Saturday, 14 July 2012

University website complexity

Too much choice confuses. It can paralyse. Matt Klawitter shares his experience working on US university website redesigns, the research that informed and backed up decisions, and the culture that continues to resist a drive for greater simplicity.

It's a great article which everyone managing a university website should read. I'm sure if you've ever been involved in a redesign you'll have encountered the same things that Matt covers in his article.

Matt says:
University websites try so hard to be everything for everyone. Not wanting to make anyone unhappy (especially internal stakeholders) with a site makes it unfortunately more complicated. Many times, it seems that the only strategy is NBNW — new boss, new website.
He lists common university complications. How many of these can you tick?
  • Overuse of news headlines and event listings on homepage 
  • Direct links to external and internal resources without staging or explanation (social media, portals, etc.) 
  • Huge scrolling pages with nested navigation 
  • Large left-right scrolling feature blocks 
  • Hover menus, fly-outs, and mega menus 
  • Student, faculty, staff profiles lack keywords or descriptions 
  • Missing high-value trigger words such as “apply, give, visit, contact” 
  • Vaguely branded resources and clever marketing-language naming instead of simple action-oriented labelling
A must read for university website managers.

Matt references a presentation on the paradox of choice which is also worth a look.

It prompted me to look further for info on a psychology study I read about a few years ago about shoppers sampling and buying jam. In a nutshell, offering six options resulted in greater sales than 24 options.

Freakonomics article summarising and challenging choice paralysis research findings

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