SUNY Empire State College’s Office of Enrollment Management has won a SUNY/CUAD Award for Best in Category, Websites/Web Content, for its refreshed home page. The goal was to present the content on the college’s home page in a more engaging way, incorporating a new user interface and design that would allow end-users to find the path they need easily. Using the college’s palette, color blocks and icons point out some of the college’s salient features, such as affordability, flexibility, the availability of prior learning assessment and student satisfaction. As visitors scroll down, there are audio-visual student stories, as well as quotes and news stories about the college.
The award will be presented to representatives from the Office of Enrollment Management on June 9, at the annual SUNYCUAD conference, held this year in Cooperstown, N.Y.
“As we all know, the World Wide Web constantly changes,” said Vice President for Enrollment Management Clayton Steen. “In order to keep our consumers – students, in this case – interested, we also have to change. We felt it necessary to refresh our home page to keep up with the evolution of the web and not lose the attention or interest of prospective students,” he said.
In 2002, the college website was completely overhauled by an outside firm. There have been interim adjustments made by internal design staff over the years. The latest refresh is an interim look until the website undergoes a complete redesign later. The work was completed primarily by Casey Lumbra, web designer/developer, in creative services, Office of Enrollment Management, and Katherine Watson, lead web designer, enterprise architecture and applications group, Information Technology Services.
“It’s a great feeling to be honored by your peers in the SUNY community,” Lumbra said. “There are so many great institutions in the SUNY system, and to know that your work is respected among those is dignifying.”
“Although the interim website is temporary, this recognition is a great affirmation of the direction that we hope to take the website and the college’s communications in general,” Steen continued. “I want to personally thank Casey and Katherine for doing a spectacular job.”
That the goals have been met are supported by a two-month sampling of data, as well as verbal feedback. Data from Feb. 1 - March 31, 2015 and Feb. 1 - March 31, 2016, found that the average time spent on the page is up 1.5 percent for the same period this year, compared to last. More impressive is that the bounce rate is down 12.13 percent, which means more users are interacting with the page before leaving the esc.edu domain. This can be attributed to users being able to find the information they seek quickly, allowing them to continue through the site for more information. The decision to use a more colorful, vibrant presentation guides the viewer quickly to the information sought. This more fluid visual approach works much better than the static, blocky look of the previous home page in getting viewers further into the page and onto succeeding pages for more information.
Tracing its origins to the early 1950s and the first years of the State University of New York, SUNYCUAD began its service to public higher education as the University Public Relations Council. Over a half-century later, SUNYCUAD represents all professionals employed in a cross-section of institutional advancement areas at every State University on New York campus. SUNYCUAD has evolved from a small corps of public relations officers into a diverse membership, which includes advancement professionals responsible for a wide gamut of specialties, from publications and webpage maintenance to alumni relations, marketing and development.