First impressions are important. University websites have a complex audience to manage; existing staff and students, prospective students, businesses, research partners, funding bodies, local partners, alumni… the list goes on. As the future of websites continue to evolve, how can we keep ahead whilst providing students with a useful experience as they’re deciding which institution and course is right for them?
The biggest things on the horizon for websites are ‘artificial intelligence’, chatbots, voice interaction, responsive design and augmented reality. But the common theme across all of these developments is providing users with the ability to circumnavigate often complex and cluttered websites that were built to broadcast to all different user types at any one time.
We know that users benefit from having a more focused interaction when they visit a website so we wanted to test the theory that in many cases, too many links are spoiling us for choice.
Visiting every single University website homepage in the UK we found that on average, University home pages have around 187 links on offer, with some institutions offering more than 1200!
SEO experts recommend around 100 links per page with a maximum of 150, as beyond this search engine bots will often temporarily skip the indexation of on-page links, as to not waste crawl budget.
If even a robot’s attention wanes after 150 links, just imagine how your student prospects feel!
If you’re a student doing your research on what institution might be right for you and what course you’d like to find out more on, this could be… well, a little extra!
It’s not that having lots of links and choice is a bad thing. What we have to think about from a user perspective, is that unless a user knows exactly what they are looking for, too many clicks and they’ll tail off in terms of the time they’re engaging with you, pages they’re spending time on, etc.
That is the challenge when we don’t know anything about the audience when they visit the site – what stage of research are they at, have they already applied, are they interested in a few courses, are they very early on in the process? It’s like having a one-sided conversation.
All of the new website design and innovative tools that are expected to become the norm for websites are exciting and perhaps a little daunting. But breaking down the type of conversation you’ll have with a user and how to help them find the next bit of content or action available is the best way to improve your approach now.
What we’ve been working on with cues.ai is to develop our clients’ conversion funnel by helping to inform this conversation and reduce the lost opportunities whereby content isn’t being easily provided.
Put simply, as users interact with a cue they can take a shortcut to relevant information, and this is what forms this pre-conversation – it makes it easier to provide the right information and doesn’t require users to complete lots of forms and questions before they feel ready to.
This means that the research phase is more effective and their interactions continue to shape their experience on your website – we know this as students are spending longer on each site visit when they’re interacting with cues and the feedback enables clients to better understand what they want to know more about, thus shaping the content they’re providing that can sit across their various channels.
So, whether you’ve got an average number of internal links, or over 1200, you should be thinking about the ways in which your prospective students experience your website and how to avoid too much choice stifling their decision making.