Rating Higher Education Websites: The Student Experience


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How do current students and potential future students rate their experience at university websites? Review results from Customer Centric Index (CCI) surveys at 12 colleges and universities. Presented in Denmark at J.Boye Aarhus 2009 conference.

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  • Social Factors: Contact: Can you be easily contacted – is it obvious to your customers how they can do this? Difficulty in contacting a person is one of the biggest irritations customers have with websites. Participation: Participation is the essence of the Web. Customers don’t simply want to be talked to. They also want to talk back, join discussions. Open: On the Web, customers are saying: ‘Give us the facts, quick.’ They don’t want spin, and they don’t want vital information hidden from them. They expect transparency. Recommendations: Customers love to compare, rate and review. They like to read about what other customers think. They want objective advice to help them make the right decision.  
  • What do your customers really care about? Through 12 years of research and work on the best websites and intranets we have identified the qualities that make a site work for customers. The Customer Centric Index gets your customers to rate your site against 13 critical customer-centric factors, grouped into three major categories:- Content Factors: Accurate: Accurate content is the foundation upon which all quality websites should be built. Send customers to the wrong place, give them the wrong information and they won’t come back to your site Up-to-date: If your website is not up to date then you will waste your customer’s time. Waste their time and they won’t come back. Complete: Leave your customers hanging at the end of a process, leave out the last vital link, forget to add the full address – they’ll go somewhere else. Language: If you use jargon you alienate your customers. Expect your customers to adapt to your language to describe their needs? – Forget it. On the web it must be the customer’s language ` Your customers aren’t web insiders – they don’t use language like “site architecture” or terms like “navigation”. Getting them to rate your site with regard to these critical factors means using language they understand. In the Customer Centric Index (CCI) online poll, customers are presented with a list of 26 commonly understood phrases like “Plain language”. For each positive phrase there is also a negative phase (In this instance “Full of jargon, corporate speak” is the negative phrase).  
  • Search : For many customers, search is the first step in their task. If your search doesn’t deliver a quality result in the first three results, then many people will simply hit the Back button. Navigation : Links are the building blocks of all websites. The clarity of your menus and links will have a major impact on the ability of your customers to quickly and easily complete tasks. Layout: Customers hate cluttered layouts. It makes it harder to read and find things. Do your customers think you have a simple layout? Visual appeal: Does your design make your customers feel comfortable and at ease? Do they find your website; appealing, or do they find it off-putting and alienating? Speed: Can your customers do things quickly on your website? Speed is of the essence on the Web. It’s about fast in, fast out. Everyone is in a hurry.  
  • Rating Higher Education Websites: The Student Experience

    1. 1. Rating Higher Education Websites: The Student Experience ©Robert E. Johnson, Ph.D. 2009 J.Boye Conference Aarhus 2009 November 4, 2009 Aarhus, Denmark
    2. 2. Who is Bob Johnson? <ul><li>Higher education marketer since 1980s </li></ul><ul><li>Writer of monthly “Your Higher Education Marketing Newsletter” </li></ul><ul><li>Owner… Bob Johnson Consulting, LLC </li></ul><ul><li>Partner w/Gerry McGovern at Customer Carewords </li></ul><ul><li>Chair of Symposium for the Marketing of Higher Education, 1994 to 2003 </li></ul><ul><li>Ph.D. in political science (UMass Amherst) </li></ul>
    3. 3. In today’s presentation… <ul><li>Identifying website factors that are most important to visitors </li></ul><ul><li>Comparing responses from “future” or prospective students with those from current students </li></ul><ul><li>Where to focus website improvement efforts </li></ul><ul><li>If you could only make one change… </li></ul>
    4. 4. Customer Centric Index (CCI) survey… <ul><li>Asks website visitors to select from 13 website attributes to identify top 3 positive or negative experiences </li></ul><ul><li>CCI = % of positive votes cast </li></ul><ul><li>4 audiences to survey: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Current students </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Possible future students </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Faculty and staff </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Alumni </li></ul></ul>
    5. 5. 13 survey factors in 3 groups… <ul><li>Information Architecture </li></ul><ul><li>Content </li></ul><ul><li>Social </li></ul>
    6. 9. Copyright © Customer Carewords Ltd. <ul><li>Please choose the THREE factors from the list below that best describe your actual experience with the Enormous State University website. </li></ul><ul><li>Give a score of 3 to the factor which best describes your experience, 2 to the next best description, and then 1. </li></ul><ul><li>Please give only one score of 3, 2 and 1. </li></ul><ul><li>Leave the rest blank. </li></ul>
    7. 10. Investing improvement resources…
    8. 11. Typical voting spread…
    9. 12. Action priorities…
