Future student online experiences

Future student online experiences

Sharing the work of the Prospective Student Web Content Team

Design sprint 2 prototype walkthrough

Design Sprint 2 considered the value and complexity in empowering applicants to customise the information being presented to them.

This post is part of a series, summarising our learning as we prototyped and tested potential future features for prospective students.

See the full video series list

Sprint goals

Our goal was to evaluate the potential of website content customisation. Prospective students, applicants and offer holders encounter too many University websites during their decision-making process. Could we present useful, usable and influential taught programme information consistently in a single location?

How we built the prototype

We used the interactive prototyping software Axure to build this prototype. As we weren’t considering presentational design at this point, we kept the interface looking broadly as it does in the existing degree finders.

How we presented to students

We focused the prototype around 2 scenarios which would require a prospective student to read very different content.

  • A Scottish high-school leaver with an offer from the University of Edinburgh looking for information on open days
  • An international student looking for how much it would cost and what qualifications you need to apply

The prototype was very tightly focused on just these scenarios.

In both scenarios the participants in the research session would visit the programme page and interact with a facility to change what that page displays according to the scenario.

Prototype scenario video walkthrough

In this video, Nicola gives a tour of the prototype service interface we created in this sprint. She highlights the key features, how we intended it to work and our rationale.

The prototype was developed in little over a day with contributions from the whole team, using everything we learned from the previous week’s research and the contributions of our subject matter experts during the sprint workshops.

What we learned from testing our ideas for sprint 2

Participants responded favourably to the idea, and we concluded there would be benefit in continuing to explore it. There were things that confused people though.

Showing the customisation facility in a pop-up as the page loaded was the wrong way to do this.

They were engaged in a task which means they would direct their attention to particular information – none of which appeared in the pop-up. So naturally they dismissed it without engagement. When prompted to engage with it, they did not realise what it was doing.

Participants did not have the opportunity to see the page without customisation because they were presented with customisation facility as the first step – there was no ‘before-and-after’ view and comparison.

As a result, they were not able to make the link between interacting with the pop-up and the changing page content.

This means we can’t conclude that it’s useful to customise content once you’ve got to the programme page. It might be, but we would need to implement it differently and test it again to see.

We did confirm from the test sessions that concept of customisation was worth further consideration and that we need to explore several points:

  • Where in the journey through the website should visitors be able to apply this customisation?
  • What content would the customisation apply to?
    • For instance, some test participants expected that this setting would apply to the whole website and not just the programme page.
  • How would the customisation facility work in combination with other features, for example, the search filters?
  • How useful is customisation compared with other approaches such as reducing replicated content and alternative interface presentations that can show and hide content gracefully?

We concluded that it was a high priority to incorporate the information needed by the students into a clear and logical location, rather than having it distributed across the university web estate.

This current approach is difficult to maintain and to coordinate across multiple departments resulting is poor student experiences. The programme page has the potential to be the effective hub.

What we learned – video walkthrough

In this video, Nicola runs through the prototype service interface highlighting the aspects that worked particularly well for the students we tested with, and the aspects that confused them or didn’t meet their expectations.

Read more

Read more about the user research done in this sprint on the Future Students blog

List of all design sprint summary videos

All blog posts about our degree finder design sprints


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