Why Is UX Design So Important for Your Higher-Ed Website?

The Role of UX in Higher-Ed Website Success

Creating a website that appeals to prospective students and presents the school in the best light is an important task for higher education institutions. However, designing a website that is not only visually appealing but also user-friendly is equally important. User experience (UX) plays a crucial role in the success of any website, including those of higher education institutions. In this article, our web development company will explore the importance of UX for higher-ed websites and how it can affect student enrollment and engagement.

Table of Contents

What is UX and Why Is It Important for Higher-Ed Websites?

User experience (UX) refers to the overall experience that a user has when interacting with a website, app, or product. Good UX design ensures that a website is easy to use, visually appealing, and offers a seamless experience for users. For higher education institutions, UX is critical to creating a website that attracts and retains prospective students, faculty, and staff.

A higher-ed website with poor UX design can lead to frustrated users who may look for information elsewhere or simply give up. This can negatively impact enrollment rates and reduce engagement with the institution. A well-designed website that prioritizes UX can improve the overall perception of the institution and attract more students and faculty.

How Can UX Affect Student Enrollment and Engagement?

Prospective students are more likely to engage with and apply to a higher education institution with a website that is easy to use and visually appealing. A website with good UX design can help guide prospective students through the enrollment process, answer their questions, and showcase the institution's offerings.

On the other hand, a website with poor UX design can lead to confusion and frustration for prospective students, making them less likely to apply or enroll. In a survey conducted by the EDUCAUSE Center for Analysis and Research, students reported that they were more likely to apply to a college or university if they found its website easy to use and navigate. The survey also found that students were more likely to engage with a college or university that had a well-designed website.

What Are Some Best Practices for Improving UX on Higher-Ed Websites?

Here are some best practices for improving the UX of your higher education website:

1. Use intuitive navigation

Intuitive navigation is critical for higher education websites, which can have a large amount of content and information. Use clear and concise labels for navigation links and make sure that the website's hierarchy is easy to understand. Consider using a search bar to make it easy for users to find specific information on the website.

Use intuitive navigation for Educational Websites

2. Prioritize mobile responsiveness

With the majority of users accessing websites from mobile devices, it's important for higher education websites to be mobile responsive. This means that the website should be optimized for viewing on mobile devices, with easy-to-use navigation and content that is easily readable on a small screen.

3. Use high-quality visuals

Using high-quality visuals on a higher education website can greatly enhance the user experience by capturing users' attention, making the content more engaging, and conveying complex information in a more digestible format. Incorporating relevant images, videos, infographics, and other types of visualizations can help create a more immersive and memorable experience for prospective students and other users, while also reinforcing the branding and design of the institution. By optimizing these visuals for web use, higher education websites can ensure that they load quickly and don't negatively impact the website's performance.

4. Provide clear and concise information

Make sure the information on your website is easy to understand and presented in a clear and concise manner. Use headings, bullet points, and other formatting tools to break up text and make it more scannable for users.

5. Use consistent branding and design

Consistent branding and design across your website can help establish a sense of trust and credibility with users. Use consistent colors, fonts, and design elements throughout your website to create a cohesive user experience.

6. Conduct user acceptance testing

Conducting user acceptance testing can help identify pain points in the user experience and provide insights for improving your website's design and functionality. Consider using tools like heat maps or user surveys to gather feedback from users.

7. Prioritize page load speed

Users expect websites to load quickly, and a slow-loading website can lead to frustration and a negative user experience. Optimize images and other media for web and use caching and compression tools to speed up load times.

page load speed for Educational Websites

8. Incorporate accessibility features

Higher education websites should be designed with accessibility in mind, to ensure that all users can access the content and complete their goals on the website. Web accessibility can include features such as alternative text for images, captioning for videos, and keyboard navigation options.

9. Incorporate user feedback

User feedback can be invaluable for improving the user experience on a higher education website. Consider using surveys, focus groups, or other methods to gather feedback from users and make changes based on their suggestions.

10. Create Compelling CTAs

Integrating compelling calls-to-action (CTAs) on a higher education website is essential for driving user engagement and conversions. CTAs can help guide users through the website, directing them to the most relevant content and encouraging them to take action, such as filling out an application, scheduling a campus visit, or contacting an admissions counselor. Effective CTAs are clear, concise, and visually appealing, with compelling language that motivates users to take action. By strategically placing CTAs throughout the website and testing different variations, higher education institutions can optimize their CTAs for maximum engagement and conversion rates, ultimately driving more applications and enrollments.

11. Include contact information

Including contact information on a higher education website is crucial for providing users with the information they need to engage with the institution and get their questions answered. Prospective students and their families may have a wide range of questions about the admissions process, financial aid, programs and courses, and campus life, and including contact information such as phone numbers, email addresses, and physical addresses can help facilitate communication and build trust. Additionally, including contact information can help improve the website's overall credibility and professionalism, as users are more likely to trust an institution that is transparent and easy to contact. By providing clear and comprehensive contact information, higher education institutions can demonstrate their commitment to providing a high-quality user experience and building strong relationships with their stakeholders.

contact information for Higher Education Websites

12. Virtual Tour

Virtual tours are becoming increasingly important for higher education websites, as they offer prospective students and their families the opportunity to explore campus facilities and get a feel for the institution's culture and environment, even if they are unable to visit in person. Virtual tours can be created using a range of multimedia tools, such as interactive maps, 360-degree photos and videos, and virtual reality technology, providing a highly immersive and engaging experience. By incorporating virtual tours into their website, higher education institutions can demonstrate their commitment to innovation and accessibility, while also giving prospective students the information they need to make informed decisions about their education. Virtual tours can also help reduce the burden on admissions staff and campus tours, freeing up time and resources to focus on other important tasks.

