Much of your life will be determined by what university you choose to attend. Some schools can open doors that others simply can’t. The lifelong implications stemming from your decision make the selection process grueling, as thorough research and a degree of confidence are necessary before taking the plunge into higher education. This highly nuanced selection process forces schools to market themselves in ways that some may not notice. For as much as you hope and pray that your college of choice grants you admission, those colleges are hoping and praying that prospective students continue applying to their institution. The status associated with some schools creates a self-sufficient marketing cycle. For others, however, extra effort is necessary when trying to pry qualified students from the grips of similarly prestigious universities.
One must wonder, then, why so many colleges intent on marketing their brand to the most qualified students are neglecting website UX. In the digital age, the first place a prospective student will go when intrigued by an institution is their website. If one struggles to navigate a university website at the very earliest stages of interest, that “lead” will be lost after a few confused clicks. But not every college is neglecting UX. Many are pioneering a new age in website usability in higher-education. In this post we will focus on one of the more sleek, simple, and usable college websites out there, that of Boston College.
The photos appearing on BC’s homepage weren’t selected on a whim. If I were a prospective student interested in applying to Boston College, I’d be impressed by the first visuals that grab my attention: a beautiful, castle-style building and what appears to be an historic, gold statue. What’s more, I’d feel relieved to find that the homepage is entirely void of overwhelming clutter. I’ve researched other university websites that are either too bland or too overloaded to navigate. This site is neither, as the unique blend of simplicity and attention-grabbing aesthetics compels me to explore further. What a good start to my user experience!
Relevant Information about Boston College
Prospective students visit college websites for a very specific reason: to see if they can envision themselves at that university. If I’m visiting a college site to learn more about campus culture, academic excellence, and other things pertinent to the selection process, I don’t want to find news about Greece’s economy. I don’t want to read about 2016 weather trends. I want to find relevant information for a prospective student, and I want to find it without putting forth too much effort. BC knows what prospective students want and need, as illustrated by this simple, pertinent portion of their site.
What makes this section of the BC site so special is that it allows students to filter their research. Perhaps Jim is more inclined to select a school with a strong sports program than Pam, who prioritizes access to a vast alumni network over all else. On the BC site, you don’t need to embark on a wild goose chase to find the information most relevant to your specific interests. Just click and go.
Alright, I’m sold. It looks like Boston College could be a great fit for me. I’m ready to begin the application process, but I’m fretful that starting it will be a nightmare. BC seems to understand that, once they’ve netted advanced interest from a prospective student, it’s critical to keep the admissions process steadily simple with each ensuing step. This is evident in the layout of the first section of the application portal. To begin, all I have to do is click “Common App.” I don’t have to tiptoe around clutter, I don’t have to follow multiple links – I simply need to click a button. The college application process can be incredibly stressful, but a simple, easily navigable process like Boston College’s makes applying refreshingly manageable.
Seldom do students visit a college site, like what they see, and apply on the spot. The selection process is just that – a process. So is the reason why designing a website that leaves a lasting impression is critical to university marketing efforts. In the digital age, millennials aren’t impressed easily. Boston College has taken steps to appeal not only to parents, donors, and potential faculty – they’ve found ways to make their site’s user experience memorable for millennials as well.
This is exemplified by the “For Students” portion of the site, which includes a section featuring the university’s Instagram account. What’s more marketable than happy-looking college students touting their BC apparel all over the world? Boston College understands why students are visiting their site, as illustrated by the inclusion of relevant, memorable content like this. The site’s navigability isn’t the only thing that creates a great user experience – its content is just as, if not more integral in creating a memorable, impressive UX.
Much more can be said about the Boston College website, but this is all I’ve got for now. The important takeaway from this post is that creating a great user experience is inexplicably important in leading successful marketing efforts and ultimately generating meaningful leads. Though some may not think of colleges as businesses, they are in a variety of ways. BC has upped its marketing efforts by embracing the digital age and enhancing the user experience of potential applicants. That said, there is always room for improvement, even for Boston College. Implementing an online navigation system, for example, can simplify the admissions process even more. For now, though, Boston College is leading the way in higher-education UX, and they should be recognized for it.