Your Higher Education Marketing Link of the Week… UNC Graduate School: Homepage Top Tasks Design… 11 March 2022

University of North Carolina Grad School Home Page: Top Task Links for Potential and Current UNC Students

University of North Carolina Graduate SchoolUniversity of North Carolina Graduate SchoolMarketers have home page content choices:

  • (1) priority for the top tasks that visitors, especially potential students, most want to complete when they visit the site or
  • (2) priority for content that a school believes potential students should see when they visit to help “sell” them on the school.

The best choice is #1. People are happiest on websites when they can quickly and easily complete the tasks most important to them. Happy people are more likely to apply and enroll.

The UNC Graduate School, after reviewing data about what people were doing on the home page made a change in content priority: a series of 12 link blocks featuring top tasks for potential students and current students.

The new home page is easy to scan in 5 seconds or less, unlike the old version that you can see here that overwhelmed visitors with dense text that’s impossible to scan. Web visitors scan content first. When they can’t do that, they are not happy. Many just leave.

Pathway to the changes…

University of North Carolina Graduate SchoolRachel Underhill, director web and information systems at the graduate school, sent these notes about why and how the change was made:

  • “I conducted a homepage real estate analysis and determined that 70% of our homepage screen area was devoted to news and announcements, while those items received 4% of homepage clicks. At the same time, only 8% of our homepage screen area consisted of student-focused content, while that content received 95% of homepage clicks. Our homepage content priorities were completely upside down!”
  • “While the new homepage still features a hero image, just beneath it are direct links to the top tasks I identified for our current and prospective students, even if those tasks would be accomplished on other websites. I surveyed students and staff and used analytics data to determine which tasks to prioritize. Only after you scroll past the top tasks area, do you see our “news and announcements” content, which is now at the bottom of the homepage instead of the top.” (Note that the hero image does not appear on the mobile view.”
  • User experience priorities: (1) “Top tasks” strategy with student-centered content is #1, (2) clear navigation, (3) accessible and usable page layouts, and (4) Mobile friendly.
  • “I also redesigned our interior pages with the understanding that most of the visitors to our site do not start on the homepage. To accommodate those “side-door” entrances, I added a dynamic “You are here” side navigation menu to orient the visitor to where they had landed on our site.” Note how easy it is on the “admissions” page for potential students to scan the programs offered and move directly to admission requirements for programs that interest them.

Speed on mobile…

Google PageSpeed Insights measures time to first view on a mobile phone as 1.4 seconds (excellent) but could not measure the time to full interactivity.

Rachel’s technical priorities included:

  • “Fast page speed/performance”
  • “Reduced reliance on JavaScript”
  • “Employing modern CSS layout techniques (flexbox and grid)”

Excessive java script is most often what Google cites as responsible for slow mobile downloads. From the 1.4 second first view time it looks as if the speed priority has been met.

Follow the Link of the Week…

Visit a graduate school home page designed for top task priority for both potential and current students at UNC The Graduate School.

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