About the project

The Ohio State University homepage (osu.edu) is a highly trafficked website receiving on average about 3 million unique page views a month, and is considered to be the digital front-door to the university. Different groups and departments around the university use the homepage to highlight events, student accomplishments, news, announcements, etc.

Role: Lead Designer

Challenges

  • Page analytics were in place, but not actively monitored.
  • The page utilized a fast moving carousel to highlight stories around campus that had very low click-through rate (< .5%). Bounce rate of the homepage was around 30%.
  • University leadership and stakeholders were protective of the page and hesitant about making any changes.
  • Continuous iteration and experimentation was not widely understood and would need to be evangelized among the organization.

Goal: Refocus the homepage to the prospective student experience, while still highlighting university events and fund-raising initiatives.

Screenshot of original osu.edu homepage
OSU.edu homepage at beginning of the project.

Research

Research from third-party firm was leveraged that provided insights as to what information prospective students valued: Majors, cost/financial aid and how to arrange a campus visit.

The UX team also performed competitive analysis research with similarly sized schools homepages. Cataloging the ease or difficulty of finding prospective student information, as well as news and events occurring around the universities.

Prototyping and testing

Several iterations of the design I proposed were circulated internally, and potential impacts to other groups were discussed. Myself and the UX team worked with inter-departmental resources (writers, photographers, alumni magazine staff) to ensure content for the site could be produced in a manner that would compliment the new layout.

Low fidelity mockup for proposed new site design
Screenshot of proposed osu.edu homepage
Proposed new homepage design.
Simplified mega menu mockup

Myself and the UX team conducted intercept usability testing on campus during new student orientation days. Participants in the study were briefly interviewed prior to usability testing and completed an eligibility survey. Upon completion participants were awarded a $5 Starbucks gift card.

Participants were asked to perform a series of tasks on the proposed site design, specifically finding information about their major, finding information about cost and scholarship opportunities, schedule a campus tour. Participants were asked to think aloud as they performed these tasks. Screen recordings were used with their permission, and later highlight videos for each task were created for use across the team.

Current homepage vs Proposed homepage mock-up usability testing highlight video

Results

  • Subjects preferred new site design almost unanimously and found tasks easier to complete.
  • We prepared a summary report of the results (including options to improve the current site without a major redesign).
  • Summary videos with utilizing interview participants were edited and prepared.
  • Presentations were given to heads of departments throughout the university. To inform them of the changes, the research we had done that led us to our conclusions, as well as to evangelize an iterative approach going forward.

Beyond the MVP

I also began to actively research and pitch for additional enhancements to the website including enrichment of the on-site search results and modernizing the campus map.