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Does Your University’s Mobile Website Scare Off Prospective Students?

Rapid smartphone adoption has changed the way young people find and share information on the internet. Communicating is done via short messages rather than lengthy emails. Reading has been replaced by audio and video. Attention spans are short and patience even shorter.

Poor Mobile User Experience
Despite the change in user behavior, the majority of university websites offer a poor user experience when viewed on a smartphone. Sites might be “responsive” but they are generally slow to load and difficult to navigate. This isn’t surprising as the sites were designed primarily for laptop and desktop viewing.

Making a good first impression can be critical. You might only have one chance to become part of student’s consideration set. If that student’s first interaction with your university is a poor experience, the chance might be gone.

Analyzing Your Website’s Mobile Performance
To see how this might be affecting your recruiting efforts, check your web analytics. If the bounce rate of your site is higher for mobile than it is for desktops and laptops, you have a mobile user experience problem.

Our recent audit of one European university’s website clearly shows how bad this problem can be. First time visitors using mobile devices were far more likely to immediately exit the website than if they were using a computer.

mobile bounce rate image

Example taken from one prominent European university

University Mobile Web Rankings
To further analyze this problem, check your website’s mobile friendliness and speed load time. You can find your university’s scores and relative ranking by entering your university name in the search box.

A score of 85 and above for mobile speed is considered good. A score of around 50 equates to a page load time of about 10 seconds on a mobile device. According to Google’s research, as page load time increases from 1 second to 10 seconds, the probability of the user leaving the website increases 123%.

The speed test scores are calculated assuming the visitor is located in the United States and using a broadband network. For prospective students trying to access your website from other countries, the problem may be exacerbated by slower network speeds. During our testing, we commonly get test scores of over 30 seconds from international locations! 

Time to Get AMP’d
But fear not intrepid education marketer! Help is at hand. The clever people at Google have not only identified the problem, but they have a solution. It’s called Accelerated Mobile Pages or AMP for short.

Google’s AMP project was first launched in February of mobile AMP image2016 and AMP pages are now specifically marked by a tag in mobile search results. AMP enables the creation of webpages that load almost instantly but yet still include high-quality design and even video. 

Unfortunately, you cannot simply click a button to AMP optimize your existing website. AMP versions of your web pages must be created separately.

Start with AMP Landing Pages
Rather than redeveloping your entire website for mobile, we recommend starting with a few key entry pages. We call them AMP Landing Pages. The purpose of AMP Landing Pages is to provide an alternative path into your recruiting funnel; one designed specifically for students beginning their research on smartphones.

With a far better mobile-user experience, the AMP landing pages will greatly improve your interaction rates with first-time visitors leading to many more applicants (domestic and international) entering your recruiting funnel.

What have been your greatest mobile web challenges? Please leave a comment or send us a message on Twitter @hop_online with the issues you face in an increasing mobile world.

 

Get a free, detailed mobile assessment of your university’s website by completing the form on the University Mobile Web Rankings website. 

 

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Alec Campbell

Head of Student Recruitment Marketing at Hop Online
Alec's aspirations of becoming a stock market trader were side-tracked at The Wharton School by the dot-com boom. He has since worked for a few internet companies as well as a digital marketing consultant. His international student recruitment project with the University of Delaware earned a CASE District II award in 2012.

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