Increasing student recruitment through improved pathways

Post by Luke Micallef, Digital Projects Officer

One of the big projects I was involved in this year was the revamp of the International Study and Language Centre (ISLC) website.

This came about because the department felt that the site simply wasn’t serving the needs of their users. Organisational restructuring and changes to the department’s offer had resulted in various elements being tacked on to the site, making it difficult for prospective student to find what they needed.

The approach involved first identifying the objectives of the department and what they were actually trying to do. It was decided that the core objective was to recruit more students, as well as to raise the unit’s reputation among their other prospective audiences. The next step was to speak to the users to find out what they wanted from the site. While the user testing provided some useful insights, as we only had access to existing students, rather than prospective ones, there were still some gaps in our knowledge. I decided to supplement our understanding by asking the course tutors, who know their students inside out, to complete some personas for the target audience. Personas are brief outlines of typical users that you can use to evaluate your content. See an example of a completed persona or download the persona template for Word.

Armed with all this info, we put together a list of what users wanted to find out from the website, the kind of tasks that they need to complete and the information that they need in order to do this. This informed the information architecture and what we know about the users informed the voice, tone and language used. The result was a site that tries to take into account the limited language ability of the target audience and gently guide them to the course that’s right for them. Once they’ve found the right course, the information is structured to present them with the barriers to entry first, so they know whether or not they’re eligible immediately, then the ‘softer’ information to help them decide if this is the right course for them. They are then led towards the ultimate goal – application. The rest of the site was reworked too, streamlining the content and aiming to highlight relevant content to the target audiences using terms that they will be familiar with.

Visit the ISLC website to see the changes for yourself and feel free to leave your comments and questions below. We’ll review the stats and do a follow up piece later in the year when we’ll have a better idea of whether or not the changes have proven successful.

This post is part of the Digital Development Forum Christmas Catchup

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