Google urges colleges to exploit digital design

Google has urged universities to engage with digital design and social networking sites to market themselves more effectively.

Google’s industry head, local, Luke Mckend, accuses universities of being ‘stubbornly traditional’, and advises digital designers working for them to launch several versions of a website simultaneously. This lets them test sites with users before picking the final design.

‘Don’t let a university’s chief executive decide which to go for [just] because he has the most clout – that is a bad way to make design decisions,’ says Mckend, who was speaking at the Discovering Futures’ Successful Branding in Higher Education conference at the London School of Economics last Thursday.

‘Let the users tell you what works,’ adds Mckend. ‘We’ve seen up to 60 per cent uplift in sales and traffic through launching sites on user data.’

He praises London Business School for putting together a YouTube video channel, and anticipates the UK university market closing the gap on the US in terms of commerciality.

‘Unlike in the US, where the university market is largely commercial, we haven’t had the pressure to engage new audiences. However, it is becoming an increasingly commercial sector since the introduction of fees, which means they are having to engage more with potential audiences,’ explains Mckend.

Leeds Metropolitan University is set to rebrand as Leeds Carnegie University to distance itself from the ‘former polytechnic’ associations of the word ‘metropolitan’. All design work is being done in-house by a team led by Richard Berry.

‘Universities traditionally consider branding tawdry. It is not part of the academic ethos, and it runs contrary to it,’ says Berry. He argues designers working with colleges ‘should use the word “reputation” instead of “branding”’.

‘Universities have to differentiate themselves and introduce the idea of value to their marketing, which they have never had to do before,’ he says.

Facebook is encouraging universities to use its pages better on the networking site.

Josh Smith, Facebook head of inside sales, contrasts Oxford University’s use of its Facebook page with that of the US’s University of Kansas.

‘Oxford University is not making the most of its page, so there is a real opportunity here that it and many other British universities are missing.’

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