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Client Texas Lutheran Univeristy
Disciplines Research, Design & Content, Web Development

Texas Lutheran University

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Let’s set the scene in Seguin. It’s one of the oldest towns in Texas. It has a thriving service industry. Its manufacturing plants produce steel, electronic products, mowing equipment, and construction material. But at Texas Lutheran University, they produce perhaps the town’s best asset: service-oriented student leaders who are ready to change the world. And they didn’t get there by accident.

The landscape of higher education is shifting. According to the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center, private, nonprofit four-year institutions’ enrollment fell by 0.6 percent from 2018. Public colleges were twice as bad. (And that’s without the effects of a global pandemic yet to come.)

Four-year degrees aren’t as popular now as they were just a decade ago—a difficult truth for university leaders to swallow. They’re champions of students and their success, and they’re all but screaming that there is value here. And some are set on providing the resources to prove it.

TLU knows their value. They know university education is changing. They know they can meet student needs, and they know their students are unique. TLU’s welcoming message of inclusivity to those audiences wasn’t being made clear—and it definitely didn’t translate on their website.

That’s where we came in.

TLU's new website on desktop and mobile.
TLU’s new website on desktop and mobile.

Tackling Misconceptions

As a private institution with a religious affiliation, there are plenty of misconceptions about who they are.

The word “Lutheran” in the school’s name gives some potential students the idea that TLU is a religious school. And while Lutheranism and its progressive values are fundamental to their approach to education, TLU isn’t a religious school. And you definitely don’t need to be religious to attend.

Rather, the affiliation is in the spirit of vocation. It’s the idea that their students should be enamored with their pursuits. More than that, it’s the notion that faith comes through servant leadership and a commitment to social justice, along with being welcoming and inclusive.

Crafting the Right Message

About 60% of all TLU students are the first people in their family to attend college. First-generation college students face unique challenges, which TLU is eager to address. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, first-generation students are less likely to complete a postsecondary degree than their peers. Only 43% are on track to graduate three years after enrollment, and 33% leave school within three years. That’s more than twice as likely than their counterparts whose parents have a bachelor’s degree.

Many first-generation students at TLU deal with feelings of imposter syndrome. So we wanted the website to create a feeling of belonging and inclusiveness by using authentic, custom photography throughout the new website, starting on the homepage.

The reality is that first-generation students need financial and academic support. TLU’s messaging needed special consideration to make their solutions apparent. That means being strategic about every call to action (CTA). It also means making sure their potential students see themselves reflected in the college experience at TLU.

the content on TLU's homepage
TLU’s homepage is now full of organized, relevant information.

Finding a Program

TLU’s old website confused visitors: How could a school that produced so much confusing content be so aesthetically flat? A university like theirs has plenty to talk about, but visitors were drowning in complexity. It had too many pages, too much duplication, too many broken links, too much…well, everything. That’s not great, especially knowing that many of the prospective students and parents were coming to their website—and applying for college—for the first time. Bad user experience is a deterrent on any website, but it’s especially harmful to the families that TLU primarily serves.

We made the academic program page easier to navigate by adding a slick sorting and filtering system.

Graduate programs run concurrently with undergraduate programs, which influenced the website’s information architecture. You can now search for a program by name or keyword and immediately find a high-level description along with the different types of degree options offered for that program.

The new filtering system allows students to easily find programs by name or keyword.

New page layouts allow TLU to showcase its biggest programs. On the left side of the page, you can filter your search results by degree option (major, minor, pre-professional, graduate, etc.) and category.

For most universities, aligning academic program pages with smart search engine optimization practices remains a problem. How do you make the page useful and usable while still being indexed and highly ranked by Google search results?

Our solution answers that question by keeping academic program pages high in the sitemap hierarchy, employing the best keywords, and using a mega-menu that tells Google how relevant and robust this new website is.

The TLU Promise

TLU will give every student with a 3.60 core academic GPA and a 1100 SAT or 22 ACT score $20,000 every year for four years. For a university that depends on tuition and donations, keeping enrollment up is especially important. So, while TLU won’t ever waver on their commitment to accessibility and academic excellence, they have to make up for it in keeping enrollment as high as feasible.

One of TLU’s main struggles is that they can be as affordable as a public college, but the financial resources they offer aren’t widely known. They talk about it in their email marketing, but it was hard to find on their website.

TLU believes that a small, private college education should be affordable for all students who want a personal experience.

Nearly 100% of the incoming class is receiving some kind of funding, whether that’s through a TLU grant, TLU scholarships, Pell Grants, or otherwise. All students attend the university at a discounted rate of 50-60%. TLU is generous with its financial aid—and most students really need it.

The TLU Promise ensures every student with a 3.60 core academic GPA and a 1100 SAT or 22 ACT score $20,000 every year for four years.

Information Architecture

The students and parents visiting this website aren’t just learning about TLU; they’re learning about the entire college application process in tandem. It’s crucial that their most important initiatives, information, and CTAs are front and center. Information about The TLU Promise and other financial aid is now accessible from the home page, along with more information about the university, requesting a visit, applying, and their service to first-generation students. There’s a campus events calendar and news feed right on the homepage, too.

We created a main menu that organizes areas of information clearly:

The new main menu makes it easy for student to find the information they need.

Next to that menu, we created a drop-down that separates everything by target audience. There, content is surfaced specifically for future students, current students, alumni, faculty and staff, and parents and families. On the bottom of the homepage is a footer that follows the page as you scroll with their main calls to action in addition to a button to find a program.

Accessibility

Broadly defined, accessibility refers to designing products, devices, services, and environments so that someone with disabilities is able to use them with reasonable accommodation. On the Web, that means specifically designing site navigation, using colors and contrasts, and ensuring compatibility with assistive technology like screen readers.

At Mighty Citizen, we believe inaccessible website design is unjust. That’s why every website we build adheres to the most up-to-date accessibility standards. Unfortunately, many higher education websites aren’t accessible for all of their potential (or current) students.

The Web is ever-evolving, and accessibility has to remain part of the conversation. For TLU, we’ve crafted a website that makes maintaining accessibility standards a breeze.

A Meaningful Partnership

It’s an uncertain time for higher education. The work we do with universities like TLU makes a difference to bottom line concerns such as applications, visits, and enrollment. That’s why we’re proud to partner with institutions that are dedicated to their students and their community.

Now there’s no question about the opportunity that lies in Seguin.

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