Making a Top Task Easier: University of Hartford Academic Program Finder on the Home Page
For 10+ years our Top Task research has always found that “academic programs” is the first or second Top Task for almost every potential student searching for the right college to attend. Alas, not being able to quickly find what programs are offered also is a major frustration reported at too many higher education websites.
University of Hartford took a major step to eliminate the frustration on a newly designed home page that offers two options to learn about academic programs.
Two options to explore academic programs…
First option: Visitors can scroll down not far past opening videos (on desktop or laptop) to see a “What degree option are you interested in?” pathway to undergrad and graduate programs. Follow the “undergraduate” path and arrive at “What academic programs are you interested in?” and links to 11 academic program areas, starting with “Art” and ending with “Theatre & Dance.”
Second option: Stay on the home page a bit further to see an alternative path: small photo images opening the door to “Seven Schools and Colleges”:
- A & S (College of Arts & Sciences)
- Barney (Barney School of Business)
- ENHP (College of Education, Nursing and Health Professions)
- CETA (College of Engineering, Technology, and Architecture)
- HAS (Hartford Art School)
- Hartt (The Hartt School)
- Hillyer (Hillyer College)
We’d be curious to see over the next 6 months which option to explore the program array is used most often by first-time visitors to the home page.
Note this curious design difference for this second option:
- On the desktop home page version only initials for each school and college are visible. A cursor over the image reveals the name of the school.
- On the mobile version visitors see not only the initials of each school but also the name. Why not put the name on the large screen version as well so there’s no need to cursor your way over each one to see the printed words?
Another home page with academic program priority…
A content strategy that gives this much space on a home page to finding academic programs is rare. See another example from University of Nebraska-Lincoln. This isn’t quite as prominent today as it was a few years ago but scroll down the home page to see the name of 9 major academic divisions, with links to the undergraduate and graduate programs offered.
Interesting coincidence… “Endless possibilities” at Hartford… “Infinite possibilities” at Nebraska.
On Mobile… a “slow” 9.8 seconds for the home page
Google in March made major changes to the “Test My Site” tool. Among other points, speed is now rated using a 4G standard rather than the 3G level that Google told us until March 70 percent of people are still using to access mobile sites. Comparison with past Link of the Week mobile speed reports isn’t valid. Speed expectations are higher now than in the 3G world.
The University of Hartford website overall gets a “slow” rating of 3.3 seconds. That’s the norm for most higher education pages we’ve tested on Google. On the home page itself, the mobile speed rating increases to 9.8 seconds. That’s well above the norm.
For comparison, the University of Nebraska-Lincoln site scores an “average” 2 seconds overall and just 3.9 seconds for the home page.
Competitive comparison… Google now gives you the ability to add up to 9 URLs from competitor sites for comparative speed ratings. Do that. If the result shows that your site is slower than your key competitors that might give you new internal leverage to increase attention and resources to the need for a faster website.
Follow the Link of the Week…
To see a prominent home page placement for two options to explore academic programs visit the University of Hartford home page.
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