.
2) Everyday tools for current students, faculty and staff are in the utility nav
Where’s the email link? How about Blackboard and myVCU? The tools that students, faculty and staff often come to the home page for are listed in the “utility nav” that you see when you hover over (or tap, on touch devices) the three dots on the right side of the main navigation.
3) The navigation is streamlined
The old VCU home page had roughly 100 links in its navigation. Some links were irrelevant to the target audience (prospective students) and had the potential to confuse or overwhelm them. The new navigation is sleeker and simpler, with roughly 50 percent fewer links.
4) Admissions content has a new home
VCU’s three admissions websites — for undergraduate, graduate and international students — have been combined into one large section of the home page. This provides a one-stop shop for admissions information and eliminates redundant or (occasionally) conflicting content. If a prospective student starts on VCU’s home page, then moves on to admissions (or vice versa), they will stay on the same site instead of being bounced to one with a different look and feel.
5) It’s easier to find academic program information
One of the first questions a prospective student asks when considering a college is, “Does this school offer the programs I want?” The expanded academics section makes that answer easier to find with a new program explorer. Users can choose filters to narrow their search as they sift through VCU’s 200-plus program offerings. The section also includes subpages dedicated to VCU’s colleges and schools, undergraduate studies and graduate and professional studies.
6) There’s more student life content
“Will VCU be a good fit for me?” This is another top question for prospective students, and the new “Life at VCU” section gives students a glimpse of the people, setting and overall vibe at VCU as well as practical information on housing and dining, transportation, campus safety, the city of Richmond and more.
7) School spirit is front and center
What makes Rams so proud of their university? The redesigned site answers that question by showcasing proud moments, highlighting what students and faculty say about VCU and featuring favorite campus spots. A link to VCU Athletics is in the main nav so prospective students and their parents can get an early start on catching Ram fever.
8) VCU’s return on your investment is plain to see
As students and parents are shopping for colleges, they want to know the potential return on their investment. The new “After VCU” page includes stats on student success and showcases famous alumni and the achievements graduates are making just one year after graduating from VCU.
9) VCU has a giving heart
VCU is in the midst of its largest fundraising campaign ever, the Make It Real Campaign for VCU, with a goal of raising $750 million by June 30, 2020. The new site shows prospective students and other users that Ram Nation cares about the people, innovations and environments at VCU by providing examples of how gifts have changed and improved the lives of VCU students, faculty and staff.
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