University of Sheffield threads the Home Page Needle: Branding + Top Task Priority
Colleges and universities find it near impossible to resist the temptation to use the home page to broadcast brand messages.
Most visitors, including potential students, do not have seeing/reading brand messages as a Top Task when they arrive at a home page… or anywhere else on the website. The primary top task for potential students is an answer to a simple question: what academic programs do you offer?
More often than not brand messaging takes priority over quick access to top tasks. But there are exceptions… and the new home page at University of Sheffield is one of those exceptions. Sheffield recognized the challenge. Two of 4 goals at the start were creating a home page that:
- “allowed us to give stronger prominence to our key campaigns and messages as a University
- “prioritised visitor top tasks in relation to signposting the course finder and relevant content to our audiences”
When the home page opens, you’ll immediately see that “The Sheffield Community is waiting for you” underneath an opening “Explore” image. The brand message gets first placement. Top university leadership is happy.
Immediately underneath the brand message in a secondary but also highly visible placement is the “Find a Course” pathway to top task completion for potential students. If you have a particular area of study in mind you can type that right into the search bar for either undergrad or post graduate study areas. (Note for my U.S. friends: a “course” on UK websites = a major area of study.)
To learn about offerings in special areas, there are 5 additional links:
- PhD Study
- International pathways programmes
- Online learning
- Courses for mature students
The process works as well on a smartphone as on a desktop or laptop computer.
The Sheffield home page development process…
The web folks at Sheffield have published an unusually detailed story of how they moved from a Beta version of the home page to the version you’ll see here. Substantial changes were made based on visitor feedback:
- “the top banner of the new design was far too dominant and deep, and that it pushed content too far down the page.
- “they didn’t always see what they were expecting at the top of the page when it comes to messaging and our brand.
- “the page was too long and required too much scrolling – particularly on smaller devices.
- “a more creative and stylish design would help make the page more impactful.
- “the colours and fonts used didn’t feel bespoke and part of a strong visual identity.”
Kudos to Sheffield for allowing us the look how the process unfolded. For more, visit “A new homepage for the University of Sheffield.”
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