Admissions Website Redesign
- Assistant Director, Digital
- UI/UX Designer
- Content Strategist
- User experience design
- Content strategy
What Was the Challenge?
The admissions website is a major priority for any higher education institution. Texas State’s Undergraduate Admissions came to us to revamp their existing site into a more approachable, story-driven tool for prospective students and their families.
A huge priority was to use mobile-first design on the Admissions site, since so much of today’s web traffic, especially with younger audiences, happens on phones. The existing site was responsive to users’ devices, but we wanted to design the new site with mobile in mind, from the ground up.
There needed to be a clear navigation system across the site, and the list of available Texas State degrees and majors needed better searchability.
Finally, we wanted to increase the personal element by using authentic stories and photos of people throughout the site.
How We Got It Done
For this project, UMarketing staff worked closely with experts from Information Technology’s development team. These are the people who construct the digital building blocks that the rest of us use to make Texas State webpages. We met every two weeks to discuss ideas, consider solutions, and stay on track.
Before creating anything new, UMarketing worked with Admissions staff to do a content audit: we made an inventory of everything on the existing site. Our web team reviewed this inventory, looking for gaps that might need to be filled.
One opportunity we saw was adding more stories. Seeing real individuals who are actually at Texas State, and hearing their words, helps prospective students make an emotional connection and see themselves here, too. We added these stories and visuals throughout the site so that future leaders, communicators and innovators could get a stronger feeling of what it means to be a Bobcat.
Knowing that the Admissions audience is primarily young people between ages 16 and 18, our UI/UX designer made the site more youthful, added more color and ensured that it was built to work on mobile devices — large photos, short chunks of text, clear navigation, prominent action items such as “Visit” and “Apply.”
We put thought into the users’ overall experience of the site. How does the main menu look? Are the buttons clearly labeled? Which links must always be easy to get to?
The majors search function was a priority. When prospective students used the existing site to find available degrees and majors, they were presented with one long list. Users could jump to a letter of the alphabet (instead of scrolling all the way down to see if Wildlife Biology is offered at Texas State; it is), but that was all. Because lots of degree names might not connect intuitively to a prospective student’s interests, it was important to make that list more searchable. Now, if a prospective student searches “health,” they’ll get filtered results that include majors they might not have known about, such as Healthcare Administration or Exercise and Sports Science.
Once our UI/UX designer created a page design, including all the ways that users can interact with the page, the development team coded it into the university’s web content management system.
Throughout the project, governing all the little design details, was high-level thinking about how people would actually use the site — end users (such as prospective students) and users within Texas State (web content managers in a variety of offices). Although this particular project was for Admissions, we also thought hard about how other university areas could apply the tools we were making. In the future, would these building blocks be capable of handling additional kinds of problems? The development team had excellent insight into the type of issues that users report, which helped us design better experiences into the new site.
The new site went live at the end of September 2018. The site’s bounce rate decreased by ten percent, meaning that fewer users left without digging deeper into the inner pages. Additionally, the total time on the site increased by 45 seconds — a significant achievement in the lightning-fast digital age! From this metric, we see that users are more engaged with the content and willing to stay on the site to get what they came for.
“The site looked energetic and friendly, especially with the student quotes.”
“Everything is easy to find.”
“I like the color scheme and the pop-out menu is nice. Makes it quick and easy to navigate.”
— users during testing
While the redesigned site has been published, it’s not truly complete — this website will always adapt. We’re conducting ongoing usability testing in order to make sure that the site does what prospective students need it to do. Using analytics, we can respond to observed trends. And we’ll regularly update the human stories and photography that are featured, as more Bobcats make their mark on Texas State.
“I have witnessed firsthand the amount and the quality of work that your team has put into this effort. Their contributions have improved the overall project immensely. They should be commended for running the project as well as they have (despite technical and content setbacks) and adding to the beauty and functionality of the new site. They’ve demonstrated not only their skill, creativity and talent, but also patience and goodwill. I owe them all a huge debt and am very grateful to have had all of their help.”
— Erin Purdy, Assistant Director of Communications, Admissions