mStoner conducted 10 one-on-one, usability testing sessions of our new website. Five sessions were conducted with prospective students; five were conducted with current students. Of the 10 total sessions, five were conducted on desktop and five were conducted on mobile.
1. Students find UND’s new site bold, modern and highly usable.
All participants had a very positive reaction to the site’s new design, particularly the color, the size of the font, and the quality of the photography. Many students specifically commented on how well organized the site appears and how easy it is to get to relevant information.
- “Well it’s not boring, I’ll tell you that. It makes me want to go there.”
- “I really like it. A lot of things grab your attention. You can tell that they’re very proud of being University of North Dakota.”
- “Clear, concise and easy to navigate. I like the pictures. I hope they are actually UND students, that always impresses me.”
Our take: Some faculty and staff have questioned the use of large photos. Prospective and current students like the large photos, so more large photos of real UND students to come!
2. The program finder is easier to discover on mobile than desktop.
On desktop, only two of five participants found the program finder without guidance. The difference on mobile was striking. When asked to find information about a minor or a program of interest, four of the five mobile participants used the homepage button “Find Programs.”
Our take: We need to make the program finder easier to find on desktop and make design adjustments to primary landing pages. We also need to add links to the program finder throughout the site where prospective students are exploring.
3. Once they find the program finder, students are delighted with its interactivity, especially the Compare feature.
About half the participants used a filter, a few tried out the search bar, but all were able to easily find and compare programs of interest.
- “It’s easy to compare. It’s nice to see [program overviews] side-by-side.”
- “This [snapshot] is helpful, to know that it’s on campus.”
- “It’s nice to know how long it’s going to take to complete the degree.”
Our take: The program finder is doing it’s job – it provides prospective students a positive and quick first introduction to our academic programs.
4. Both prospective and current students get the sense that the university offers many student events and activities. However, current students are struggling to find a list of clubs and activities.
We asked prospective students where they would go to find out what it’s like to be a student at UND. We asked current students where they would go to learn more about getting involved in clubs and activities. Both prospective and current students responding by visiting the Student Life landing page.
Many participants commented on how helpful the page was, especially because it listed housing and dining information so prominently. Reactions to the page were positive across the board, but current students had trouble finding information specific to clubs and activities. Current students explored the events listed on that page and some even clicked on “Student Involvement,” but three of the five students were unsure whether they had completed the task.
- “[I see] attention grabbing photos, which is really nice, it keeps you interested. Looks like a really cool video. I like the pictures they chose, they make you want to go there. It looks like students are having fun.”
- “There’s a lot of clubs. I didn’t know that before.”
- “I like this right here, where they list current events. I’m not from North Dakota, so I like to see what’s going on around here.”
Our take: The Student Life page needs to be revised to include a prominent link to the list of student organization. The Student Involvement site is in Wave 3 and will undergo adjustments as scheduled.
5. Current students are not yet familiar with their portal page.
While currents students were able to complete most test tasks easily, none of our five current student test participants used the “Info for” dropdown or the Current Students page at any point during the testing session. Three current student participants specifically mentioned that they were happy with the placement of logins at the top of the homepage. One student told us that to access the information he needs most often, “I just go to the main page, und.edu, and there’s a logins tab and it’s got everything I need.” This suggests that students are looking in this space, but they are not yet thinking of “Info for” as a destination that will get them what they need.
This can be explained partly by testing conditions and partly by the newness of the site. Participants’ comments indicated that they recognized the content on the homepage is for prospective students. This put them in a mindset of using the whole site, not just the pages they might visit day-to-day as a current student.
It is normal for currents students to take some time to get used to navigation changes on an institution’s site. Many internal audiences, across institutions, rely heavily on Google and site search, especially when they perceive that the primary navigation is oriented toward prospective students.
Our take: A separate prospective students page under Info For isn’t necessary – they are recognizing the whole site is for them. We need to do more investigating into how to best serve our current students. Heat map testing is set up on the Current Student page to help inform future changes. We’re also monitoring site traffic patterns.
Read the UND Usability Testing Report with more participant quotes and mStoner recommendations. Recording sessions were redacted to protect participant’s privacy.