4 December 2017

Conclusions from top task data

In this update we'll look at some of the data we’ve collected so far as part of the University Website Project research and break down the key findings.

A task-focused and user-centred approach

The primary aim of the project is to create a website that has been built from the ground up to be task-focused, so that a user can navigate to find or do whatever they need in the simplest way possible. This mentality informs all of our decision-making for key aspects of the site such as navigation, page structure, content, and so on.

Over the past few weeks we’ve collected top website tasks from various sources, and then had students and staff prioritise and sort them into categories. The resulting data has given us insight into how to structure the information on the new site, as well as how it should be accessed.

Which website tasks are considered the most important?

When surveying current students, we presented them with the complete list of tasks and asked them to highlight any which they considered to be important when choosing a university and visiting its website. They then chose their top five and ranked them in order of importance, with one (most important) being worth five points, and five (least important) worth one point.

From this data we were able to compile three lists - one determined by the weighted vote score, one by the number of times a task was highlighted as important, and one based on the number of times it was voted as 1 (most important).

Top 10
(by vote score)
Top 10
(by highlight)
Top 10
(by votes as most important)
Course structure and module information Course entry requirements Course structure and module information
Course information Students' Union Course entry requirements
Course entry requirements Course structure and module information Course information
Course rankings Course information Course rankings
Book an open day visit Course rankings How to apply to our university
Tuition fees Cost of accommodation Tuition fees
Cost of accommodation University rankings Key application dates and deadlines
University rankings Tuition fees Course assessment breakdown
How to apply to our university Cost of living in Sheffield University reputation
Key application dates and deadlines Key application dates and deadlines University rankings

It's clear to see that course-related information dominates the top ten for each list. While this may not be surprising, it reinforces the idea that tasks based around finding course information are a prominent and easily-accessible part of the website. As such, we’ve spent time since the workshops developing ideas for a new and improved course search, informed by data and feedback from participants.

The full list of ranked tasks is available to browse if you're interested in seeing the results. It's worth noting that all 91 tasks are relevant and valuable. Being lower down the list simply means that they might be less prominent, but not necessarily any less important. The task list is also not yet fully comprehensive – there will be more to make sure are addressed as part of content on the website.

Categories and information structure

Another way of looking at the tasks is whether they could be considered informational (visiting the site to get information) or transactional (visiting the site to complete a process).

The majority of tasks broadly fit into one of these two categories, and what’s interesting to note is that informational tasks fill most of the top spots, with the exception of ‘book an open day visit’ and ‘how to apply to our university’.

Again, this may not be ground-breaking insight, since you would expect a prospective student to want to find out about the university, their course, social life, etc before applying. However, it provides solid evidence that the site should be structured in a way that aligns with common journeys that a user might take.

This presents a number of possibilities about ways we could potentially structure the website to help prospective students find the relevant information. Google Analytics data shows that many users return to the site many times over the course of the application process, while others may complete everything they need in one session, having done all the research they needed beforehand.

The information architecture needs to be structured in such a way that caters to both of these needs, and having a greater understanding of priority tasks will go a long way towards making that possible.

What are we doing next?

Along with where the information lives, we’ve been spending a lot of time on how users are able to access it through the website navigation.

We already have a skeleton of the main study menu and sub-sections, and we will begin testing this with users to ensure that this is intuitive and labelled in a way that makes sense.

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Posted by Steven Goodrich, Digital Content Coordinator, Corporate Communications

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