Improving the User Experience (friendscentral.org)

Serving as my school’s Digital and Social Media Specialist, my tasks can vary from week to week but my ultimate goal is “enhancing both internal and external marketing efforts.” A major part of that is tell the Friends’ Central story in such a way that results in increased affinity towards and interest in the school. In addition to increasing interest and affinity, a crucial part of my job is ensuring that as many people as possible who are interested complete an inquiry (and do not bounce, or get discouraged/lose interest partway and abandon the process).

The responsibility for ensuring the User Experience on our website is a positive and efficient one is inherent in these lines of my job responsibilities below but is larger than the sum of its parts.

• Manage website- content generation and oversight
• Serve as the main contact for our school community on website management issues
• Monitor website usage, trends, and analytics and work to develop strategies for optimization

I’m happy to work on such a great team and am energized by our ongoing commitment to providing the best experience to our users (current families, faculty, staff, prospective families, alumni, and friends).

After reading Steve Krug’s “Don’t Make Me Think! A Common Sense Approach to Web and Mobile Usability“, I began sharing and implementing ideas about how we can improve our website based on a few principles, or as Krug refers to them, “Facts of Life”.

1. We don’t read pages. We scan them.
2. We don’t make optimal choices. We satisfice.
3. We don’t figure out how things work. We muddle through.

Organizing a website informed how people actually use websites leads to happier users, a more functional website, and a lower goal abandonment rate (about which I’ll write more in the future)

With this in mind, I’d like to share just one of the many changes we’ve made. Making changes to high-traffic and mission-critical pages like these takes discussion with and buy-in from key stakeholders and this change was no exception. I believe this improvement makes expressing interest in FCS and creating an account to apply much more straightforward. I hope that you agree and that the experience of our users (which can be understood through analytics) confirms this belief.

Formerly, our links led to the same page, neither of which was an Online Inquiry nor an Online Application.

Screen Shot 2014-12-19 at 1.19.09 PM

The apply page used to present two options which gave led some to the incorrect assumption that at either stage there was a choice as two which button to push at which stage in the process.

Our new approach follows Steve Krug’s advice and doesn’t make people think.

admission home page

Our new main admission page presents an unambiguous choice. The inquire button leads to an inquiry form whereas the “Apply” leads to our “Apply” page with information about the process.

admission apply page

Our “Apply” page is likewise improved, with clear directions for those who want to apply. If one doesn’t have an account, they must create one. If they have an account, the natural step is to log in. The abridged directions at left are not required reading to make the correct choice.