Work-in-progress: Rethinking a website for today’s prospective students

Our roles

  • Assess competitor websites
  • Content audit and data mining
  • Usability testing
  • Student interviews and persona creation
  • Design using best practices for search engine optimization

Problem/Challenge: Because Web audiences are increasingly using search engines to find information, our team is creating a dynamic site that will deliver what prospective undergraduate and graduate students are looking for

Goals: Contemporary Web design, with content driven by student needs and desires

We designed the current UC Davis home site in fall 2011 primarily for prospective students but secondarily for the university community. Then our team saw the analytic trends: steadily declining website use. As search engines have advanced, people can easily find pages focused on information for their individual needs. Our site was designed as a landing site to hand people off to other university subsites, not give them directly what they want.

Our charge is to reimagine the UC Davis homesite as an effective marketing and information tool for prospective undergraduate and graduate students.

Our Web team worked on several fronts: Analyzing how prospective students find information on our current site; interviewing prospective students, freshmen, graduate students and parents about their Web experiences in searching for colleges; and conducting a content audit and analysis of the data to understand how people have been using the site for the past several years.

We also dreamed about what the site could be. Each of us was charged with finding and showing websites we liked the best, whether it was from another university or a cool retail company. And we studied the sites that our young customers use the most.

Through the development of personas based on our interviews, we understand what the students and their parents are looking for on a university website. Our metrics are telling us where people are going, how long they stay and if they are visiting elsewhere in our site — and what they are looking for.

Our next steps will be to put together all of what we’ve learned into the new site, focusing on design, informational architecture, writing and graphics to create a new site that better meets the needs of future students and their families.