UMass Online Gets Competitive Homepage Advantage with a Simple Difference
Web visitors have no patience. They want to get right to the task that brought them to a website as quickly as possible. Every second counts.
And so a simple difference in the University of Massachusetts Online website at it opens boosts the UMass program a step ahead of rivals like Arizona State Online, Penn State Online, and Purdue Global Online.
A “Choose Your Degree Level” set of 9 titles and links immediately greets potential students exploring what the University of Massachusetts can offer them. And that’s likely the top task that brought them to the site. No extra link to required to move right along to what’s available within the degree areas. No photos. No brand claims.
“Choosing Your Subject” is an alternative for those who want to check what’s available within one of 9 academic areas.
Reality here is that most people arriving at college and university home pages want to get off that page as quickly as possible. Anything that slows their departure is an irritant. Too many seconds of irritants and they will leave without going deeper into the site. That’s why many people will skip a home page entirely if they can.
What’s the competitive advantage compared to Penn State, Purdue, and ASU?
Other home pages for online programs make visitors open a link to see what’s available in degree and program areas. That might not seem like a serious barrier. But when every second counts, the UMass Online approach is better.
The design approach needs always to ask this question: how can we eliminate anything that acts as a speed bump to task completion? That attitide is critical to elminating content creep that threatens marketing success right from the start.
Penn State does better here than Arizona State Online and Purdue Global. The links to see what UMass makes immediately obvious are clear as you decide between “Choose Program Level” and “Choose Topic.” (Although why the “Topic” word is used instead of “Academic Area” isn’t clear.”)
Unlike UMass and Penn State, Arizona State and Purdue Global can’t resist adding marketing language on their opening pages.
- Purdue’s “affordable” word in the opening is a magnet for protential students. Learning about program costs is indeed a top task for many. Alas there’s no obvious way to move directly to cost info. There is a link to “Take 3 Weeks to Get to Know Us,” a plan that lets students withdraw after 3 weeks at no cost if they don’t like the experience. But from that content, there’s no obvious link to what the cost will be if a student continues. Using the “affordable” word without supporting content to back the claim runs the risk of creating an unmet expectation.
- ASU’s brand notes might apply to any online program: “A degree from your doorstep” and “A possibility to change the world” are not brand differentiators.
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