Department Pages 101

Department pages are an important part of your website. They serve as a front door to academics, fees, research and other crucial information at Georgia Southern and attract some of your highest traffic. To be sure you’re directing your users where they need to go, here are a few guidelines you can follow.

Suggested Content

While department pages will differ in their services and information, there are some crucial pieces of information that will be common to all.

Consider the following when crafting content for your department pages:

  1. Your department role: In a brief paragraph, describe the role of your department at Georgia Southern, as well as how that role benefits the students it serves. How do you fit into the “large-scale, small feel” brand of the university?
  2. Department highlights: Preferably in a bullet list, accentuate the positives of your department. Are you doing interesting research? Do you have state-of-the-art facilities or equipment? List them in an easy-to-scan format.
  3. Degrees and Programs: If you’re an academic department, your degrees and programs should be obvious and simple for users to reach. Put them in a bullet list from your front page. Put them in a table with link icons. Don’t just hide them in your menus. Make sure your users can see them with little or no effort.

The Audience

Understanding your audience is the starting point for any useful website. Who are you trying to reach? What are they looking for? Try to identify your users and get into their minds as much as possible before proceeding! Check out more information about web content in our “Web Content 101” document on the site.

The Headline

Your department page headline should never be, “Welcome.” The headline, an H1 tag, is too important to ignore. With such a headline, not only are you ensuring your users will be uninterested in your content, but you’re also squandering any Search Engine ranking you might have gained from something more descriptive.

Instead, use the name of your department or the general area of study. For example, with a department like Biology, you might use the following headline and subheading:

Biology at Georgia Southern

Explore the Southeastern Coastal Plain

Not only are these phrases keyword rich, pointing to both the topics and research at Georgia Southern, they could catch the interest of a prospective student, who is especially interested in our region, or a corporate partner who may be interested as well. Contact Marketing & Communications if you need additional help.

The Body

As you learned in the “Web Content 101” document, web users don’t read. They scan. Lengthy welcome letters from your administrators or jargon-riddled mission statements are guaranteed to be ignored by most of your audience.  The body copy is the prime real estate to sell your department to your visitor.

Voice and Tone

Instead of writing for an academic setting, as you would a research paper, write conversationally. Your voice and tone should be professional, but down-to-earth, using plain, human language that doesn’t drift into jargon or verbosity.

Don’t do this! (not from Georgia Southern)

Do this!

The [name of office] can help you reach your educational goals by providing financial resources to do so. Our goal is to meet individual needs in a timely, efficient, and equitable manner by providing students with exceptional service and up to date information.

The [name of office] is here to help you pay for your college education. Our goal is to serve you with respect, on-time and hassle-free, keeping you up to date with the resources available to you.

The Sidebar

Your sidebar isn’t just a place to show your contact information. It can also be a place to deliver great content to users from anywhere on your site. In addition, with the arrival of the new “Apply Now” button in the global nav, you can remove the “Apply Now” sidebar widget and get even more space for your sidebar content.

The rule of thumb for a great sidebar is, “take users deeper.”

That said, however, don’t cram too many things into your sidebar. You can overwhelm your main content and your user with too much information. Remember that your sidebar displays the same widgets throughout your pages, so make sure the content is relevant throughout the department site. Keep it simple, and always keep it focused on your audience.

The Buckets

In addition to the sidebar widget area, there are the “Home Bottom Left,” “Home Bottom Middle” and “Home Bottom Right” widget areas you can use on your department home pages. These areas serve as callout boxes or buckets for your content.

These buckets are ideal for your news and events, but if you aren’t using these features, you can still use the bucket areas for additional content. As with the sidebar, these areas are ways to take your users deeper into the site. You can do this with graphics, text or links, which can lead your users to a variety of different content types.

Consider one or more of the following for your content buckets:

Keep It Simple! Keep It Fresh!

The best web pages are the easiest to use. They’re the ones that anticipate where you want to go and take you there. It’s worth the effort to find out what’s working and what isn’t. Your website is never finished. Make it a habit to do the following: