Website testing for educational institutions has evolved dramatically over the last decade and is considered critical to the successful branding, marketing, communications and operations for institutions of learning. Here are just two significant changes in website testing that have occurred over the last few years.
1) Not too long ago, a school website had to provide a positive user experience on a desktop computer period. Today, however, all schools need to create the ultimate user experience on a myriad of devices including tablets, Smartphones, game consoles, and so on. In fact, trends suggest that 50% of all website traffic will be on a mobile or non-desktop device by 2017. This means responsive design is a must. A school's website must adapt to any screen. Therefore, when testing websites, Shugoll Research strongly recommends recruiting a mix of desktop, tablet and Smartphone device users so that clients can determine if their website visitors have or do not have a positive user experience regardless of the device of choice.
2) Once upon a time, a prospective student along with his or her parent(s) would make an in-person visit to a few schools to participate in a campus tour before making their final school selection. Because students today apply to many more schools, many now rely on school websites and video features to pare down their school choices. Website videos and photographs in particular are expected to provide needed content in a user friendly, show me rather than tell me format. Prospective students want to be able to envision themselves at the school. As such, it is absolutely critical to test the videos and other visual stimuli created for inclusion on school websites. The goal should be to measure the effectiveness of the videos, graphics, photos and other site content. Morae and Eye Tracking software, as well as other diagnostic tools are used to help evaluate if the stimuli captures the visitor's eye, and creates an in-person-like, complete sensory experience for prospective students. And, because of improved bandwidth, Grade A video production, and Shugoll Research's proprietary website usability platform (Site Intelligence Tester), all this testing can be done either in person or virtually.
Ultimately, our goal is to make certain that the design of a school's site, the content of the site, and the sensory experience provided by the site is accessible to visitors both technically and emotionally. Websites must communicate a school's brand story quickly, easily and in a visually impactful way.