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How Teens Use College Websites: A Fast-Scrolling User Journey

Sandra Fancher

Sandra Fancher

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Sandra and Hattie smiling together.This past Saturday my daughter had her last volleyball tournament of the season. There was a lot of downtime during the 12-hour day. Being the ever-efficient mom 😊, I said:

“Let’s look for colleges that have accelerated OT programs so we can work on college visits.”

Daughter: “There’s this website that lists them all.” Pulls up the website.

Scroll, scroll, scroll, scroll even faster.

Mom: “How do you even know what you are looking at?”

Daughter: “I’m looking at the state it is in and if it is a state university.” (She wants a private Christian school.)

Goes to a college website.

Scroll, scroll, scroll, scroll even faster.

Mom: “How do you even know if you want to go there when you scroll so fast?”

Daughter: “Well, I’m not going to read all this. I don’t read paragraphs. Look at this. Words, words, and more words. I just want short bullets first.”

Daughter continuing: “I’m not going to read stuff that I don’t even want to know.”

Mom: “Why do I even try to design websites then if this is all kids do?”

So, What Can We Do as Higher Education Specialists?

  1. Make your differentiators clear. She knew she wanted “accelerated” and a “Christian school.” Whatever you think are your top three selling points must be very prominent.
  2. Understand the difference between your program page—which is to hook them—versus the detailed department content that is further along in their journey.
  3. Treat the program page like an interstate billboard in the ‘80s. Kids are driving by super-fast. Your program page needs to get them to stop and visit. It doesn’t need to tell them the details.
  4. Test in mobile—if your paragraph of content fills an entire phone screen, consider it blank. That content shouldn’t live on a program page as a top-of-the-funnel journey.

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