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Web Quality Assurance "Checklists"

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Paul shares his thoughts on following checklists to improve a website's content. Two higher educations websites are also critiqued in this segment.

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Transcript from the "Web Quality Assurance "Checklists"" Lesson

[00:00:00]
>> Okay, so before we jump into the final section for today. I wanted to pause a moment and address a question that came in via the chat, which is what do I think about web checklists? And the user in question shared a particular checklists he'd come across and asked me why I thought of it I mean the truth is I haven't seen this particular one.

[00:00:25] I mean there are a lot of these checklists around and I've got no problem with them I think for a lot of people it's very helpful to have, a checklist they can work through. And be really confident they've ticked all the boxes and covered everything that needs to be done.

[00:00:42] I think my only problem with checklists is that they can become out of date quite quickly because the web moves at quite a pace. And you can end up continuing to kind of mindlessly follow a particular routine that isn't necessarily correct any more up to date. And the other aspect to them and this one happens to be a good example of that is that they can be quite intimidating.

[00:01:09] There are 240 rules that must be followed and I think depending on who's having to use this checklist that can be quite inaccessible to them. Often, for example, I see developers or designers ditch it to people generally graying this checklist especially for non digital people and, I have to create them.

[00:01:33] I create playbooks all the time which contain this kind of thing in. And they can be quite intimidating for people that don't work regularly in digital and so that just don't bother and they abandon them. So making them accessible, easy to understand, applying all the same rules, really, that we've talked about today in terms of usability.

[00:01:52] Find the bility scannability all of that kind of stuff is just as important with something like this where there's 240 rules involved. But in principle I think they're great so couple of people submitted sites for us to learn look at we've got the Texas State University website, and I can't even focus on that.

[00:02:12] That text the Christian something Christian University. Wow, my eyesight is going. So let's have a quick look at these. Interestingly, I always seem to attract a lot of higher education websites in these sessions and look at a lot of them. Which is very fortunate because higher education sites I've worked on over 30 higher education sites over the years.

[00:02:35] And I've kind of learned the nuances of the challenges that they face and they are many and extensive. And one of the big challenges that universities face is the fact that they are trying to appeal to many different audiences. From a 18 year old undergraduate, a prospective undergraduate all the way through to business partners.

[00:03:05] In the commercial sector to postgraduate students, researchers, academics, all these different people. And as a result, their websites are often this kinda, they almost give up on the idea of providing any kind of journey or any kind of experiences stayed become these massive repositories of information. And from the looks of of this it's it's beginning to tackle some of these issues.

[00:03:36] So is obviously saying front and center that you're Europe that your plan is that is for students and it's putting the emphasis on things like applying. And majors and degrees is not getting too distracted by secondary audiences which is a good thing. However, often it's a matter of actually breaking these audiences down into almost different sub sites.

[00:04:05] So that you can cater more specifically for them so have sites that are aimed just at the business community or just at academics in pairs and research and those kinds of things. Quite nice simple navigation, not too many navigational items going on. One thing is we've got this navigation bar that's a fixed navigation bar.

[00:04:27] I've got very mixed feelings about these things in some ways it's quite nice to have the navigational wisdom available. But you can quite easily start using up quite considerable real estate. It's not too bad on desktops but on mobile fixed navigation becomes really problematic. So again we don't have a strong value proposition here it's the emphasis is very much that everybody's back on campus now off the COVID.

[00:04:58] But why Texas state of all the universities I could go to I'm not really fight him to hearing why I should pick this place over so many others. And as I scroll down I'm still not really seeing that classic examples that I see all the time in higher education institutions.

[00:05:19] We were founded in 1899 and we've been around a long time. I don't care, right? And the average student doesn't care that's in the past. What about now? What are you gonna provide me? What of my chances of getting a job at the end of it. Do you have the course that I want those kinds of things.

[00:05:39] And because there's this attitude within universities of what we've got so much information to share which gonna put it all online in a logical way. That actually you just end up with these verbose sites with far too much content about all the wrong things, instead you need to start with the user questions.

[00:05:59] What do users wanna know? What do they care about and structure around that in the hierarchical way that we've been talking about so far. Another typical mistake that I see universities make and I'm seeing this on both websites. I'm seeing it here, and I was seeing it over on this bit here is that they're talking about themselves and how great they are, right?

[00:06:26] And I see this on a lot of sites. They're talking about how great they are and no what they can do for the user. Now I'm, in some ways this is great because it's providing a little bit of social proof and credibility. but to lead with that, so strongly is basically the homepage is saying, we're great.

[00:06:49] Well done, but what can you give me? How can you help me? How does that translate into my life and what I have. Then we've got a video playing, which maybe creates a bit of a feel of the facilities that you've got and that kind of thing. But there's I'm not hearing anything.

[00:07:09] I'm not learning anything. I'm just seeing some pretty pictures And then yeah. Then another problem you often see on sites is that they're broken down into the hierarchical structure of the organization rather than in the way that the use of things. So, this is all now broken down into colleges, right?

[00:07:33] Well, you don't come as a prospective undergraduate don't come to a website and going I want to know more about the College of Biblical studies. You go I want to study theology or I want to study evangelism or whatever it be. As a subject matter, so you don't think in terms of colleges, colleges are meaningful for existing students and they're meaningful for academics.

[00:07:58] But they're not meaningful for prospective students. Now the inevitable response to that is our yes but existing students and academics are important to us. Sure, then deal with them separately, all right? Don't try and do everything on the front end site and it. And you can see this here that you often have links to internal systems that users can click on and then they can't log into it cuz they're not an existing student.

[00:08:28] Separate out existing students and existing staff and academics from your marketing site. The two are very different roads. You shouldn't try and combine them all together. And that's where a good intranet should come in. Another problem that I see on a lot of university sites and I suspect these are both examples of that, right?

[00:08:50] Is news stories, right? I would encourage you to look at your analytics and look at the number of people that are actually reading the news stories. The chances are nobody cares, nobody reads those news stories. And again I see this not just on university sites but across the board, right?

[00:09:07] You don't wake up one morning and go I want to read the sexist. To Texas State News University, right? We don't read websites like that. Heck, I run a blog, and people don't just turn up to my site to read the latest news. They arrive after maybe searching on a particular problem or challenge they face and come to a blog post the answers that.

[00:09:30] But that the news itself provides very little value in encouraging people to subscribe to the university. Yes, but they might want to know that Dr. Ann works at our institution, will they? And even if they knew who that person was, is that gonna swing their decision making or is it just more noise that is distracting.

[00:09:54] So with university sites is almost always the good starting point is to go through each of these elements just like I said and simplify them and go. If we remove that, would it reduce the number of people signing up, right? It may be a little bit different in the States because I know that you're mad about your football in college football it's a huge thing.

[00:10:18] But really great you've got a successful football team but I'm talking about studying humanities you've got to again even more with this kind of featured news. Former FBI agent heads new online criminal justice program that's great if I'm studying criminal justice but this is on your homepage, right?

[00:10:43] And I could be studying anything else. So why don't you put this information on the criminal justice page because then it's relevant. So thinking about your visual hierarchy, simplifying, and removing unnecessary information, focusing on people's questions. Presenting the right information at the right time is also much more critical and just to be frank whatever university does.

[00:11:06] And I'm not just picking on these people vomiting everything onto the homepage because every person wants their bit of real estate on the homepage. And everybody's arguing about this is the good, great example of how you should be running something like a user attention point exercise. To focus all of those people with all of their egos and all those academics that want their slice of the homepage and forcing them to prioritize what's important within the institution.