With splashy photographs and abbreviated copy, Indiana University Maurer School of Law has completely revamped its Internet presence to try to get prospective students to take a breather from surfing other law schools’ websites and plunge deeper into what the Bloomington institution has to offer.
The new website has done away with traditional elements found on nearly all law school websites like tabs with drop-down menus along the top of the page and the mash of information on the landing page highlighting lectures, continuing legal education courses, faculty research and alumni events.
Instead, IU Maurer opted to focus on millennials who are thinking about pursuing a J.D. degree. The site, www.law.indiana.edu, gives a clear message by displaying panoramic photos showing the beauty of the Bloomington campus and explaining how the law school will help its students become successful lawyers.
Top students today are bombarded with messages from law schools, said Kenneth Turchi, assistant dean for finance and administration. So IU Maurer had to grab the prospective students by their lapels and entice them to explore.
Work on the redesign began in the summer of 2014, and the new site went live Jan. 5. The cost of the entire project was less than a third of the law school’s annual marketing and communication budget.
“For me, it’s something we needed to get done,” IU Maurer Dean Austen Parrish said. “I’m pleased with the way it looks.”
Initial conversations within the law school about doing something different eventually concluded with the decision to use the site as an admissions tool. Parrish said the goal was to create a website that had a clear message for prospective students rather than having a dictionary-like site, overloaded with information and menu buttons, that catered to the internal audience of current students, faculty and staff.
“I could be wrong,” Parrish said. “I don’t know if people go to a Web page for a dictionary unless they are already involved” in the school.
The website, he said, is focused on telling the story of the law school and conveying the feeling of being in Bloomington.
Still, IU Maurer did not want to alienate these other audiences. The information for alumni, faculty and other groups is still available on the website even though it is no longer parked on the home page.
To maintain the minimalist appearance, the website took a chest of drawers approach. Eugene Ernsberger, interactive director at Lodge Design, explained the drawers hold the content for alumni, professors, administrators and others.
Lodge Design, based in Indianapolis, was the outside vendor that helped IU Maurer design its new site.
Prospective students are encouraged to explore the website through the crimson-colored buttons that invite them to click and learn more about a particular program, clinic or faculty research. They also can schedule a visit or fill out an application.
Millennials will click to get deeper into websites that they find interesting, Ernsberger said. If they do not find what they want, they are confident they can easily find their way back. And when they do get where they want to be, they are likely to read longer copy.
This trait is contrary to the old philosophy of website design that held the information should be available with the fewest clicks. Because young adults are used to clicking, the IU Maurer website has created paths for them to follow to learn more.
In addition, the law school had to make its site compatible with the place many millennials search – mobile devices. A Pew Research Center 2013 report found that 85 percent of young adults ages 18 to 29 are likely to visit a website or send an email using their cell phones, the highest of any demographic group.
Potential students can access the IU Maurer site on their smartphones or tablets and with the swipe of a finger easily search through the offerings at IU Maurer. No need to enlarge to see the text.
Picking one group
Law schools and universities across the country tend to have websites that look remarkably alike, many following a cookie-cutter design. Outside of higher education, the sites especially for consumer goods take the big photos, minimal content approach IU Maurer has adopted.
Andrea Havill, assistant dean for external affairs and alumni relations at IU Maurer, served on the website committee that provided input into the redesign. She agreed with Parrish that the school needed to have a better-looking site.
However, she acknowledged convincing everyone at the law school to focus on just prospective students took some effort. Faculty, library staff, alumni, and students all wanted a presence but, she said, because all these groups are so different, the site had to choose one group.
“Not everybody agreed, but as we continued going through the process, everybody saw the value in it,” Havill said.
Although IU Maurer stands out from the crowd, Parrish does not see the new website as posing any risk to the school. In fact, even if the site does not bring in more applications, the dean will not consider it a failure. He noted the website is only part of the law school and he is hopeful this new design will get prospective students to take a second look.•