Regis University Responsive Website
A refreshed responsive design for Colorado's Jesuit University, which was designed with the prospective student in mind and aimed to intuitively guide their journey to apply for college.
UX/UI design, UX Research, Prototyping, Art Direction
Regis University / 2018-19
- Navigation was poor causing users to search with limited success
- Traffic was declining 7% YOY
- The site is not fully responsive and lacks visual interest
- Our mobile usage was lower than the national average at 28%
- Load speed was poor, potentially costing conversion of 30% of visitors
- Duplicative content across the site led to inaccurate information and confusing pathways
- Site requires developer support from ITS
Our objective was to learn about our audiences in various ways to acquire both qualitative and quantitative data. The methods we used included:
- Distributing an impromptu user survey to students on campus (20 responses)
- Re-examined brand demographic study from a prior year
- Observed user behaviors and patterns from our site's analytics
- Conducted competitive analysis of the university landscape
- Met with stakeholders of the university to discover needs and expectations
Results & Insights
We found out a lot of information about who we were designing for that helped to define what to build. We learned that despite being highly mobile, users chose to search and fill out applications on larger screen sizes, which was backed up by site visit analytics. This meant responsive layouts were a no-brainer.
We also discovered 55% of users preferred the main navigation to get around other university sites, but still 30% relied on search function. This was a direct indicator we would need to focus on a strong, clear and direct Information Architecture and provide easy search just in case.
Our survey pointed out 4 main criteria that led to the decision of applying to a university. These included information about career development, financial aid availability, what programs and degrees were available, and if there was a solid mission to the institution. These same responses arose from the users when asked what they'd felt was important on a homepage. It was apparent we'd need to include these topics front and center in high trafficked sections and in use as crosslinks.
Taking a step back after developing a sense of the users we approached the topic of site posture. Site posture can be broken down into qualities, which each represents a tension, or set of contrasting directions. There can be no middles and each category must skew one way or another.We reviewed the current Regis website and examined the expectations for the new site's perception on the scale. The objective was to define the site posture to reflect brand attributes, while also providing the right approach to orienting and guiding visitors.
We put together many iterations of a site map and information architecture to get a sense of how big of a site we were tackling. Additionally, we could identify the points of the site which would make the most sense to cross-reference content.
From our surveys and insights we learned our prospective students have certain goals to accomplish on university sites and in order to define them better I laid out user stories. The purpose was to define the most common actions of the user. The most useful part of user stories was having something to test against and prove our assumptions right or wrong and adjust to fit the story.
Building from data and sketches we iteratively constructed mobile and desktop wireframes of major screens and interior pages. First conceptualizing possibilities around the feedback we'd gotten about more imagery and guidance we traded detail in favor of establishing content, relationships, and pathways. When we were happy with this we refined and made final design choices in detailed design phase. From here we could build a prototype.
We opted to build only mobile prototype for user testing of flows tied to our user stories because we know this is how most of our users initially interact with the Regis site and move to desktop to apply. Our interpretation was if the IA can stand up on mobile then we can assume it will function well on larger screens where there's more real estate. I contributed to building a few of the sections of the prototype in HTML/CSS/JS alongside our UX consultant.
Testing the Prototype
We built out scenarios to test that included the topics which performed well in initial research survey. We chose to cover our basis and test both traditional student audience and adult learner audience. Through Userlytics online testing we were able to put the prototype in user's hands to get real feedback on our information architecture and discover what was most troubling for them. Video of the users talking out their logic was the most useful part of this tool. Our biggest discovery was the need to separate Financial Aid from Admissions.
After user testing of the prototype, I made adjustments to the designs in the high fidelity comps I was working on in tandem. Our plan was to use video on the main index page.
We learned that we needed to pay more attention to the process the audience goes through when looking for courses. I made the degree and program finder a focal point making searching easier and adding in more visual approach to the presentation. If arriving from one of the pill promotional elements the list would be pre-populated with the search topic.
Promoting Programs for More Conversions
Knowing from our stakeholders that admissions likes to promote certain programs my idea was to show particular programs of focus using pill elements in the degree finder at the very beginning of the website. Only testing will tell how effective they are, but the link would go to the degree finder page showcasing all degrees under that subject.
We are moving into developing the site and hope to launch before the end of 2019 or early 2020. The biggest user experience item I wanted to tackle, but was unable due to limitations, was implementing a login feature for any visitor to the site be it a student, faculty, staff or alumni. In this case the site would be acting more as a web application and we could gather better metrics and engage better with our audiences by presenting better experiences.
I would also have preferred limiting the number of 3rd party implementation considerations. Additionally, I would have hoped for more user testing before needing to launch. The team will need to rely on metrics to correct as they gain visitors.