Prospective students in the early stages of the student journey tend to get a lot of attention from higher education digital marketers, and rightfully so. The research and decision-making stages are a critical time for colleges and universities to make their best impression with prospective students. And if everything goes right, one day those prospective students will turn into alumni.
While alumni websites are an important part of promoting a thriving campus community, so many of them fall short of providing a great overall user experience for site visitors. Over the years, this has opened the door for social networks to fill in the gaps where alumni websites have not delivered, with many alumni association members relying on Facebook, LinkedIn, and other sites to interact with fellow alumni. With so many other platforms available, it’s more important than ever for schools to create alumni websites that meet the needs of their audience and keep their alumni part of the greater digital campus community.
What Do Alumni Want In a Website?
To build a thriving website that alumni will visit and interact with regularly, higher education marketers need to listen to their alumni to understand their needs. Digging into which missing website features ultimately drove alums to other platforms can highlight some functionality you’ll want to include on your website. It’s always best to survey your alumni to get a sense of what is most important to them when it comes to their website, but through our research, we’ve found that generally alumni are looking for the following:
- Events - Information on alumni events and campus events including athletics
- News - Updates on alumni and campus news, and emergency bulletins
- Networking - alumni networking features, including ways to find out information about a classmate or other alum, and the ability to view alumni blogs
- Professional Development - Information about how to use the school to get a better job
- Giving Back - A way to donate to the school and become engaged in a meaningful way
Clearly alumni have a variety of wants in a website, so recognizing which features are the highest priority and incorporating them in a way that makes sense in the overall user experience is critical.
Our research findings highlight which features are most valuable to alumni users.
Organizing Your Alumni Website Features
Now that you know which features alumni find most valuable, you can figure out the best way to incorporate them into your alumni website. Keeping things organized and simple to navigate will ensure a great user experience, however you’ll also want to think about how your users interact with your site by thinking like them. Put yourself in your user’s shoes to determine which pathways they might take so you can create categories that will make navigating your site intuitive and natural. Think about high-level groupings for features:
- Professional Network
- Job Listings/Career Services
- Alumni Directory (filterable by year, department, and athletics)
- Giving Options/Donate Links (include robust descriptions of all types of giving, donation methods, planned giving, and other ways to get involved)
And if you really want to create a website experience your alumni will love, consider adding real-time personalization features. By offering your users highly relevant content, you’ll improve the overall web experience and increase engagement while providing a new means to build the alumni profile by better understanding the interests of each alum.