Selling the student experience Web services blog | firez
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Selling the student experience | Web services blog

Earlier this year, the undergraduate prospectus was updated. The marketing and design teams worked with an external agency to give it a contemporary feel and to ensure it showcased the student experience to the fullest. The resulting prospectus looked fantastic: it was vibrant, written in a friendly tone, included a variety of student voices, and featured high-quality photography that really showed the campus and city at its best.

Compared to this new prospectus, our campus and city web pages looked pretty bland and uninteresting. Some of the information we had on the pages was outdated and the structure needed to be reviewed. It was fair to say that this part of the website was in desperate need of a makeover!

Why are these pages important?

Students already in Dundee are overwhelmingly enthusiastic about what the campus and city have to offer and we regularly rank first in student experience surveys. That’s great, but we need to raise awareness among prospective students: people from outside Scotland say they know little about the city or the university and often don’t find it a particularly attractive destination. These pages are our opportunity, as with the prospectus, to showcase Dundee to the world.

We must also consider that for some prospective students, particularly those abroad or who may enter through clearing, the web pages may be their only real ‘experience’ of the city before traveling here in person to begin their studies.

While traffic to these pages (~175.00 views over a 12 month period) only represents a small percentage of views to the /study/ section, it is likely to be considered by more « serious » candidates who have already ascertained that we offer the course at they are interested in and who have a high probability of meeting our entry requirements.

What did we want to do?

  1. Restructure pages and remove redundant content
  2. Rewrite, add and update content as needed, including more engaging photography and video content
  3. Make greater use of student-derived material
  4. Include a call to action to assist in student recruitment

Page restructuring

We’ve organized the content into two separate categories, city life (single page) and campus life, comprising several pages on different topics.

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We are looking to streamline content across the University website by reducing repetitive and/or redundant content. With this in mind, we have removed descriptive pages on student accommodation and services websites and linked directly to that site, thus eliminating a step and providing easier navigation for users. Other pages that were accessed less than 1000 times in a year were also removed.

Left navigation removed

We have chosen to remove left navigation from the pages. It was underutilized and served little purpose other than to distract users while reading the main content. Removing it also meant we could use the entire space for content and give our pages a more magazine-like feel.

Updated and rewritten content

Tone of voice

As with the prospectus, we wanted to make sure the pages appealed to prospective students, so we adopted a more informal and friendly tone of voice:

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City page

One of the pages we made major changes was the city page, researching and updating the content to take into account the city’s many recent developments and accolades.

city ​​life2

We started by showing the visitor exactly where Dundee was, using a map from the prospectus, together with some indicative journey times to highlight the fact that it is within easy reach from many parts of the country. Prospective students seem to have welcomed the inclusion of this; the heatmap below shows that almost all page visitors stopped by to check out this content.

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Rather than go into too much detail about the page’s other topics – Arts & Culture, Nightlife, Food & Drink, Shopping, and Parks & Recreation – we kept the content fairly brief, believing prospective students would turn to other sources if they had I wanted to explore them in more detail.

Instead, we’ve painted a picture with a brush, highlighting the huge variety on Dundee’s offerings. The restaurant scene, for example, has improved tremendously in recent years, adding to the city’s multicultural flavor, and we’re also now starting to feel the impact of the Waterfront’s transformation. In fact, change is happening so fast that even during the relatively short period of gathering content for the pages we were aware of new developments in Dundee’s social scene.

In keeping with the more magazine-style page format, the written content was broken up with bold, vibrant imagery. Removing the left navigation bar gave us an opportunity to make a real impact on the page with some great photography. Some images have been taken from the elevation, but others have not yet been used elsewhere, and help create the impression of a unique, vibrant city that has something to offer for all tastes.

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Campus Pages

As with the city page, the set of campus pages also made far greater use of photography and especially video. Each campus page begins with a brand new video containing the highlights of the facilities on offer, along with title text so that key messages can be conveyed immediately.

library facilities

We also tried to identify unique and interesting facts about places like the library – obviously all universities have a library, but what sets ours apart? We thought the special laptop lockers, where you can recharge your laptop while it’s safely stored away, were a little different!

Campus Verde

The inclusion of a green campus page is a new addition and serves two purposes. Firstly, it shows prospective students how much green space we have on campus, which many find surprising considering we are in the city centre, and secondly, it calls attention to our green policies. Environmental issues are becoming increasingly important to prospective students and our track record on these issues is certainly worth highlighting.

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More student-derived content

As with the updated course and country pages, we’ve included student testimonials, both as part of our videos and as written content:

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We have always believed that this type of content appeals to prospective students and this statement is backed up by the tracking software we have installed on the pages. The heatmaps produced show that users stop reading this content even if they are scrolling past some of our text.

Call to action

Finally, we considered our calls to action – the purpose of these pages is to encourage students to apply to University, so what would be their next logical step? At the bottom of each page, we’ve included calls to action: once a prospective student has read the content and hopefully liked what they saw, we want to encourage them to visit the campus on their own (if possible), or if they are from abroad, to find more specific information on life in Dundee for students from their home country. Links to join an open day and country specific information are then included at the bottom of each page.

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Measuring the impact of our changes

These pages have not had particularly heavy traffic in the past. It’s too early to tell at this time whether our changes have increased visitor numbers, as we need to collect more data over time. However, even in the last couple of weeks, we can see that when people reach these pages, the time spent on them is generally very good:

  • City life – 2.50am
  • Union – 2:25
  • Sportsman – 1:49
  • Study facilities – 1:42
  • Green Campus – 2:04am

As mentioned above, we can also see from heatmaps that users stop at the parts of the page that interest them, such as the map and student testimonials.

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We also need more time to judge whether our calls to action have worked – there are some times of the year that see more traffic to these pages than others – but the initial results are promising, with users around the world particularly interested in clicking through to our set of international pages.

Future projects

We will continue to monitor how users interact with these pages and make improvements based on the data. We will also ensure that these pages are maintained on a regular basis so that the information remains up to date.

Additionally, we have two main projects underway that will complement this set of pages. The first, based on the idea that prospective students want to see as much of the University as possible, is to incorporate a 360-degree virtual tour. This is something many universities have already developed to great effect and something that will be of interest to all prospective students, but particularly those from abroad who may not be able to visit in person.

Secondly, as we know that our users are showing interest in the student testimonials on the website, we are planning to resurrect the student blog, giving 12 students the opportunity to blog about their daily life here in Dundee. While testimonials and standalone quotes work well on proper webpages, they are limited in that they don’t allow a user to fully connect or form any kind of relationship with the author. The blog aims to fill this gap as it will follow a student’s journey through college, navigating the ups and downs of student life and allowing the reader to identify with the student blogger.

We hope to have this blog up and running by the end of the summer, so keep an eye on this space.