User Experience Map
Enrollment Insights Blog

Valuable User Experience (UX) Web Insights for Education #4: Using the Data to Inform Improvements

Estimated read time – 5 minutes

This post has been updated to reflect Google’s decision to change Data Studio’s name to Looker Studio in the fall of 2022.

User Experience Map

Prequel – Using UTM Codes
Part 1 – Setting Up for Success
Part 2 – Filtering
Part 3 – User Event Tracking
Part 4 – Using the Data to Inform Improvements

The hard part is done, you are now collecting good data and have some pieces in place to evaluate your site UX. Start with some of your highest value pages, such as your application and visit pages, to evaluate the page performance and traffic. Once there, take a look at the differences in user behavior by source, device, and browser.

  • What internal pages are driving traffic to these pages?
  • Are some experiences (such as browser issues or issues with mobile responsiveness or load times) causing issues that lead to more exits and higher bounce rates?
  • After students get to your success page, where do they go next? Did you send them to a dead end or are you engaging them further?

You can look for specific UX issues by segmenting some of your reports, either by making custom reports or defining segments in your Google Analytics. You can create segments by clusters (such as school review and research sites) or by individual sources. There are also a number of useful segments built in, such as by device type, which will allow you to find differences in experience by how and where your constituents are viewing your site. There are 3 primary ways to analyze the user experience using segmentation:

Use/create segments

Segments give you a way to analyze defined subsets of data, or compare them to each other. Segments appear above each chart and can be used in custom dashboards or reports in Google Analytics or as a filter in Google Looker Studio. You can create your own by clicking the red +New Segment button and setting it up to filter to the group you want to see.

Some of the useful segments that don’t come built-in:

  • Geographic segments
  • Internal or external traffic
  • By landing pages
  • Traffic coming from school search sites
  • Users who engage with certain content

Secondary dimensions

Secondary dimensions are used in tables to add more context to the primary dimension. In this example we’re comparing behaviors by browser and device. To add a secondary dimension, click the Secondary Dimension dropdown above the chart. I will rarely view a report without a secondary dimension, the ability to provide valuable context is too important.

Dashboards and reports

Dashboards and reports are a great feature that too few users invest time in setting up. They are found in the Customization menu at the top of the sidebar. They’re very flexible and warrant their own article, but play around with them and you can find ways to add more value to your reporting. Rather than only using the canned reports in the sidebar, you can create reports that show only what you want. Dashboards have largely been replaced by Google Looker Studio, but within Analytics they provide a way for you to build simple data visualizations and dashboards to make your information more easily consumable.

Also, create goals – and optimize for them

Google Analytics has an underutilized feature called Goals. You will find Goals in Admin > Goals in the Views column. Goals should be set for any valuable interaction, and assigning values to goals allows you to measure the value of any page on your site.

Goals should be set to reflect your business goals, which can be varied across campus. Success pages for forms should definitely be goals, as long as you have Analytics on those pages and they’re not otherwise accessible. If not, you will need to set up event tracking on the submission buttons. Some institutions will also use goals to track the volume of high quality traffic by source and campaign. This can be set by setting a goal to identify high pageview or session duration users.

There are some goals that tell you nothing, and unfortunately I have seen institutions (and some vendors) setting up. Never set up goals that:

  • Track only a landing page view
  • Track any link click
  • Don’t correlate to value for you institution

When looking at high value pages by conversions, such as applications or inquiry forms, you may see some important differences by the type of device. If you see high bounce rates and poor conversion rates on mobile devices, as an example, you need to prioritize fixing the issues on mobile. The same thing can be done by looking at browsers and browser versions for compatibility issues. Make time to look through these segmented reports; by improving bounce rates, conversions, and time per session by just a few percentage points you can drive some significant increases in enrollments.

There are many other ways to add layers of information as well. If you have the resources and time to use the data, I recommend looking into session recording and heat mapping services as well. This should help you get started in improving the user experience on your site.

Prior to coming to Niche in 2019 Will served 9 years at Manchester University in roles as an Admissions Counselor, Associate Director for Admissions Operations, Social Media Coordinator, and ultimately as Digital Strategist. Will surfaces tactical insights from user behavior and surveys to help higher ed build recruitment strategies. In addition to the Enrollment Insights blog, webinars, and podcast; Will is a frequent conference speaker and podcast guest. He has presented at NACAC, AACRAO-SEM, AMA Higher Ed, CASE V, EduWeb, and EMA. Will's work has been featured in Forbes, Inside Higher Ed, CNBC, CNN, the LA Times, and The New York Times among other outlets.