Judges from the Council for the Advancement and Support of Education gave Unity College’s “striking” website a Silver Award in a national competition – the college’s third major award for branding and outreach in a variety of media this year.
“In order for Unity College to continue its path toward a national presence, a forward leaning digital presence is critical,” said Unity College President Dr. Stephen Mulkey. “This award affirms our further steps down that path.”
Judges said “several innovative features” of unity.edu stood out among 88 entries in the Institutional Websites category of the 2015 Circle of Excellence Awards.
“Unity College’s website excels in several areas, but its single greatest strength is the extent to which the institution’s personality and brand are conveyed quickly and consistently through the site,” judges said in a statement. “Striking photography and well-written copy draw visitors into the website and provide a true sense of place. The homepage makes use of attractive, navigation-enhancing illustration.
“One of the site’s original qualities: the ability to turn off text and color blocks that cover photographs, allowing visitors to experience the banner photos full-screen, complete with a caption. The site also lets visitors change the navigation and page color scheme from white to dark, and there is an ever-present button that leads to ‘Experience Unity’ –- a page with stories, videos and links to social media. The Unity team made excellent use of the budgetary resources at their disposal to create an exemplary website.”
The 2015 Circle of Excellence judging panel consisted of 13 individuals with diverse expertise, knowledge of digital communications, from public and private educational institutions and two digital agencies.
“The latest award signals that the Unity College message and unique value proposition is reaching all of our stakeholders, regardless of the medium,” said Dr. Melik Peter Khoury, executive vice president and chief academic officer. “But it takes talented people who know innovative ways to get that point across.”
“Since Unity College is not very well known outside of Maine and New England, we knew our website had to do something very different to create a more national and international presence,” Webmaster and Marketing Liaison Alecia Sudmeyer said. “By focusing on what would resonate with our potential students, we created a website that breathes the outdoors, experiential learning and academic rigor, with nothing fake in the mix. We wanted it to be fun to explore and learn, just like our innovative environmental majors. And I think it is working! This year we have record enrollment numbers at a time when other small colleges are struggling.”
CASE officials said judging was a collaborative effort and that winners were selected after extensive discussion and scrutiny. Judges began by asking what defines a high-quality website in 2015.
Criteria included solid research that indicates the website builders understand their target audiences and users; fully responsive content that is optimized for all devices, from phones to large, high-resolution displays; user-centric navigation that focuses on target audiences and provides clear pathways throughout the site; metrics that tie back to project or organizational goals and consist of more than just increased web traffic; and a visually compelling site in which design enhances the content and navigation.
The contest also valued content that included compelling writing and video to convey institutional messages and personality; cohesiveness; accessibility by persons with disabilities; ability to load quickly on a variety of devices and connection speeds; employing best SEO practices; innovation; easy-to-use information about majors, minors, and academic programs; plus “smart and realistic” use of budget and available resources.
The website recognition was the latest national recognition for Unity’s marketing efforts, adding to previous awards for print materials and video.
In April, Unity recruitment publications were recognized with a Gold Award in the 30th Annual Educational Advertising Awards, sponsored by Higher Education Marketing Report, the largest educational advertising awards competition in the country, with more than 2,000 entries from more than 1,000 colleges, universities and secondary schools. Gold awards were granted to 269 institutions.
In January, “Unity is Different,” a series of five videos — “Create,” “Discover,” “Educate,” “Experience,” and “Unity is Different” — received a Gold Award from CASE District 1.