    10. 13. CCI at 12 schools… <ul><li>10 in presentation </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Ball State University </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Bemidji State University </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>DePaul University </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>East Stroudsburg University </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Fordham University </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Lund University </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Tyler Junior College </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>University of Manitoba </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>University of Missouri </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>University of Waterloo </li></ul></ul><ul><li>2 not in presentation </li></ul><ul><ul><li>University of Hertfordshire </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>University of Oslo </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>On next CCI ratings page only </li></ul></ul></ul>
    11. 14. 11 CCI Survey Results… % External Voters…………….. % Positive Votes <ul><li>76% 91.6% </li></ul><ul><li>74% 79.6% </li></ul><ul><li>70% 86.1% </li></ul><ul><li>67% 89.3% </li></ul><ul><li>62% 51.0% </li></ul><ul><li>61% 27.7% </li></ul><ul><li>52% 4.8% </li></ul><ul><li>45% 10.2% </li></ul><ul><li>11% 57.0% </li></ul><ul><li>3% 57.6% </li></ul><ul><li>0% 54.0% </li></ul>
    12. 15. More often than not… <ul><li>External users were happier than internal users </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Future students were happier than current students </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Alumni were close to future students </li></ul></ul><ul><li>High concern overall with deficiencies in: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Navigation </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Search </li></ul></ul>
    13. 16. Audience specific results… <ul><li>Future Students </li></ul>
    14. 17. Areas of interest by votes received… <ul><li>Information Architecture factors </li></ul><ul><ul><li>4,490 votes = 49.3% of total </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Content factors </li></ul><ul><ul><li>2,763 votes = 30.3% of total </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Social factors </li></ul><ul><ul><li>1,856 votes = 20.3% of total </li></ul></ul>
    15. 18. Audience specific results… <ul><li>Current Students </li></ul>
    16. 19. Areas of interest by votes received… <ul><li>Information Architecture factors </li></ul><ul><ul><li>5,391 votes = 54.4% of total </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Content factors </li></ul><ul><ul><li>2,786 votes = 28.1% of total </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Social factors </li></ul><ul><ul><li>1,739 votes = 17.5% of total </li></ul></ul>
    17. 20. Key comparison areas… Current students vs. Future students
    18. 21. Top 5 factors by votes cast… <ul><li>Current students </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Layout (IA) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Search (IA) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Navigation (IA) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Up-to-date (Content) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Visual (IA) </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Future students </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Navigation (IA) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Layout (IA) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Visual (IA) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Complete (Content) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Accurate (Content) </li></ul></ul>
    19. 22. Highest difference between positive and negative votes… <ul><li>Current students </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Participation </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>82 to 15 </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Recommendations </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>57 to 0 </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Navigation </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>62 to 24 </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Complete </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>74 to 39 </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><li>Future </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Visual </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>100 to 4 </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Layout </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>96 to 26 </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Contact </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>100 to 32 </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Navigation </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>83 to 24 </li></ul></ul></ul>
    20. 23. Least difference between positive and negative votes… <ul><li>Current students </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Accurate </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>100 to 74 </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>► Search </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>40 to 20 </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Language </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>100 to 75 </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><li>Future students </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Language </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>100 to 79 </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Accurate </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>93 to 63 </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Open </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>100 to 76 </li></ul></ul></ul>
    21. 24. What do CCI results mean? <ul><li>Difficult for one website to meet internal and external users needs </li></ul><ul><li>Argues for Internet and Intranet websites </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Intranet users need “nuts and bolts” website that focuses on frequent task completion </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Special attention to navigation & search… </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Help people to quickly find things </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Less focus on “beauty” & “cool” </li></ul><ul><li>Increased audience research </li></ul>
