RCC website overhaul puts focus on students

By Kevin Spradlin
PeeDeePost.com

Officials at Richmond Community College poked around the school’s website long enough to reach one conclusion: Ultimately, they are not the target audience for the RCC website.

That was the thrust behind a six-month study of analytics — statistics of visitors to richmondcc.edu — and a seventh-month project to overhaul the digital presence for the fastest growing two-year school in North Carolina. The $36,000 investment signifies the importance college officials place on reaching potential students, as well as potential employees and new business partners.

A screenshot of the dynamic new home page of the Richmond Community College website certainly gets the readers' attention - and makes them want to stay.

A screenshot of the dynamic new home page of the Richmond Community College website certainly gets the readers’ attention – and makes them want to stay.

Andy Cagle, RCC’s director of marketing and communications, said Tuesday that “the old site was not responsive” to users’ needs.

“What we found,” Cagle said, was “there was a lot of good information … just the organization was not exactly user-friendly. The users were showing it wasn’t exactly hitting what we needed it to hit.”

“The new site is,” Cagle said of a platform that’s custom-fit with versions for mobile phones, tablets and desktops.

“We were looking at our traffic (and) 50 to 60 percent were on mobile devices,” Cagle said. “I have a site optimized not for mobile where … that was something I knew I needed to fix.”

The task was in creating “a site that was more suited to who we knew our users were,” Cagle said. “We used that data to drive what we built.”

RCC built big, and boldly. Working with COCG out of Raleigh, the vendor was accustomed to being a vendor for health care entities and four-year institutions, such as Duke University. Notably, COCG — which submitted the best of three bids to RCC — also completed a redesign of Biscuitville’s website.

RCC was the first two-year school to work with the company. Cable and other college officials wanted RCC’s digital presence to be noticed.

An image of the old RCC website shows a largely static page that was administration-focused instead of centered on the experience sought by website visitors.

An image of the old RCC website shows a largely static page that was administration-focused instead of centered on the experience sought by website visitors.

“They had not worked with a community college,” Cagle said. “That was actually something that we wanted. A lot of university sites, education sites … all look the same. (I resolved that) if we were gonna do this we were gonna do something that’s going to be unique.”

The redesign began in May. The new site went live at 6 p.m. Monday. Did Cagle get what he had in mind?

“No,” Cagle said. “It’s much better. This is not what I expected when we started, but I guess I could say I didn’t really know what I was expecting. (COCG) did a fantastic job with what we were looking for.”

Until Monday night, RCC’s site had utilized WordPress as its content management system (CMS). The new site uses Droopal — another open source CMS but one that Cagle said is “a little bit more robust” and offers more flexibility. It also lessens the workload on Cagle and the rest of RCC’s marketing staff.

The site, he said, “is not going to be managed by me or my office. It’s going to be farmed out to the people who know the content. We had WordPress before. Drop gave me a lot more of what we wanted at a better price.”

On the new site, the user no longer has to search around — the website comes to the user. In the top left corner, a blue “I am a ” button appears. Click on that, and the user as four options from which to move forward: prospective student, current student, alumni or faculty and staff.

The new site also provides a launch pad from which Cagle and other college marketing staff can better focus on effective advertising. In short, an online tool of statistics known as Google Analytics will identify what marketing promotions are working and which are not.

“We can track what efforts are working,” Cagle said. “We’re not a business, but we kind of have to track some business-type data. How many are hitting the apply page? We can use data to drive some marketing decisions. This is my front page. This is where people are finding out about what we’re doing.”

 

Filed in: Business, Education, Featured News, Hamlet, Latest Headlines, News

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