Lincoln’s open days landing page excels

University of Lincoln bookmark

The (chance/targeted?) delivery of a University of Lincoln bookmark through my letterbox last week prompted a visit to their open days landing page – www.lincoln.ac.uk/opendays.

I was immediately impressed with the page. I liked the use of video – subtle and well chosen campus/student images – and the clear focus on what the page wanted the user to do.

I contacted Paul Woodward, their Website Projects Manager, to find out a bit more about the thinking behind it. There’s lots to learn from how they’ve tackled it. New to me was the theory that the background video is superior to slideshows and carousels as it requires less user interaction. I like that concept.

open-days-university-of-lincoln

Screengrab, www.lincoln.ac.uk/opendays, 11/08/14 Visit the page to see the video background display properly.

UatW: Is this a new approach this year?

Paul: The re-designed Open Day area of the University of Lincoln website is entirely new for the 2016-17 recruitment cycle this year. We actually took the opportunity of launching the full version just in time to validate the redevelopment at the end of our previous series of Open Day events, by way of a little A-B testing. Handily, the launch timing also encompassed our Applicant Visit Day event booking season, earlier this year, and we received excellent feedback from our 2015 applicants as a result.

UatW: Why have you used video rather than photography at the top of the page?

Paul: The decision to trail video backgrounds rather than static imagery on the main Open Day page was born out of a desire to visually present multiple facets of our beautiful campus and facilities, but without the need for lots of user interaction (thinking carousels and slideshows here). One of our ultimate ambitions was to run video backgrounds on the main University of Lincoln homepage and the opportunity to test and monitor a high traffic area of the site proved invaluable (this is something that we have achieved: http://www.lincoln.ac.uk).

UatW: What considerations did you have in doing this?

Paul: The use of video naturally meant that we had to consider the large increase in bandwidth that goes along with it, not only from the user perspective, but also as a cost implication for the institution. We overcame these issues by intelligently scaling back the use of video on devices where bandwidth might be problematic for the viewer and edited the video itself back as far as possible, finishing it off with a few handy compression tools. Users with older/unsupported web browsers were also given additional consideration by deploying a YouTube embedded version of the video background (which allowed us to let YouTube make the decision on how/when to serve-up the video content).

From a business perspective, we rely heavily on Amazon S3 to host the video due to its resilience and cost effectiveness.

The range of devices accessing our pages and the diverse ways that they handle video was a real challenge for us. We have tested extensively on a vast array of devices and platforms and attempted to introduce workarounds and alternative content in an attempt to give all of our visitors the same impactful experience of these pages.

UatW: The form only has three fields to be filled in at first. Why?

Paul: The form data is collated from the user in a stepped process to avoid overwhelming them with too many fields at once. This also invites the user to buy-into the form, having initially invested some time in completing it, they are compelled to continue (although we have worked very hard to make the overall form as short as possible anyway). By stepping the form, we have been able to locate potential sticking points within the general flow of the form and make recommendations and edits to further enhance the viewer’s experience of booking on to an Open Day with us.

We actually prime the entire process with those particular fields so that we can personalise the rest of the booking process.

UatW: The page appears to have a clear idea of what it’s purpose is and what you want the user to do. Is that accidental? (I presume not!). How did you decide on these?

Paul: We wanted to create a frictionless interaction that leads into the excellent experience that our Events team already provide on our Open Days and our pages build-up the expectation of our visitors long before they arrive. The new Open Day pages appear in different states depending on whether the viewer is visiting before or after booking in an effort to inform, guide and support.

Billy

Billy

Web Manager for the College of Arts and Law at the University of Birmingham.

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