    22. 25. If you can make only one change… Consider this… Search + Site Map
    23. 26. Combine search & site map… http://www.stedwards.edu/siteindex.htm
    24. 27. Key challenges for higher education websites… <ul><li>Acceptance of “intranet” and “internet” approach </li></ul><ul><li>Easier access to most important content and completion of top tasks </li></ul><ul><li>Greater use of web analytics </li></ul><ul><li>Continued growth of “web content editor” positions… the website as on “online publication” </li></ul>
    25. 28. Meeting the first challenge… http://www.devry.edu/
    26. 29. Thank You! Bob Johnson, Ph.D. President Bob Johnson Consulting, LLC 248.766.6425 [email_address] http://twitter.com/HighEdMarketing Customer Carewords Research for Online Marketing Success: http://www.bobjohnsonconsulting.com/customercarewords.html
    27. 30. Addendum Overall CCI data results
    28. 31. Total Results from 4 Audiences <ul><li>Current students </li></ul><ul><li>Future students </li></ul><ul><li>Faculty & Staff </li></ul><ul><li>Alumni </li></ul>
    29. 32. Voters by audience category… <ul><li>Future students… 3,342 </li></ul><ul><li>Alumni… 1,416 </li></ul><ul><li>Current students… 3,594 </li></ul><ul><li>Faculty & staff… 589 </li></ul><ul><li>Total voters… 8,941 </li></ul><ul><li>Total votes… 26,823 </li></ul>
    30. 33. Areas of interest by total votes… <ul><li>IA… 14,325 votes = 53.4% of total </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Visual Appeal (2,834) High: 87% Low: 57% </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Layout (3,354) High: 85% Low: 61% </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Speed (1,797) High: 84% Low: 49% </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Navigation (3,940) High: 62% Low: 35% </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>► Search (2,712) High: 55% Low: 24% </li></ul></ul>
    31. 34. Areas of interest by votes… <ul><li>Content… 7,396 votes = 27.5% of total </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Language (1,263) High:100%Low: 79% </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Accurate (1,861) High: 100%Low: 63% </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Up-to-date (2,382) High: 86% Low: 41% </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Complete (1,890) High: 82% Low: 40% </li></ul></ul>
    32. 35. Areas of interest by votes… <ul><li>Social…. 4,709 votes = 17.5% of total </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Open (1,590) High: 90% Low: 60% </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Contact (1,871) High: 72% Low: 42% </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Participation (913) High: 73% Low: 33% </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Recommendations (486) High: 76% Low: 0% </li></ul></ul>
    33. 36. Audience specific results… <ul><li>Future Students </li></ul>
    34. 37. Areas of interest by votes received… <ul><li>IA… 4,490 votes = 49.3% of total </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Visual Appeal (1,059) High: 93% Low: 4% </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Layout (1,194) High: 96% Low: 26% </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Speed (714) High: 87% Low: 41% </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Navigation (1,332) High: 83% Low: 24% </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Search (701) High: 92% Low: 50% </li></ul></ul>
    35. 38. Areas of interest by votes received… <ul><li>Content… 2,763 votes = 30.3% of total </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Language (424) High: 100%Low: 79% </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Accurate (810) High: 93% Low: 63% </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Up-to-date (677) High: 86% Low: 41% </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Complete (852) High: 82% Low: 40% </li></ul></ul>
    36. 39. Areas of interest by votes received… <ul><li>Social…. 1,856 votes = 20.3% of total </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Open (739) High: 100%Low: 76% </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Contact (575) High: 100% Low:32% </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Participation (314) High: 100% Low:59% </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Recommendations (228)High: 100%Low:61% </li></ul></ul>
    37. 40. Audience specific results… <ul><li>Current Students </li></ul>
    38. 41. Areas of interest by votes received… <ul><li>IA… 5,391 votes = 54.4% of total </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Visual Appeal (866) High: 88% Low: 57% </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Layout (1,254) High: 88% Low: 58% </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Speed (812) High: 74% Low: 48% </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Navigation (1,054) High: 62% Low: 24% </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Search (1,405) High: 40% Low: 20% </li></ul></ul>
    39. 42. Areas of interest by votes received… <ul><li>Content… 2,786 votes = 28.1% of total </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Language (480) High: 100%Low: 75% </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Accurate (637) High: 100%Low: 74% </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Complete (651) High: 74% Low: 39% </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Up-to-date (1,018) High: 75% Low: 38% </li></ul></ul>
    40. 43. Areas of interest by votes received… <ul><li>Social…. 1,739 votes = 17.5% of total </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Open (437) High: 90% Low: 50% </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Contact (824) High: 78% Low: 50% </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Participation (302) High: 82% Low: 15% </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Recommendations (176)High: 57% Low: 0% </li></ul></ul>