Your Higher Education Marketing Link of the Week… University of Massachusetts: Online Home Page… 12 January 2018

4 Key Links Get High Home Page Visibility

University of Massachusetts OnlineThe University of Massachusetts is about to undertake an ambitious goal to become a major national force in online education. We can measure success in how quickly, if at all, UMass increases revenue from online programs from about $100 million at present to the $400 million set as a target. No timeline was given in a Boston Globe story outlining the quest. Marketing plans are in formation.

The UMass venture is an early sign of the increased competition for online students and their revenue that we can expect to witness in 2018. In that context, we wondered what the home page for “UMassOnline” looked like at the start.

Design priority for task links

At first glance, we were pleasantly surprised. The Online home page places 4 links in a key “can’t miss” position as the page opens in both desktop/laptop and mobile format. Research with potential online students confirms that “Find a Degree” closely matches the top tasks of potential online students.

Desktop images behind the links have nothing to to with online education but in this design format they stay in the background and don’t detract from the primary content pathways. On mobile, the images don’t appear.

Searching for academic programs

“Explore our campuses” is a bit vague… people who follow that link will discover that 5 universities within the UMass system offer their own set of academic programs. People can click on individual campus names to see the programs offered by each one. Right now if you live in California or Texas or pretty much anywhere outside New England that’s a tedious step to see the full array of programs UMass makes available. Expect that to change as the national campaign moves forward.

Placement of inquiry information is good. And the inquiry form itself is relatively short, although it asks for unreliable answers to the question “How did you hear about the University of Massachusetts online programs?”

What top task content is missing? Quick access to cost information as one of the primary links. Online students want to know about cost and affordability right from the start of their search for a school.

Excessive PR content

Unnecessary content? People who start out on desktop to “Explore Our Campuses” will first encounter 13 PR-style “UMass System Points of Pride.” Most are not related to online education. National online students, for instance, likely don’t care that “Directly and indirectly, the economic activity of the university supports more than 43,000 Massachusetts jobs every year.” Far better to focus here on content about UMass online programs and results. (On mobile, the pride points are included on the opening page for anyone who likes to scroll a long list.)

On Mobile… a rare “Excellent” speed rating

The site earned a rare “Excellent” rating from Google Test My site for a 3 second mobile download speed. Google projects a “low” visitor loss rate. Any new site that’s part of a new marketing effort should strive for a similar speed rating.

Follow the Link of the Week

Visit the current online home page of a flagship public university poised to enter national competition for students at UMass Online.

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