Besides being a popular buzzword amongst education marketers and tech teams, user experience (UX) has become an invaluable way to attract and retain students in today’s digital world. With many colleges and universities delivering a similar product, thoughtful UX design becomes a powerful competitive differentiator for higher ed institutions.
The origins of user experience design date back to the Romans who used the principles of durability, usefulness and aesthetics in their architectural design processes. In the digital age, this can be translated into navigating a site efficiently, getting necessary information in a digestible way, and showing off your brand beautifully. In the simplest terms, user experience design is the way visitors interact with your site. This includes everything from the content to the functionality of your website. To do these things effectively, it is important to develop a deep understanding of your website user and their customer journey.
It is important to utilize UX design and development in higher education websites because it impacts every aspect of the student experience from application to graduation. Today’s tech-savvy students want their online experience to work for them. A positive user experience should feel seamless and doesn’t leave them asking more questions. Higher education institutions can benefit from this web design approach by getting higher conversion rates, more leads, and even increasing their stock price.
To further prove this, we took a deep dive into our website redesign for Universal Technical Institute. By extracting insights from key stakeholders, developing a core messaging framework, and enhancing target audience profiles, we reached the heart of what drives each prospective student of Universal Technical Institute (UTI). We were able to rebuild the technician training school's website into a new, improved customer experience that places the prospective student first.
With an emphasis on addressing prospective student needs balanced with meeting the school's goals, the new website has helped Universal Technical Institute generate more quality inbound leads while giving prospective students an engaging online experience during their journey.
The redesign resulted in UTI's first quarterly increase in student starts in eight years. In addition, the school's stock price was up 16.7% in the year following its launch, compared to an average decline of 14% among industry peers. The upward trend continued in 2019, with the stock being up nearly 50%. This case study is one of many proofs that thought UX design is useful, not only to the student but the institution.
The first step in any engagement starts with clearly understanding the user's experience goals and your business goals before ever starting a design. By extracting and analyzing the customer's behavior and psychological states, we can not only better empathize with their challenges but design around them to produce more meaningful outcomes. Our goal at LT is to create a purposeful digital experience that is aligned with the vision of your product or service.
In our work with UTI, a comprehensive discovery phase helped us better understand the core audience, our mission, and how to connect those objectives in an engaging, effective way. These interviews resulted in a deep understanding of the prospective student – their needs, concerns, and motivations when choosing a technical training school, how to best connect with them in each phase of their journey, and the challenges to address on the path to inquire about enrollment. Below we highlight areas of importance when it comes to creating a UX-driven higher education website.
Clear navigation is the first step to effective web design. Each user must be able to easily navigate through your site organically. Research shows that only 30% of web visitors use the “Search” function, leaving a majority using navigation alone. Navigation tools, or menus, are most successful if they are easy to find, clearly labeled, and allow the user to understand what your site has to offer.
Patience may be a virtue, but fast site speeds are a requirement. Site speeds have a high impact on whether a visitor will return to your site and the length of their stay. Evidence shows that 53% of visitors will leave a mobile site if their loading time is more than three seconds. Google ranks site speeds at the top of their list for user experience optimization. If you want to see how your site performs, you can try Google’s free speed test.
Over 60% of website visits in the past year were made via mobile devices. Keeping this in mind, it is important to take a mobile-first approach to your web design. A mobile-first approach means simplifying the design of your site so that it works effortlessly on a mobile device. This is an added benefit for students because it allows them to complete tasks from anywhere.
CTAs are crucial when it comes to student recruitment efforts. You can have the best-looking site in the world but without compelling CTAs you might fail to convert prospective students.
The goal for most digital marketing initiatives is to increase customer/student conversion rates. When it comes to better conversion rates, CRO and UX design go hand in hand. At LT, we conduct conversion rate optimization audits and tap into what motivates students to enroll in a program or take action and find the revenue multiplier for your marketing toolkit. This allows colleges and universities to maximize their Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and Paid Media efforts by tactfully driving traffic.
Building an educational website can feel like a huge undertaking. Luckily, there are experts in this area that can simplify the process by conducting user testing, developing content, managing your site and using their knowledge of search engines to get you results. At LaneTerralever, we use an optimized, user-friendly approach that allows for collaboration between our web development team and our clients. To learn more about what we can do to redesign your higher education website, get in touch with us below.
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