Initial designs reviewed by focus groups
On Aug 31, focus groups were conducted to provide further direction and input in the narrowing and, ultimately, selection of a new design for the www.ncsu.edu homepage. Each focus group was devoted to a specific web site audience. The groups included:
- Prospective Students
Each group reviewed four separate design concepts, providing input on structure and ease of navigation, content features, design and visual style and sample functionality.
Based on overall feedback, there was a striking difference in how "internal" users (current students, faculty and staff) interact with the site as compared to "external" users (prospective students and alumni). For internal users, ease of navigation and utility functions such as directories, libraries, maps, contact information was the key to each concept. Those features had to be easily found and prominent.
It became clear that internal users primarily use the site as a jumping-off point to deeper content. Admittedly, the audiences said that they do so because the current NC State home page does not have any dynamic or engaging content. Current students, especially, expressed an interest in finding out more about what is happening throughout the university and in learning innovative faculty, staff and student activity as well as news and current events.
Both groups of internal users -- faculty and students -- agreed that the primary audience for the main site should be external users, particularly prospective students, who need to have a picture of why NC State is a great university and what makes us exciting, unique and relevant to them.
External users wanted to engage with university -- to learn what was happening at NC State, why they should be interested and get a general impression of what is happening on campus. They were looking for big images, quick facts and figures and help in finding information they may be interested in.
Among some of the key content areas that all users liked were distinct, clear and obvious navigation elements, a large engaging image that reflects the university, quick facts and figures that are interesting, news and events information, search functionality right on the home page and a large "red" banner that clearly identifies this is NC State.
Some additional general comments follow.
- Don’t like the idea of having video in the site, especially if it loads automatically
- Concerned about dial-up users
- Current website is just fine as it is
- Prospective faculty members are most interested in college/department sites and seeing facilities, funding ratio, other quick facts
- Feel that peer audiences that are doing rankings look for overall quality of the institution as shown on the home page and for quick stats
- If video is used it should be selected to play, not run automatically
- Videos would be of interest to prospective students
- Home page should really be dedicated to prospective students
- Home page should make NC State look good
- We use “For Students” -- so the home page doesn’t have to be for us as long as there is a clear way to get to the student main page
- Need easy access to Directories, Web Mail, football schedule, ticket information, university closings, news, student newspapers, student profiles, calendar, internship information
- Want information on how to schedule campus tours or visits and prefer a form or email registration instead of having to call and schedule
- Showing student life (not just academics) is very important
- Want to see quick facts and other interesting numbers and information about the university
- Like “Future Students” label much more than "Prospective Students" and feel it is more personal and welcoming
- Like pictures that show the campus and what it would be like if they went there
- Find it difficult to find the right departments for a field of study (on all college sites)
- Most college websites are boring and have too much text; look for college sites that stand out and are different
- Indicated that website don't help them find a college but assist in learning more about life on the campus and specific academic offerings
- Most important audiences should be prospective and current students.
- Alumni are most interested in alumni directory, athletics, transcripts and possibilities of grad school, continuing education and distance education
- Want to see images that make me proud to be a part of NC State
- Want to showcase what makes NC State great
- "The home page should be a trophy case"
- Show the belltower or some "iconic" figure that relates to the campus
There were two design concepts that were clearly preferred by all groups. The feedback and input from the focus groups will be taken into account as these designs are revised further and shared with the Web Advisory Committee and the campus community.