In the busy world of day-to-day school operations, making sure the website get updated regularly can understandably be a challenge but doing so can be worth it to build the kind of online experience parents want to engage with regularly.
In today’s post, we will discuss all things user experience.
What is user experience?
User experience, commonly referred to as UX, is the process of designing a website to ensure that visiting, using and navigating it is as easy as possible. This means creating a simple, accessible, and intuitive design that anyone can be confident using, regardless of their device, their ability with or their confidence level around computers.
What is UX in education?
UX is essential to school websites and involves ensuring that important information for parents, guardians, and carers is a few clicks away and in a logical place on the website. Here’s an example:
Let’s assume a parent visits a school website that uses the navigation menu shown below. If the parent wants to find out when a particular school trip is taking place, the most logical assumption is that they will look straight at the ‘News & Events’ section, where any information on events should be.
Once the parent hovers their mouse over or clicks on the ‘News & Events’ tab, the menu automatically expands to display the additional options shown below. The parent will probably expect to find the information they want in the ‘Calendar’ section, so ensuring the calendar is kept up to date would be considered a good user experience.
It may sound a little obvious, but details like this are essential to a good user experience and can be easy to miss. For example, if that school trip had not yet been added to the calendar section and had only been mentioned in a newsletter, it would likely create a frustrating and negative user experience. The parent would have to go and actively search around for the information.
Why is user experience so important?
Any user experience design is trying to avoid situations when a user leaves a website in frustration and doesn’t come back.
Websites are such a powerful tool for schools to use when engaging with parents, and maintaining this level of engagement is essential. Sharing news and updates is a lot easier and cheaper when a highly engaged audience of parents is already visiting the website regularly.
On the other hand, if a school’s website gives a frustrating experience, it will be harder to share that information effectively online as parents will be more inclined to avoid using the website and will therefore not see what is added.
Finally, a website with a great user experience can help you define customer journeys and create content that will be useful to your site visitors, getting the most value out of the time and effort you put in.
Considering and continually striving towards a fantastic user experience is crucial because you’re putting the website visitor at the forefront of all your efforts, precisely where they should be.
What are the six qualities that make up a good user experience?
When working with a UX designer, the focus should primarily be on these six things:
1) Accessibility and usability
Everybody who lands on a website does so with a purpose. That intention could be as simple as looking for your school’s phone number to reading through your school’s latest news.
Usability and accessibility mean that all vital information should be easily and quickly found. It also needs to be usable by people who rely on assistive technology, be that a screen reader, the sole use of a keyboard or some other type of tech. All websites need to comply with WCAG from a moral and legal standpoint.
All of this needs to be considered for a good user experience.
It can be tempting to add in as many bells and whistles as possible when redesigning a website. But before implementing anything, ask yourself, is it helpful to my website audience?
You should only go ahead with the implementation if you know for a fact that your audience (i.e. parents, carers and guardians of current students and potential students) will find it beneficial.
This point ties into the previous one, sort of. In addition to finding the information on your page useful, it must also be valuable in that all of the efforts you make on your school website must have a reason behind it.
If your overall goal is to increase the number of applications made year on year, how will the page you’re creating help achieve that? Creating web pages for web pages sake will only distract a website visitor from their primary purpose of navigating to your website. And that won’t make a great user experience.
We’ve talked about the importance of a well-structured navigation menu on your school’s website, and this point explains why that’s important. Understanding the main reasons website visitors come onto your website is the first step.
Next, you need to ensure that it’s as simple as possible for your visitors to complete their’ mission.’
If there’s a specific page that you know holds excellent value to a visitor, that should be positioned as high up the navigation menu as reasonably possible.
It takes a lot of trust for a parent, guardian or carer to put their child’s education in your hands. Therefore, you must continually remind them why they chose you and should continue to trust you.
This could be in the form of publishing yearly exam results or talking about awards the school has won etc. These should be valid claims that will make a reader proud to be associated with your school.
Of course, it’s not enough for these to just sit on your website. They need to be findable, which goes back to point four in our list.
We’ve talked a lot about the functionality of a website, but we can’t forget the importance of a website also being aesthetically pleasing, within the confines of accessibility, of course.
Essentially, website visitors need to feel that they are experiencing something extraordinary. A website needs to look good, appeal to the user’s emotions, and entice them to stay on the website long enough to achieve a goal, such as downloading information about the application process.
A user experience designer needs to achieve all of these things as part of a web build or redesign.
How is user experience measured?
Much of user experience design comes from putting yourself in the shoes of the people visiting a website and trying to understand the experience through their eyes, identifying their expectations and what they are likely to do with the information presented to them on the website.
So, how do you measure the impact of your school website changes? You may consider using the following metrics:
1) Goal completion rate
If you divide the number of goal completions by the number of website visitors, you’ll get a goal completion rate (you can get this information via Google Analytics). We recommend taking a few months worth of goal completion rates as a benchmark before making any UX changes.
Then, either as you gradually make website changes with user experience in mind, or once the changes have been made as part of a web rebuild or redesign, measure whether the goal completion rate increases or decreases.
2) New vs returning visitors
Using Google Analytics, you can also ascertain how many visitors have been on your website before. The higher this number is, the more likely your UX implementation has been successful.
How Juniper Education can help
When it comes to the initial design and build of a website, or a redesign, our School Websites and Communications team can help. We have experienced UX experts working in our team to help you organise your website with user experience in mind. We strive to ensure that every site we deliver provides a pleasant experience that is simple, easy and intuitive to use.