Leading that web development project, I observed three critical factors that are crucial to building a successful and effective web presence. I believe that these three factors lead to the success of this site, not only from an awards perspective, but also from a user experience perspective:
1.) Awareness of the goal of the web site.
I had the privilege of working with a forward-thinking and energetic Associate Vice Provost and Excutive Director at The University of Michigan as well as the Assistant Director for Communications for Admissions. They articulated clearly and concisely on day one what the goal of the site was and what type of experience they wanted prospective students to have in terms of interacting with the web site. The goal was clear: “We want a site that tells a story of what it means to be “Leaders & Best.” In doing so, we want a web site that creates an unbelievable user experience.” Those goals provided the litmus test for every recommendation and design decision that we made – did it help to tell the story of leaders and best? If it didn’t resonate with target audiences as reflective of the experience of a Michigan Student and Leaders & Best, it was off the table.
The goals in terms of call-to-action/user interaction were clear. We want prospective students to be able to:
These three calls-to-action needed to be accessible on every page. Here they are on the Admissions home page:
These calls to action were derived from focus group interviews with prospects from New York to California. Prospective students wanted it to be as easy as possible to find out how to apply, schedule visits, and obtain information concerning majors/programs based on how the user searches and not on how the University organizes itself.
3.) Telling the story