Beta homepage – feedback from prospective students

Is our new homepage design useful for prospective students?

  Flickr: "Project User Experience Testing" by Samuel Mann. CC BY 2.0

We’ll be getting ongoing feedback from prospective students as we develop our new website. A new homepage design needs to help a prospective undergraduate achieve their goals.

Background

We received feedback from Year 12 and two Year 13 students on the desktop version of our beta homepage and student experience pages to help us improve the design, our personas and better understand our users’ needs.

Academic league tables and student experience were important to all of them, however different personalities swayed more towards either rational academics or emotive/fun student experience.

Much investigation about universities had been done by the students, especially on 3rd party sites, such as The Complete University Guide. Following universities on social media was also a way of keeping tabs. Although influenced by friends and parents, the students were very astute about what might be best for them.

There was a variation between confident and decisive (strongly focussed about the path they want to take) versus an exploratory approach (still discovering their way and needing more guidance).

Beta homepage feedback

Students were asked what the three most important considerations were for them when considering a university. A scenario was set based on how they had been researching universities before.

They were then presented with the homepage and asked to give initial feedback and then identify how they would reach their goal to learn about their important considerations.

There was a positive initial response to the design. This seemed to be achieved due to stronger visual impact and interactivity from bold imagery and videos.

Design achieved imparting a professional impression about the institution. Although students would likely glance over the content and dive into searching for a course, there was an awareness of a professional and modern institution.

As some students related more to an academic rather than a “fun” student experience presentation, the strong main feature image can have an impact on different prospects as it sets the tone.

Content needs to be targeted to different audiences at different times of the year, but our brand needs to hold its integrity as a serious and challenging institution for all its audiences.

All students found ways to search for courses both via the course search bar or the study menu. There was an understanding of the global menu, although for this audience there is less awareness of or interest in “Research”.

We used “Experience” rather than “Explore”. Generally this was understood to contain student experience related information. “Study” was clear to all students.

Menu worked for the students, it is important to have multiple ways to search.

When asked how they would contact the university, they mostly scrolled down the page, looking for the footer where there is contact information. One student never reached the bottom and instead used the global search.

Contact information works at the bottom of the page. Also make it easy to find in the global navigation such as adding initial “Popular links” to search.

Summary

Our feedback suggested that the beta homepage is working and useful for prospects. This feedback is also consistent with the guerrilla user testing we did on the homepage.

Although our homepage has lots of traffic, it is not necessarily the most important page to our users. They are likely to Google and enter our site on any page, probably a course page. As an institution, the homepage serves a symbolic starting point for our new website.

Although feedback from three prospects is a small sample, we will be following up with further testing, including testing mobile versions. We are developing full user journeys which we’ll continue to validate.

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