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Future student online experiences

Future student online experiences

Sharing the work of the Prospective Student Web Content Team

Tuition Fees website – the impact 6 months on

It’s just over six months since our collaboration with the Fees Service delivered an overhaul to how they present their services online. Yesterday we had our second quarterly check-in with them and learned how trends in enquiries have significantly improved.

Read my summary blog about the Tuition Fees project (May 2020)

Since the the launch of the website back in May, along with the content improvements across the central studying theme website, the Finance website (on student payments) and guidance to schools, we’ve maintained a strong working relationship with the Fees Service.

Quarterly reviews

Our team has remained in touch with the Fees Service and supported whenever any significant content update has been needed but the most important activity we’ve done together has been the quarterly reviews.

At these quarterly reviews our goal is to understand where the website needs to work harder to serve student needs.

If we serve student needs better, they self-serve and submit fewer enquiries that they could’ve answered themselves.

While we don’t have time for ongoing rounds of user research as we undertook during the project, we can appraise how people use the website through Google Analytics, and monitor trends in the enquiries submitted.

So our focus when we meet is:

  • What trends are we seeing in enquiries?
  • Are there enquiry types that the Fees Service feel students could answer themselves?
  • Which pages are the top referrers to the enquiry form?
  • Which pages are attracting the most visits?

Back in August at our first quarterly review, we identified a few trends that Lauren dug into in a bit more detail. Then, working with colleagues in the Fees Service she made some amendments to raise the profile of key information on certain pages, co-created a new page to cover a particular enquiry, and tweaked the categorisation fields in the form that students were misunderstanding.

This time though, I was surprised and delighted to hear that the Fees Service had nothing to report. Yes, they still get enquiries, but almost all are for things requiring a personal, tailored response.

Students are no longer asking fees-related questions they could answer themselves.


This is no surprise to our team. It’s what happens when specialist content designers set out to solve evidenced user needs.

This is what I’m setting our team up to do: prioritise student needs and follow a human centred approach to meet them.

The only surprise to me was that we’ve reached this point in only six months. I had expected us to continue to tweak and improve using collaborative insight for at least another quarter or two.

Nobody – not even the team here who know content design and user research better than most – gets everything right first time. We accept it, and plan for iterative improvement.

Launch and leave culture doesn’t deliver the outcomes we as a University seek.

Like Paul Boag says:

Planning for the launch of your website as if that is the end goal, is like planning for your wedding as if it was your marriage

I had identical experiences back in my old team as User Experience Service Manager, where we worked with Helpline to tackle the biggest IT self service challenges and significantly impact the quantity of unnecessary support calls.

Read Lauren’s Helpline case study on the Webite and Communications blog

More recently Paula wrote a great post about how we were focusing our content planning in response to Covid in 2020 through ongoing enquiry analysis to prioritise student needs.

Read Paula’s post: Closing the loop and the importance of enquiry analysis

Job done?

No. The job is never done. Our cycle of quarterly reviews will continue. Perhaps new issues will arise in the next quarter, as patterns in enquiries change through the academic cycle. Or perhaps new external factors (Brexit anyone?) will arise to prompt new kinds of questions.

In the meantime, we agreed with the Fees Service that they’d monitor the nature of some of their more common enquiries that need a personal response. If they receive enquiries without all the required information to process, there will be potential to design new steps to enquiry to address this and cut the number of email exchanges prior to resolution.

Fewer unneccessary enquiries and faster enquiry resolution are fundamental to more efficient digital services, something I’m very pleased the Prospective Student Web Content Team can support.

Read more blog posts about the Tuition Fees Service project

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