A website is never really finished. There is always room for improvement, as is the case with our website eur.nl and our intranet MyEUR. An online platform must grow with the times and needs of website and platform users. The transformation of the study programme pages' is almost finished, after which MyEUR will be taken up. Marc de Vaal is UX designer and has been working on this project at the university for two years. "It's about presenting the right information at the right time and in the right way. We will soon be taking visitors all the way through the possible programmes like in a book."
User experience (UX) refers to the user's journey when interacting with a website or app. The goal of a UX designer is that every visitor has a meaningful and positive interaction with a product or service. Whether the interaction is solving a problem, providing inspiration or helping the visitor find important information, the experience should leave the visitor feeling fulfilled and positive. The UX designer is involved in several areas of product development, including branding, strategy, usability (accessibility), function and design. Two years ago, the team started improving the website with Marc. They started with the 'education' section.
Improving study programmes
"Of course, a university website is first and foremost about offering and finding the right study programme," Marc explains. "We have done several studies with user tests. What do students want to see on the pages of a study programme? In what order should we put the information? Do visitors want to see a video? Based on these studies, we started to improve the study programmes.
"There was still a lack of experience and storyline on the study programmes. We have added that with video and visual material and stories from students, lecturers and alumni. You want the website to radiate the feeling of studying at Erasmus University Rotterdam. You can compare it with a book. You normally don't read from the middle, or from back to front, but from the beginning to the end. The chronological order of the page is important to understand the book. That's why we added a button at the bottom of each web page that allows you to click through to the next page or previous page (chapters) so you experience the story chronologically."
''The ultimate goal is to be able to show everyone a personalised website"
More prospective students click on the enrolment button
Each study programme is now structured in the same way. This creates recognition and retains visitors longer due to fewer cognitive stimuli and rest. "All improvements are always checked again. We see that about 65 percent of the testers chose a new variant of content and design each time. So you know for sure that your choices have an effect. We also see that students are now more likely to click through to Studielink, the place where students register for a course of study. That may be because the pages now form a logical whole.
According to Marc, personalisation is the next step. The pages are then adjusted slightly for each visitor. "Every visitor is in a different place in their search for the right programme. One visitor wants to request the brochure and read it in peace, and another wants to visit an open day first. To a certain extent, we can deduce that from someone's behaviour on the website. The ultimate goal is to be able to show everyone a personalised website. As a university, we naturally take privacy legislation into account. What we can already do now is show visitors more specific information based on their behaviour on the website, in order to help them in the stages of choosing a study programme.''
MyEUR to be updated
The intranet, MyEUR, for students and staff is also getting an update. A user survey for MyEUR will be carried out shortly. "The whole experience of working or studying at EUR must be optimal. Our efforts and service do not stop when students have enrolled in a study programme. We want to offer an enjoyable and meaningful experience on all platforms of the university throughout your education or employment. We therefore ask all students and employees, for example, to indicate how MyEUR should be organised for them. This can be done by clicking on the 'MyEUR Research' tile on the dashboard."
"Within MyEUR there will be more focus on personalisation. The dashboard should be completely intuitive and personalised to suit your needs. Compare it to a smartphone. Everyone gets the same device out of the box, but within a week everyone's layout will look different. Everyone sets it up according to their own needs so that you can use everything quickly. That's how MyEUR's dashboard should work too".
Orientation on themes
Next year, Marc hopes to make improvements in choosing the right programme with the team. "We will soon have very good information per study programme. But it is quite intensive to go through five programmes in their entirety. It would be nice if we could help people make a selection in a simple way and provide an overview."
"We want to categorise study programmes thematically. For example, someone is interested in behaviour and society as a subject. You can then see which masters and bachelors are related to it. On these pages, too, you should be inspired and be able to get an idea of current affairs and what the programme has to offer in the future. Another classification is on relevant social themes, such as "the green future". Programmes from different faculties could then be grouped together under this heading. It provides inspiration, but also a more comprehensive picture of the choices that match your areas of interest. Everything to make the experience within our websites as meaningful and positive as possible.''