You have less than a minute to find a course…

I’ve just come to the end of series of usability tests, I’ve been looking at the Medical Faculty and Social Sciences Faculty websites using student volunteers to examine their usability.

Among other things I’ve been asking the student volunteers to look for specific courses offered by these faculties. The results have generally been positive but doing this task has prompted several of the students to comment on just how important this task is.

Take a look at these quotes from the volunteers:

“If it takes too long to look for things then you just stop it and say, well, I don’t want to go to Lund and go to another university instead”

” I can tell you from back home, that when I picked a university and looked at the homepages I was more interested in those which had a really nice webpage….I mean not much text, but really clear links, like you can study this, and you apply like this, you first see what they offer and how to apply”

Finding courses and programmes is the key purpose of a university’s website. We have to optimise our websites to the extent that what we teach (or what you, a student, can learn) is never more than a few clicks from the homepage.

People are not patient when they are looking at websites.

Using Google Analytics we can very quickly get an idea of how long people spend on our university website. The average time people spend on our website is less than 4 minutes. This is a crude, and simple, analysis but it emphasises how short the time is that we have to give users the information they are looking for.

Imagine you’re a student – choosing a university. You’re looking at 5 different university websites. Which is the one which will catch your eye and probably become the one you enroll at? I think it’s the one where you find the course and understand how to begin the application process in less than a minute.