Full day training course offered at Usability Week San Francisco

University Websites

Create exemplary college websites with limited resources and organizational challenges

Universities that offer the best user experience have a competitive advantage. For college students especially, usability plays a large role in communicating brand and credibility. By writing and presenting information effectively, universities can impress and engage students and visitors.  

Find out what students want from higher-education websites and how they decide to keep exploring or to give up. Learn best practices and success stories from universities who have been successful in making a business case for usability and demonstrating Return-On-Investment (ROI). Overcome challenges universities face such as organizational structure, culture, and limited human and financial resources.

We include examples from websites of colleges and universities around the world, of varying size, structure and academic focus. The recommendations and topics discussed are based on usability studies with representative users, stakeholder interviews, and competitive analysis.

"The university website course is filled with important data and a must have to arm yourself when presenting ideas back to your colleague..research speaks! I benefitted because I now have the actual research to sell my ideas to the organization."

Kimberly Webber
Tulsa Community College

Topics covered

  • Learn what students and visitors need and how to feature it on the site
    • Top pages users visit when first determining if the school is a good fit
  • Apply usability guidelines to enhance the brand, reputation, and credibility of your institution
  • Help students and visitors find the information they need, including
    • Academic programs and course listings
    • Application deadlines and requirements
    • Tuition and financial aid
    • Housing options and costs
    • University facts, rankings, and achievements
    • Contact information and directories
    • Campus maps
  • Understand how students use college and university websites
    • Browsing, navigation, and search habits
    • Sign-up and application forms
    • Social media
  • Study examples of best practices and successful techniques from universities around the world
    • Screenshots and case studies from universities in North America, Europe, Australia
    • Content created with international audiences in mind
    • Results from usability testing of ESL (English as a Second Language) students
  • Create a content strategy tailored for higher education
    • Information architecture for large, content-heavy sites
    • Quality control and training for multiple editors and content contributors
    • Centralized and decentralized approaches to governing university websites
    • Copy that is compelling for students, scholars, and everyone in between
    • Duplicate and legacy content
    • PDF documents
  • Gain traction among university administration for usability initiatives
  • Learn how to make your college's website more accessible
  • Examine common navigation patterns in higher education and learn the pros and cons of each:
    • Topic-based navigation
    • Audience-based navigation
    • Utility navigation
    • University-wide global navigation
    • Related links
    • Linking back to the homepage
  • Learn about trends that support, or hinder, the users’ experience
    • Widgets and interactive features
    • Videos about the university
    • Student-generated blogs and content
    • Minimalist and flat designs: seeking a modern and academic look-and-feel 

Format

The basis of the course is a lecture format with a couple of group exercises to reinforce the learned principles and guidelines. The course also includes:

  • Findings from our own usability studies
  • Videos from usability testing of people's behavior in response to a design
  • Screenshots of designs that work and don’t work, and why
  • Opportunities to ask questions and get answers
  • A copy of the Nielsen Norman Group Report: College Students (Ages 18-24) on the Web

Instructor

Katie Sherwin

Katie Sherwin is a User Experience Specialist with Nielsen Norman Group. She specializes in helping organizations utilize principles of user-centered design and strategic communication to achieve their goals. Read more about Katie