Coastal.edu is getting a $170,000 makeover.
The official website of Coastal Carolina University will sport a new look this fall, and, despite the price tag, officials insist the redesign is long overdue.
“Coastal.edu is our No. 1 marketing tool,” said Bill Plate Jr., vice president of university communication. “Or should I say, it should be our No. 1 marketing tool. And what we currently have is not doing its job.”
Plate told the university’s board of trustees this week that the site underwent some updates a few years ago, but they weren’t “a major forward haul.” He said the site doesn’t appeal to prospective students and their parents — people he said make up Coastal.edu’s target audience.
“We’re losing people,” he said. “They’re not staying on our site very long because it’s so hard for them to find the content that they need.”
Coastal leaders envision the new site featuring more videos and information that tells Coastal’s story. Plate, who has been chairing a web advisory committee at the school, said other Palmetto State institutions such as Bob Jones University and the College of Charleston have more appealing sites than Coastal.
“You can clearly see a major difference,” he said.
Board member Natasha Hanna said she had to be sold on the expensive overhaul.
“I was a little bit shocked at the sticker price,” she said. “But Bill and this committee have assured us that they’ve looked and there’s a lot of other companies that they could contract with and it [would be] a higher price.”
During the meeting, Hanna asked Plate if he had inquired about the firms that redesigned the Bob Jones and College of Charleston sites.
Plate said he had not.
“I don’t want to emulate any sites that are currently out there,” he said. “If we keep doing that … within six months it looks outdated.”
Plate said he consulted Coastal’s staff to see if the university had the in-house expertise to tackle the project. He found the school lacking in that department, so he opted to seek outside help.
Coastal is contracting with the company TerminalFour, an Ireland-based firm that has offices in the United States. The company specializes in working with colleges on content management. TerminalFour is teaming with the digital media company iFactory on Coastal.edu’s redesign.
“What I wanted to do was bring in a thought leader,” Plate said, “bring in an innovator to take us past where most universities and colleges are now.”
The redesigned website will work well on multiple platforms, including mobile devices. That fact resonated with board members, who agreed the new look must be attractive on the cell phones and tablet computers that students favor.
“Design it for this,” trustee Gene Spivey said as he held up his cell phone. Then he pointed to a projection of Coastal’s home page on a desktop. “Make it look OK on there.”