Subscribe:   Posts   |   Email   |   Facebook   |   Twitter

Internet Marketing and Web Development in Higher Education and other tidbits…

Survey Results: What Are the Most Useful Features of Your Website?

05 Nov 2012

written by Mykel Nahorniak

Survey Results: What Are the Most Useful Features of Your Website?

The famous XKCD “University Website” comic has made the rounds of higher education web professionals for quite some time, even spurring this amusing .eduGuru post suggesting schools redesign their websites based on the calendar.

university website Survey Results: What Are the Most Useful Features of Your Website?

We thought we’d revisit the comic in the light of a recent survey we conducted. Hundreds of students from Cornell University, University of Rhode Island, Towson University, and McDaniel College told us how they really felt about their university’s website.

The total survey included questions about everything from how users learn about the social scene at their college to their preferences on how they’d like to receive news about campus events. In this post, we’ll take on XKCD by focusing on just one question.

We asked: “What are the most useful features of your school’s website?” Here are the replies.

Note: students could check all that apply.

1. Academic information

No surprise here—70% of students said that academic information was one of the useful features of their school’s website. Details about departments, majors and programs, and academic requirements should all be readily accessible. And, yes, XKCD, the academic calendar should be easy to find, too!

2. Events calendar

Our favorite comic indicates that schools want to showcase “event promotions,” but that visitors could care less. Our survey indicates differently. Rather, 54% of students said the events calendar was one of the most useful features of their school’s website. Making your school’s calendar a prominent feature of your website helps alums, current students, and prospective students know what’s happening on campus at any given time. Take that, XKCD.

3. Student and faculty directory

XKCD got this one right. It’s tied with events calendars, with 54% of students finding a student and faculty directory useful. Can your site’s visitors easily access this directory?

4. News

34% of respondents think news is a useful feature of their school’s website. Now, we didn’t narrow our question down to the XKCD category of “alumni in the news,” but we’d suggest publishing only very important news on your homepage to keep many of your visitors happy without alienating the rest.

5. Map

XKCD pinpointed a “useable campus map” as something people go looking for on a school’s website, but in our survey, only 33% of students indicated that the campus map was a useful feature. Now, our survey was not limited to new students, and we’d imagine this number would increase for that narrower audience. We’d certainly suggest keeping your map easy to find for visitors and parents, but don’t worry about devoting major real estate to it on your homepage.

6. Athletics information

XKCD left “athletics” off the diagram, and turns out, a lot of students left that off their list, too. Only 18% of students indicated that athletics information was a useful feature. Watch out for devoting too much space to your sports teams.

The total survey included questions about everything from how users learn about the social scene at their college to their preferences on how they’d like to receive news about campus events. In this post, we’ll take on XKCD by focusing on our survey question 5. We’ll go deeper into the answers on this question here than we do in our report, so you’re in the right place. While we of course enjoy the comic depiction of totally useless school websites, it turns out that the comic isn’t always right. How does our data align with your school’s priorities for its website?

Read our full survey results for more data on what students really want from your online presence.

The content of this post is licensed: The post is released under a Creative Commons by-nc-sa 3.0 license


About the author

Mykel Nahorniak

Myke is the Co-Founder and CEO of Localist. He develops and evolves the strategy of Localist as a product and company. His past experience includes serving as Chief Creative Officer at Betanews, managing media projects at The Baltimore Sun, and leading Web development teams at media companies, non-profits and PR firms.

This post was written by Mykel Nahorniak


  • http://profiles.google.com/2cksyme Chris Syme

    This is great information to have when designing for students. It would be great to be able to compare this data to all the stakeholders that go to a site.

    • Mykel Nahorniak

      Chris,

      Excellent point! It is tricky to determine if the visitor is a student/staff member/prospective student/alumni/etc. There are ways to track them, but what you do with the information is the important part.

      In an attempt to be everything to everyone, you run the risk of not serving _any_ stakeholder well.

      A school should decide who their target is for the homepage and define that as the vision, radiating out from that. It’s still possible to be a great resource for staff and alumni, while still serving the primary student audience. The tough part is resisting the urge to give them all the same priority.

  • http://twitter.com/Jennif_Einstein Jennifer Einstein

    I would say that event promotion is not the same as an events calendar.

  • http://www.downes.ca Stephen Downes

    The question is ambiguous. It could be construed as asking what *would* the most useful features be?” or it could be asking “what features *currently* on the website are the most useful?”

  • DARIUS PARSI

    The blog!

  • Ro FoSho

    Great article! Where are the results for what’s wanted from our online presence? I only see information concerning the online calendar.

  • Anna Pham

    This is so interesting, since I myself sometimes struggled to find information that I need though school websites.

Proud Member of BlogHighEd University Web Developers eduStyle

© .eduGuru - Internet Marketing and Web Development in Higher Education and other tidbits…. Powered by Wordpress. | Advertiser policy