Student recruitment content strategy

Client: Faculty of Engineering, University of Ottawa
Relation: Strategist, Web Content and Design
Work: Project initiator and designer, supervised assistants

Challenge

The faculty did not have a modern marketing sales page. It listed a brief description of programs with links to academic course sequences, nested under the About section. Not a great start.

The call to actions were either sending users to a course calendar or sending them to the undergraduate office, also terrible. There were no call to actions for the purpose of a program page… to apply for studies!

Research

I analyzed information from our admission surveys, followed by a regional and local competitive analysis. I was then able to create an ordered list of key-information that was most appealing desirable by future students.

Content design

I formally defined the scope of our pages: to become the funnel from program discovery to being ready to apply to a program. I wanted our site to feed the main registration site with informed prospects.

Thanks to our research, I created pages wireframes that led users through our their journey by showcasing our key-value propositions and positioning.

To continue serving current students, I created a sub-page for the courses and course sequences. This allowed both current and future students to consult the information regardless of context.

To humanize our programs, we solicited user experience stories and created testimonials for each program.

Before the apply call to action, I added a generalized admission requirements table. This allows prospects to see their eligibility to different programs all at once before applying (in case they are not eligible or were interested in other programs).

After the apply call to action, I added a safety net to increase retention. This section includes the contact of the specific program director and our recruitment coordinator. It also includes the navigation links to our other programs in order for them to continue shopping programs.

Programs page wireframe.
Another of the many wireframes for the pages.
The programs page after being built, tested and iterated.
A screenshot of the undergraduate checmical engineering program page I built.
The polished result for one of the 10 bilingual program pages we built.

Validation and accessibility

After testing and tweaking the pages to ensure the content is responsive, accessible, it was time for user testing.

I conducted my first ever user-testing with prospective students to confirm hunches. I consolidated hunches for qualitative analysis beyond our main objectives.

The students found that the content was considered rich and relevant. We did uncover some snags in terminology and some minor details (perfect!). Overall, it was valuable feedback. All students had different way-finding habits (search, navigation menus, and text links) which was encouraging to witness.

My first formal user-testing experience! We had a screen-recording software, scenarios, qualitative questions, and a microphone.

Measuring success

When you build it, you (should) measure it.

The prospective student’s journey is a multi-tiered and a multi-channel approach. I wanted to measure our scope; feeding traffic to the next admission process (there is no system in place to measure the true site visit to confirmed admission journey).

I came up with a sneaky way to measure our metric for conversion. Since we are building interest, I added a query string parameter without a value at the end of the “Apply now” URL (?eng) . This makes a unique link (both in English and in French because our site is bilingual) that can then be measured with Google Analytics.

Success! We can see our business goals measures and dig further in data analysis!

A screenshot of analytics for the undergraduate programs applications.
A screenshot of google analytics measuring the apply click-through from our admissions pages. Our “Apply now” buttons are being more clicked than before in both languages, hopefully reflecting our marketing efforts!