Virtual Tour for Higher Education Websites

13. Integrated events calendar

An integrated events calendar is an important aspect of user experience (UX) for higher education websites. By providing users with a centralized and easy-to-use calendar, institutions can enhance the user's ability to find and attend events, ultimately helping to build a sense of community and engagement. A well-designed events calendar can also contribute to the overall usability of the website, by providing a clear and structured layout that allows users to quickly find the information they need. Additionally, by integrating the events calendar with other features, such as registration forms or email reminders, institutions can further improve the user experience and increase the likelihood of user engagement. Overall, an integrated events calendar is a critical component of UX for higher education websites, helping to create a positive and engaging experience for users.

Integrated events calendar for Education Websites

How Can You Measure UX on Your Higher-Ed Website?

There are a variety of tools and metrics that you can use to measure the UX of your higher education website. Here are a few examples:

1. Google Analytics

Google Analytics is a powerful tool that can provide insights into user behavior on your website. Use Google Analytics to track metrics like bounce rates, session duration, and page views to better understand how users are interacting with your website.

2. User surveys

User surveys can provide direct feedback from users on their experience with your website. Consider asking questions about ease of use, design, and navigation to identify areas for improvement.

3. A/B testing

A/B testing involves testing two different versions of a website to see which performs better in terms of user engagement and conversion rates. Use A/B testing to experiment with different design elements and see which version performs better with users.

Common UX Mistakes to Avoid on Higher-Ed Websites

1. Overcomplicating navigation

A complex navigation structure can be overwhelming for users and make it difficult for them to find the information they need. Keep navigation simple and intuitive, with clear labels and a logical hierarchy.

2. Neglecting mobile responsiveness

With the majority of users accessing websites from mobile devices, neglecting mobile responsiveness can lead to a negative user experience. Make sure the website is optimized for viewing on mobile devices, with easy-to-use navigation and content that is easily readable on a small screen.

3. Using unclear language

Using technical jargon or unclear language can be confusing for users, especially those who are not familiar with the higher education industry. Use clear and concise language that is easy to understand for all users.

4. Neglecting accessibility features

Not incorporating accessibility features can limit the ability of some users to access the content and complete their goals on the website. Incorporate features such as alternative text for images, captioning for videos, and keyboard navigation options to ensure that all users can use the website effectively.

Questions and Answers

1. What is the difference between UI and UX?

UI (user interface) refers to the visual design and layout of a website or app, while UX (user experience) encompasses the overall experience that a user has when interacting with the website or app. Good UX design takes into account not only the visual design, but also the functionality, ease of use, and overall user experience.

2. How can UX design affect website accessibility?

Good UX design can improve website accessibility for users with disabilities by incorporating features like alt text for images, keyboard navigation, and clear and concise language. These features can help ensure that all users, regardless of ability, can navigate and use the website effectively.

3. How can a higher-ed institution use UX design to stand out from competitors?

By prioritizing UX design and creating a website that is easy to use, visually appealing, and provides a seamless experience for users, a higher-ed institution can stand out from competitors and attract more prospective students and faculty. Consistent branding and design can also help establish a sense of trust and credibility with users.

4. Why is UX important for higher education websites?

Higher education websites serve a variety of users, including prospective and current students, faculty and staff, alumni, and donors. Good UX design is critical for these users to easily find the information they need and complete their goals on the website. A positive user experience can also improve engagement with the institution and establish a sense of trust and credibility with users.

5. What are the benefits of good UX design on a higher education website?

Good UX design can have several benefits for higher education websites, including:

  • Increased enrollment rates: A user-friendly website that is easy to navigate and find information on can help attract and retain prospective students.
  • Improved engagement: A positive user experience can improve engagement with the institution and encourage users to interact with the website more frequently.
  • Establishing trust and credibility: A well-designed website can establish a sense of trust and credibility with users, which is important for attracting prospective students and donors.
  • Improved accessibility: Incorporating accessibility features into the website's design can ensure that all users, regardless of ability, can use the website effectively.


In today's digital age, a good user experience is essential for any website, including higher education websites. By incorporating best practices for UX web design, such as mobile responsiveness, intuitive navigation, and accessibility features, higher education institutions can improve engagement, establish trust and credibility, and attract prospective students and donors. Conversely, by avoiding common UX mistakes, such as overcomplicating navigation and neglecting mobile responsiveness and accessibility, institutions can avoid frustrating users and damaging their online reputation. Ultimately, a well-designed higher education website can have a significant impact on the success of the institution as a whole.

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