User experience (UX) and website data are more closely related than you may think. The cold, boring metrics and analytics of your school’s website, email, and communications can provide a mountain of important information about how to produce a strong emotional reaction and keep users engaged on your site.
But while the design is important, schools may focus too much on the visual aspects of their website and school communications, and not enough on the user experience. This can create a website that looks amazing but is difficult to navigate or doesn’t meet the needs of its users.
Sometimes, schools may not fully understand their website's audience or the information and resources that users are seeking. That’s when your school's website data becomes an important resource that can provide valuable insights into user behavior and preferences.
What makes a great user experience?
A positive user experience includes a site structure and design that’s intuitive and easy to navigate (especially while using a mobile device). It should be visually appealing and informative, and the site should have clear and concise information about what current and prospective families are looking for about your school's programs, faculty, and policies, as well as up-to-date news and events.
Your school’s site should be user-friendly; it should also be accessible on different devices and include a number of features such as a search function, easy-to-use forms, and interactive elements, all of which can enhance the user experience.
How are user experience and website data related?
UX and data go hand-in-hand. By analyzing data, you can identify areas of your school’s website that are working well and address the areas that need improvement. To start understanding how your users are engaging with your site, look at:
- Unique and total page views
- Time spent on page
- Click-through rates and
- Conversion rates
- The percentage of site traffic coming from a mobile device
- How users are finding your site
These can be set up in Google Analytics 4 as events, and they can provide important insights into how your users interact with your website.
For example, if the data shows that website visitors are leaving the website quickly, it may be an indication that the website isn’t meeting their needs or expectations. In response, you could adjust the layout, design elements, navigation, or your site's content to better meet user needs.
On the other hand, a positive user experience can lead to improved website stats — if users find your site easy to use, they’re more likely to spend more time on the site, explore more pages, and convert at a higher rate, which can lead to supporting enrollment, fundraising, or engagement goals.
Because one affects the other, UX and data analytics should be regularly monitored so you can make edits to your site and improve its overall performance.
How to improve the website user experience with data
Your school's website serves as the digital front door, providing prospective and current students, parents, faculty, and staff with the information they need to engage with your school. By analyzing the data of not just your website, but also data like email analytics and newsletter open rates, schools can determine which pages are most popular, what subject lines catch readers’ attention, and what communications are being seen.
This information can be used to ensure that the most relevant and sought-after information is accessible, and relevant, and make adjustments to content as needed so users will have a more positive interaction.
Keep Reading: Your District Website's User Experience Determines the Strength of Your Brand
There are dozens of behavioral analytics that can guide design choices and improve the user experience of your school's website. Tap into stats about the device types, geographic locations, and referral sources for your users. Since more than 50% of web traffic comes from mobile devices, are your pages mobile-friendly and easy to navigate?
- What web pages do your users browse just prior to inquiring?
- What pages have the lowest engagement time? Consider what content is on the pages and if it’s too overwhelming or not well organized.
- How much time are they spending on your tuition page before leaving?
- Aside from your homepage, what pages serve as entry points for your website?
- What days of the week do your emails have the best open rates?
- Do your families read the newsletter over the weekend or do they devour the content the day it’s sent?
- Are your families engaging with the content? Are they clicking within the email, or just opening and reading?
To help improve their user experience, Richfield Public Schools looked at its site traffic data to glean how families and teachers were using the site. With the goal of keeping everything one click from the homepage, the district aimed to escape the tangled web of outdated content, 404 errors, and navigation that took users on a wild ride.
"The primary goal for our new website was to provide easy-to-find information," said Jennifer Valley, director of marketing and communications. "We did this through a mega-navigation and then creatively organized content on each page using accordions, tabs, and section dividers to visually layout content to make it scannable. With a static toolbar on the left, users are always able to navigate to new sections without needing to hit the back button.”
Keep Reading: Richfield Public School's Successful Redesign
Knowing how your users navigate across your site, and what entices them to click or continue reading, can help guide decisions during a website design and updates throughout the year.
UX is all about creating a positive experience for the users. By analyzing website data, you can identify where users are experiencing difficulties or frustrations and use this information to improve the user experience, boost the reputation of your school, and most importantly, increase the likelihood that visitors will return.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Connor has spent the last decade within the field of marketing and communications, working with independent schools and colleges throughout New England. As Finalsite’s Senior Content Marketing Manager, Connor plans and executes marketing strategies and digital content across the web. A former photojournalist, he has a passion for digital media, storytelling, coffee, and creating content that connects.