Year-long research with prospective students reveals the ways college websites unintentionally turn off potential enrollees.

From evidence that digital tactics play a key part in enrollment, to entire conference panels dedicated to enhancing higher ed websites, it’s clear that college websites are a must-have for enticing prospective students. But what happens when a great website is all that matters?

That’s the question higher education web development company KDG (formerly The Kyle David Group) was interested in researching: “As digital presence begins to matter more and more to internet-raised generations, can a poorly designed college website push students to choose an inferior college with a better digital strategy?”

“Our research revealed five mistakes that colleges often make on their websites,” said Kyle David, CEO of KDG in a statement. “These mistakes may seem trivial, but they are the primary reasons many students often choose an inferior college that just happens to have a better website.”

The report is the result of a year of research and user testing, and examined prospective students’ experiences with dozens of college and university websites. Using one-on-one user tests, focus groups, and user-experience studies, KDG asked hundreds of prospective students to provide feedback on their experience with college websites based on the following criteria: usability, uniqueness, focus, and message retention—especially as compared with competitive schools.

“When we reviewed the data, we found that prospective students are no longer forgiving of sites that fail them in certain key areas,” explained David. “Traditional prospective students have grown up in a world that sees the usability, simplicity, and readability of Facebook and Buzzfeed to be the standard. Websites have to compete with that standard and do it successfully.”

As indicated by the report, college websites increasingly impact prospective students’ interest in a school and, therefore, enrollment rates. According to KDG, institutions that have failed to elevate their websites to meet students’ changing expectations experienced a 30-40 percent decrease in overall unique visitors during the past admissions cycle.

(Next page: The college website mistakes that turn away students)

About the Author:

Meris Stansbury

Meris Stansbury is the Editorial Director for both eSchool News and eCampus News, and was formerly the Managing Editor of eCampus News. Before working at eSchool Media, Meris worked as an assistant editor for The World and I, an online curriculum publication. She graduated from Kenyon College in 2006 with a BA in English, and enjoys spending way too much time either reading or cooking.


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